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Norris v. O'Connor

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

March 8, 2017




         Defendants Jessica O'Connor and The Whalen Law Firm move for dismissal of Plaintiff Derick Norris's claims. Doc. 6. The motion is GRANTED and the claims are DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 9, 2016, Norris filed this pro se action against the Defendants. Doc. 1. The Defendants now move for dismissal pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] Doc. 6. Norris's claims relate to his dismissal from his job with the City of Flovilla, Georgia (the City) on June 10, 2014. See Doc. 9 at 1; Norris v. Flovilla, No. 5:14-cv-441 (MTT) (M.D. Ga.), Doc. 29-2 ¶¶ 1-2, 38. This is the second action Norris has brought related to his termination.[2] See Norris, No. 5:14-cv- 441. Prior to firing Norris, the City hired O'Connor, then associated with Whalen, to investigate issues with employees, including complaints against Norris. Id., Doc. 21-1 ¶ 23. O'Connor presented a report to the City that recommended firing Norris. Id., Doc. 21-6 at 53-75. The City's Mayor Scott Chewning relied on this report to fire Norris and the City Council relied on it in affirming the dismissal. Id., Docs. 6-3 at 1-2; 21-1 ¶ 35-38; 29-2 ¶ 35-38. Norris then filed his first action against the City alleging claims of retaliation and discrimination. Id., Doc. 6.

         Now, Norris alleges the Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race and thus violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Doc. 1 at 2. Norris also asserts claims of “malicious interference with contractual relations” and “interference with business or employment relations” under Georgia law. Id. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Defendants move to dismiss the Title VII claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Doc. 6-1 at 9-10. Additionally, the Defendants move to dismiss that claim, as well as the § 1981 and state law claims, for failure to state a claim.[3] Id. at 10-16.


         The Defendants move for dismissal of Norris's Title VII claim for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Before bringing a Title VII claim, a plaintiff must file a complaint against the defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). A plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the discriminatory act. See H&R Block Eastern Enters., Inc. v. Morris, 606 F.3d 1285, 1295 (11th Cir. 2010); McBrayer v. City of Marietta, 967 F.2d 546, 547 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(1)). Norris alleges that he filed a complaint with the EEOC “on or about August 5, 2014” and received a right-to-sue letter on September 21, 2014, but Norris does not attach these documents to his complaint. Doc. 1 at 3. Norris did attach an EEOC charge to his previous compliant related to his firing.[4] In that complaint, Norris attached an EEOC charge dated September 5, 2014, but that complaint was against the City and does not identify the Defendants.[5] Norris, 5:14-cv-441, Doc. 6-1 at 1-4. Accordingly, Norris has not sufficiently alleged that he exhausted his administrative remedies and thus his Title VII claims must be dismissed.[6]

         III. § 1981 CLAIM

         The Defendants move to dismiss Norris's § 1981 claim for failure to state a claim. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a pleading contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To avoid dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “At the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466 F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Courts “need not accept as true, however, conclusory legal allegations made in the complaint.” Andrx Pharm., Inc. v. Elan Corp., PLC, 421 F.3d 1227, 1230 n.1 (11th Cir. 2005). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation marks and citation omitted). Where there are dispositive issues of law, a court may dismiss a claim regardless of the alleged facts. Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993). Construing the allegations in his complaint liberally, as required with a pro se complaint, Norris fails to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks and citation omitted) (noting pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard).

         Norris alleges the Defendants “discriminate[d] against [him] because of [his] race” in violation of § 1981. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 6, 9. “[Section] 1981 . . . protects the equal right of ‘[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States' to ‘make and enforce contracts' without respect to race.” Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 474-75 (2006) (quoting § 1981(a)). “[M]ake and enforce contracts” is defined as “the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.” 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b). To state a claim for relief under § 1981, a plaintiff must allege: “(1) that the plaintiff is a member of a racial minority; (2) that the defendant intended to discriminate on the basis of race; and (3) that the discrimination concerned one or more of the activities enumerated in the statute.” Kinnon v. Arcoub, Gopman & Assocs., Inc., 490 F.3d 886, 891 (11th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1270 (11th Cir. 2004)); see also Lopez v. Target Corp., 676 F.3d 1230, 1233 (11th Cir. 2012). Therefore, it is not enough for a plaintiff to allege discrimination but he “must identify an impaired contractual relationship . . . under which the plaintiff has rights.” Kinnon, 490 F.3d at 890 (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Domino's Pizza, 546 U.S. at 476). As stated, Norris alleges the Defendants intentionally discriminated against him based on his race, but provides no facts to support those allegations. Doc. 1 ¶ 9. Moreover, Norris does not allege any contractual relationship impaired by the Defendant's alleged discrimination. Accordingly, Norris does not state a claim for relief under § 1981.


         Based on the foregoing, the Defendants' motion is GRANTED. Norris's Title VII claim is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.[7] Additionally, Norris's § 1981 claim is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The only remaining claims are state law claims. Because the Court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Norris's state law claims for “malicious interference with contractual relations” and “interference with business or employment relations.” Doc. 1 ¶ 6; see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Accordingly, those claims are DISMISSED without prejudice.

         SO ...

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