Conley v. Nw. Fla. State Coll., Case No. 3:14–cv–00628–MCR–EMT

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
Writing for the CourtM. CASEY RODGERS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation145 F.Supp.3d 1073
Parties Danielle Rahilly Conley, Plaintiff, v. Northwest Florida State College, Defendant.
Decision Date12 November 2015
Docket NumberCase No. 3:14–cv–00628–MCR–EMT

145 F.Supp.3d 1073

Danielle Rahilly Conley, Plaintiff,
v.
Northwest Florida State College, Defendant.

Case No. 3:14–cv–00628–MCR–EMT

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division .

Signed November 12, 2015


145 F.Supp.3d 1074

Travis Robert Hollifield, Winter Park, FL, Adria Lynn Silva, Law Office of Adria Lynn Silva LLC, Naples, FL, for Plaintiff.

Hayward Dykes, Jr., Lamar A. Conerly PA, J. Bruce Bowman, Conerly Bowman & Dykes LLP, Destin, FL, for Defendant.

ORDER

M. CASEY RODGERS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Pending before the Court is Defendant Northwest Florida State College's (“NFSC”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Danielle Rahilly Conley's sex-discrimination claim under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Having fully considered the matter, the Court finds that the motion is due to be denied.1

Background

Conley alleges the following facts in her Complaint. Conley became pregnant in early 2012 while enrolled as a student in NFSC's paramedic program for the 2012–2013 school year. As part of the program, Conley was required to participate in an off-campus clinical rotation for academic credit. NFSC placed her with Okaloosa County Emergency Medical Services (“OCEMS”), where she was already employed as an emergency medical services technician or “EMT.” In October of 2012, Conley informed OCEMS that she was pregnant and inquired about her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. OCEMS informed NFSC about Conley's

145 F.Supp.3d 1075

pregnancy, and NFSC responded by requiring Conley to provide medical documentation that she was able to participate in the clinical portion of her education program. NFSC did not, however, require other students who were under the treatment of a doctor for a physical or emotional condition to provide additional documentation beyond the initial health certification required of all students participating in off-campus clinical rotations. Nevertheless, on November 8, 2012, Conley provided NFSC with a doctor's note stating she was fit to participate in the program. Two days later, however, Conley was admitted to the hospital for Braxton–Hicks or “false labor” contractions. The following day, Conley was discharged from the hospital and placed on bed rest for three days. She provided the discharge papers to OCEMS. On November 13, 2012, OCEMS Chief Al Herndon informed NFSC by email that Conley would not be allowed to participate in the clinical rotation due to potential liability regarding her unborn child. The next day, NFSC dismissed Conley from her clinical rotation and gave her an “incomplete” for the course.

On November 14, 2012, Conley was placed on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy, and she provided a note to OCEMS to that effect so she could be placed on relief status for that time. NFSC also received a copy of the note and advised Conley that with a doctor's release and the approval of OCEMS, she could complete her clinical rotation the week before the spring semester was to begin. Again, NFSC did not require other students under a doctor's care to provide the same type of approval.

On December 15, 2012, Conley inquired about taking the final exam she missed due to the birth of her daughter. On January 3, 2013, she was released by her doctor to return to school and the clinical rotation. The next day, Barry Reed, who was in charge of NFSC's paramedic program, emailed Conley and informed her that if she took her final exam and completed her clinical rotation, she could be reinstated before the start of the spring semester. On January 6, 2013, Larry Skeete, a representative of NFSC, refused to reinstate Conley to the status she had before her maternity leave began and refused to let her take the final exam or finish her clinical rotation before the start of the spring semester.2 Skeete told Conley that if she knew she was pregnant, she could have taken extra clinical rotations to get them out of the way.

According to Conley, on January 9, 2013, without first obtaining a release or permission from her, NFSC contacted her OB/GYN in order to persuade the doctor to revoke her release to return to the clinical portion of her school program. Thereafter, NFSC Dean Sasha Jarrell informed Conley by email that she would never have been admitted into the paramedic program if NFSC had known she was pregnant. Further, Conley alleges that after she complained to NFSC about discrimination, NFSC President Ty Handy emailed her to admonish her for taking risks with her condition, saying that the courts would agree she “messed in her nest” and now wanted the college to bail her out.3

On November 17, 2014, Conley filed the instant sex-discrimination claim pursuant

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to Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq ., which NFSC has moved to dismiss.

Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). The Court construes all factual allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Lanfear v. Home Depot, Inc., 679 F.3d 1267, 1275 (11th Cir.2012).

