United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
A. White Judge.
the court is the motion to dismiss of defendants. Plaintiff,
a former employee of Wagoner Community Hospital (WCH),
alleged both federal claims under Title VII and state law
claims. In the complaint, plaintiff also named his direct
supervisor Vanessa Finch and a higher supervisor Barnetta
Pofahal as defendants. In his response to the motion,
however, plaintiff dismisses Finch and Pofahal as
defendants and dismisses all claims except the
federal claims “for sexual harassment and hostile work
environment” (#20 at 4). Thus, those claims will be
addressed as asserted against WCH.
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as
true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint
and view those allegations in the light most favorable to
plaintiff. Nixon v. City and County of Denver, 784
F.3d 1364, 1368 (10th Cir.2015). Plaintiff is not
required to establish a prima facie case in his complaint,
but is only required to allege enough factual allegations to
set forth a plausible claim. Pueblo of Jemez v. United
States, 790 F.3d 1143, 1172 (10th Cir.2015).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
is somewhat hampered because both plaintiff's complaint
and the present briefing are not perfectly clear. As stated,
plaintiff asserts at one point in his response he is
proceeding on claims of (1) sexual harassment and (2) hostile
work environment. There is no cognizable claim for sexual
harassment per se, however. Under Title VII,
harassment is actionable only when it is sufficiently severe
or pervasive such that a reasonable person would find the
environment to be hostile or abusive and the employee in fact
perceived it to be so. Debord v. Mercy Health System of
Kansas, Inc., 737 F.3d 642, 650 (10th
alleges a hostile work environment claim, but also (as is
clear from the complaint and other statements in his response
to the present motion) contends he was discharged in
violation of Title VII. It is not uncommon for a plaintiff to
allege that a hostile work environment culminated in a
constructive discharge. Plaintiff, however,
explicitly disavows such a claim, stating “I did not
resign.” (Complaint at ¶148). Defendant contends
that plaintiff did, in fact, quit (#21 at 4 n.2). Even if
defendant is correct, plaintiff might still have a claim for
constructive discharge, but (as stated) plaintiff's
allegation in the complaint is of actual discharge.
is an African-American male (Complaint, ¶22). His wife
is white (¶38). His supervisor Finch is African-American
(¶27). Viewing the allegations in the light most
favorable to plaintiff, it appears the complaint alleges that
the hostile work environment and discharge were motivated by
both race and sex, i.e., two prohibited bases under
Title VII. That is to say, some of the comments directed at
plaintiff (the allegations considered true for purposes of a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion) are alleged to stem from either sexual
attraction of the supervisor to plaintiff or from resentment
that plaintiff was married to a white woman.
the claim of hostile work environment, plaintiff must allege
more than a few isolated incidents; instead, there must be a
steady barrage of opprobrious comments. See Chavez v. New
Mexico, 397 F.3d 826, 832 (10th Cir.2005).
The court finds plaintiff has adequately stated a plausible
claim which survives under Rule 12(b)(6). As for the claim of
wrongful discharge in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§2000e-2(a)(1), defendant takes the position that
plaintiff is merely using a label or conclusion in calling
his termination a “tangible adverse employment
action.” (#21 at 2). Rather, defendant argues, plaintiff
must specify who terminated plaintiff and what was said. The
court disagrees. “Rule 8(a)(2) still lives. Under Rule
8, specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only
give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Burnett v. Mortgage
Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 706 F.3d 1231, 1235-36
(10th Cir.2013). Plaintiff's complaint
satisfies this standard.
the order of the court that the motion to dismiss (#15) is
hereby denied as to defendant Wagoner Community Hospital.
Defendants Finch and Pofahal, however, are dismissed with
This was an appropriate decision,
because relief granted under Title VII is against the
employer, not individual employees. See generally Cooks
v. Industrial Piping Specialists, Inc., 2017 WL 253160,
*2 (N.D.Okla.2017). Plaintiff does not specify, but the court
finds dismissal of the other defendants should be with
A constructive discharge occurs when an
employer unlawfully creates working conditions so intolerable
that a reasonable person in the employee's position would
feel forced to resign. Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Admin.
Review Bd., 717 F.3d 1121, 1133 (10th
Cir.2013). An actual discharge occurs when the employer uses
language or engages in conduct that would logically lead a
prudent person to believe his tenure had been terminated.
Fischer v. Forestwood Co., Inc., 525 F.3d 972, 979
(10th Cir.2008). An actual discharge does not
occur, however, when the employee chooses to resign rather
than work under undesirable conditions. Id. at
The present pleading standard is
“a middle ground between heightened fact pleading,
which is expressly rejected, and allowing complaints that are
no more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action, which the Court stated
would not do.” K ...