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Riles v. Augusta-Richmond County Commission

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

August 21, 2017

JAMES D. RILES, Plaintiff,
v.
AUGUSTA-RICHMOND COUNTY COMMISSION, ROBERT LEVINE, JOANIE SMITH, and RONALD HOUCK, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court in the captioned matter are three separate motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Augusta-Richmond County Commission, [1] Joanie Smith, and Ronald Houck. While the motions to dismiss purport to seek dismissal of Plaintiff's entire complaint, the arguments therein only address certain of Plaintiff's claims. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 27, 2016, Plaintiff James D. Riles, through counsel, filed the instant employment discrimination case. The complaint alleges that Plaintiff has been an employee of the County for 11 years with the Recreation, Parks, and Facilities Department. (Compl., ¶ 10.) Plaintiff applied for but was denied the position of Facilities Supervisor on or about February 6, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Plaintiff, a black male, claims he was qualified for the position but was denied because of his race. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16, 19.) On February 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Augusta-Richmond County Equal Employment Opportunity Office. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff further alleges that thereafter, he was denied other positions within the Recreation, Parks, and Facilities Department because of his race and in retaliation for filing the first EEO complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 20-27, 34.) Plaintiff further claims he was denied other positions in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.)

         Upon these allegations, Plaintiff alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. (Id. § 44.) Nevertheless, in the introductory paragraph of the complaint, Plaintiff cites not only to § 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause but also "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq." and "Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 - 42 U.S.C. § 1981." (Compl. at 1.) Through their motions to dismiss, Defendants seek to dismiss any claims under Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which is codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, and § 1981.[2]Moreover, the individual Defendants, Smith and Houck, seek dismissal of the official capacity claims against them as duplicative of the claims against the County, and they seek dismissal of any claims against them in their individual capacities. The Court will now resolve these issues.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) does not test whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail on the merits of the case. Rather, it tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Scheur v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) . Therefore, the court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey. 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002). The court, however, need not accept the complaint's legal conclusions as true, only its well-pled facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009).

         A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The plaintiff is required to plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although there is no probability requirement at the pleading stage, "something beyond . . . mere possibility . . . must be alleged." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57 (citing Durma Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005)). When, however, on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual allegations of the complaint will support the cause of action, dismissal of the complaint is appropriate. See Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin Cnty., 922 F.2d 1536, 1539 (11thCir. 1991).

         III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         A. 42 U.S.C. § 1981

         Section 1981 provides that “[a]ll persons . . . shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens." However, § 1981 does not provide an independent cause of action against state actors. Butts v. Cnty. of Volusia, 222 F.3d 891, 894 (11th Cir. 2000). Rather, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is the exclusive federal remedy for violations by state actors of the rights guaranteed by § 1981. Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d 1281, 1288 n.l (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Butts, 222 F.3d at 894-95) . Plaintiff's complaint sets forth a § 1983 claim wherein he claims that Defendants have violated his equal protection rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Any § 1981 claim Plaintiff has attempted to bring merges into his § 1983 claim. Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss any § 1981 claim are hereby GRANTED.

         B. 42 U.S.C. § 1981a

         Section § 1981a broadened the remedies available to successful Title VII litigants. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, 2000e-5(g). It does not provide an independent cause of action. Satterfield v. Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Ala., 2016 WL 6916828 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 26, 2016); King v. Fulton Cnty. of Ga., 2009 WL 1322341 (N.D.Ga. May 11, 2009). Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss any § 1981a claim are hereby GRANTED.

         C. Individual ...


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