COLEMAN v. BOBBY DODD INSTITUTE, INC, No. 4:2017cv00029 - Document 12 (M.D. Ga. 2017)
Court Description: ORDER granting 6 Motion to Dismiss Complaint. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE CLAY D. LAND on 6/8/2017 (tlf).
COLEMAN v. BOBBY DODD INSTITUTE, INC Doc. 12 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA COLUMBUS DIVISION ALISHA COLEMAN, * Plaintiff, * vs. * BOBBY DODD INSTITUTE, INC., * Defendant. CASE NO.4:17-CV-29 * O R D E R Plaintiff Alisha Coleman is a former employee of Defendant Bobby Dodd Institute, Inc. (“the Institute”). The Institute terminated Coleman after she accidently soiled company property due to heavy pre-menopausal menstruation. Coleman claims that this constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. moves to dismiss Coleman’s claim. The Institute As discussed below, the Court grants that motion (ECF No. 6).1 1 In her complaint, Coleman also purports to bring a retaliation claim. But she does not allege that she complained of discrimination or engaged in other statutorily protected conduct before her termination. And she fails to respond to the Institute’s arguments for dismissal of her retaliation claim. To the extent that Coleman has not abandoned this claim, see Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995) (“[G]rounds alleged in the complaint but not relied upon in summary judgment are deemed abandoned.”), she fails to allege sufficient facts to support it. Accordingly, the Court also grants the Institute’s motion to dismiss as to Coleman’s retaliation claim. Dockets.Justia.com STANDARD To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Thus, “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.” Id. at 556. FACTUAL BACKGROUND Coleman alleges the following facts, which the Court accepts as true for purposes of determining the present motion. Coleman began work as an E-911 call taker for the Institute on June 13, 2007. During her employment, Coleman, a female, became pre-menopausal and experienced periods of uncontrollably heavy menstrual bleeding. was unpredictable. The onset of heavy menstrual bleeding Coleman kept feminine hygiene products with her at work and discussed her situation with her supervisors. On menstrual two occasions, bleeding while Coleman at was work. accidently soiled an office chair. 2 unable In to August control 2015, the Coleman Coleman was disciplined for soiling the chair. Additionally, Coleman’s supervisor and a representative from human resources warned Coleman that if she soiled company property again, she would be terminated. Coleman took precautions to avoid a second accident. April 22, 2016, Coleman accidently soiled Nevertheless, on the carpet. After Coleman cleaned the carpet, she was terminated for failing to maintain high standards of personal hygiene. DISCUSSION Coleman does not attempt to make out a prima facie case of sex discrimination under the usual burden-shifting framework. Cf. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973) (establishing plaintiff the framework presents discrimination). for only Title VII circumstantial cases where evidence the of Rather, she purports to allege facts that if proven are direct evidence of sex discrimination. Resp. to Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss 5, ECF No. 9. See Pl.’s The Court must therefore determine whether terminating a female employee for soiling company property on two occasions due to a uniquely feminine condition constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII. As discussed below, the Court finds that it does not. Title VII provides that an employer may not discharge or otherwise discriminate individual’s sex. against any individual 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). because of the With regards to uniquely feminine conditions, the Supreme Court originally held 3 that excluding pregnancy from otherwise comprehensive employee benefits did not violate Title VII, as long as the employer provided the same benefits to male and female employees. See Gen. Elec. Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125, 145 (1976), superseded by statute as recognized by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock EEOC, 462 interpretation by Co. v. (“PDA”). U.S. 669 passing (1983). the Congress Pregnancy rejected Discrimination this Act The PDA amended Title VII to include the following definition: “The terms ‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). “The [PDA] makes clear that it is discriminatory to treat pregnancy-related conditions less favorably than other medical conditions.” at 684. could be feminine Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., 462 U.S. And early Supreme Court precedent interpreting the PDA construed conditions menstruation. See to extend beyond id. this pregnancy, protection such as to uniquely pre-menopausal at 676 (“[B]y enacting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, [Congress] not only overturned the specific holding in General Electric v. Gilbert, supra, but also rejected the test case.”). of discrimination employed by the Court in that Thus, a non-frivolous argument can be made that it is unlawful for an employer to treat a uniquely feminine condition, 4 such as excessive conditions Coleman menstruation, affecting does not both claim less sexes, that favorably such her as than similar incontinence. excessive menstruation But was treated less favorably than similar conditions affecting both sexes. Rather, she argues that the fact that her termination would not have occurred but for a uniquely feminine condition is alone sufficient to show that she was terminated because of her sex. The Court disagrees. Nothing in the text of Title VII, the PDA, or case law interpreting these Acts supports such a broad interpretation of the law. Coleman appears to rely on EEOC v. Houston Funding II Ltd., 717 F.3d 425 (5th Cir. 2013), a nonbinding Fifth Circuit case that is distinguishable from the facts she alleges. EEOC v. Houston Funding II, the Fifth Circuit held that In an employer cannot terminate a female employee based on the fact that she is lactating and wants to express breast milk at work. Id. at 430. The Court found that “lactation is a related medical condition of pregnancy for purposes of the PDA” and that terminating an employee because she is lactating “clearly imposes upon women a burden that male employees need not—indeed, could not—suffer.” Id. at 428. Here, Coleman’s excessive menstruation was related to premenopause, not pregnancy or childbirth. terminated simply because she 5 was And Coleman was not pre-menopausal or menstruating. Coleman was terminated for being unable to control the heavy menstruation and soiling herself and company property. There is no allegation that male employees who soiled themselves and company property due to a medical condition, such as incontinence, would have been treated more favorably. Coleman fails to allege facts from which the Thus, Court can reasonably infer that she was terminated because she is female. She therefore fails to state a Title VII claim for sex grants the discrimination. CONCLUSION For the reasons discussed above, the Court Institute’s motion to dismiss (ECF No. 6). IT IS SO ORDERED, this 8th day of June, 2017. S/Clay D. Land CLAY D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 6