Discussion

In its motion to dismiss, NFSC argues that there is no private right of action for pregnancy discrimination under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681. Conley argues in response that § 1681's prohibition of discrimination “on the basis of sex” is broad enough to encompass pregnancy-based discrimination. She relies in part on a Department of Education Regulation 34 C.F.R. § 106.40 that construes § 1681's prohibition of discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include pregnancy-based discrimination. The Court agrees with Conley that Title IX's prohibition of discrimination “on the basis of sex” encompasses pregnancy-based discrimination.

The Court begins its construction of § 1681 with the statute's text.4 See Koch Foods, Inc. v. Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of Labor, 712 F.3d 476, 480 (11th Cir.2013) (quoting DIRECTV, Inc. v. Brown , 371 F.3d 814, 817 (11th Cir.2004) ); see also Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Dep't of Agric. , 789 F.3d 1206, 1216 (11th Cir.2015) ; Harris v. Garner , 216 F.3d 970, 972 (11th Cir.2000) (en banc). Title IX provides that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”5 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). The statute does not define the term “sex.” In the absence of a statutory definition of a particular term, courts look to common usage of words for their meaning. See Koch Foods , 712 F.3d at 480 (quoting Jackson v. State Bd. of Pardons and Paroles , 331 F.3d 790, 795 (11th Cir.2003) ) see also Animal Legal Def. , 789 F.3d at 1216 ; CBS Inc. v. PrimeTime 24 Joint Venture , 245 F.3d 1217, 1222 (11th Cir.2001). Common usage is often derived from the dictionary. Koch Foods , 712 F.3d at 480 ; see also Animal Legal Def. , 789 F.3d at 1216 ; Jackson , 331 F.3d at 795 (11th Cir.2003).

Merriam–Webster defines “sex” as “either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male esp. on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures” and as “the sum of the structural, functional, and behavioral characteristics of organisms that are involved in productive behavior marked by the union of gametes and that distinguish males and females.” Merriam–Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 1140 (11th ed.2003).6 Dictionaries more contemporaneous

145 F.Supp.3d 1077

to the 1972 enactment of Title IX defined “sex” similarly. See Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary 795 (1967) (defining “sex” as “[e]ither of two divisions of organisms distinguished respectively as male or female” and “[t]he sum of the structural, functional, and behavioral peculiarities of living beings that subserve reproduction by two interacting parents and distinguish males and females”); Black's Law Dictionary, 1541 (4th rev. ed.1968) (defining “sex” as “[t]he sum of the peculiarities of structure and function that distinguish a male from a female organism; the character of being male or female”); cf. also Taniguchi v. Kan Pac. Saipan, Ltd., ––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 1997, 2002, 182 L.Ed.2d 903 (2012) (using contemporaneous dictionaries to determine meaning of statutory term). The common thread running through these definitions is a focus on reproduction, including the “structural” and “functional” differences between typical male and female bodies. Thus, at least by virtue of common usage, the meaning of the term “sex”...

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3 practice notes
  • Muro v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State Univ. & Agric. & Mech. Coll., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-10812 SECTION "R" (4)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • November 7, 2019
    ...or related medical conditions is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. See, e.g., Conley v. Nw. Fla. State Coll., 145 F. Supp. 3d 1073, 1076-79 (N.D. Fla. 2015); Bakewell v. Stephen F. Austin State Uni., 975 F. Supp. 858, 887 n.39 (E.D. Tex. 1996). Put anotherPage 8 way, an a......
  • MC Oil & Gas, LLC v. Ultra Res., Inc., Case No. 1:15–cv–0038–DN.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • November 12, 2015
    ...increases are agreed upon, this Agreement will be amended to reflect the volume change and any new pricing negotiated.”39 The first 145 F.Supp.3d 1073 and last sentences of Paragraph 2 call for future agreement for any binding obligation to arise and encapsulate the central sentences of tha......
  • Frankola v. La. State Univ. Sch. of Med., CIVIL ACTION NO: 15-5933 SECTION: "H"(5)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • January 26, 2017
    ...1681. 21. Easley v. Univ. of Texas at Arlington, 984 F. Supp. 2d 631, 635 (N.D. Tex. 2013). 22. See Conley v. Nw. Florida State Coll., 145 F. Supp. 3d 1073, 1079 (N.D. Fla. 2015); Varlesi v. Wayne State Univ., 909 F. Supp. 2d 827, 854 (E.D. Mich....
3 cases
  • Muro v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State Univ. & Agric. & Mech. Coll., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-10812 SECTION "R" (4)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • November 7, 2019
    ...or related medical conditions is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. See, e.g., Conley v. Nw. Fla. State Coll., 145 F. Supp. 3d 1073, 1076-79 (N.D. Fla. 2015); Bakewell v. Stephen F. Austin State Uni., 975 F. Supp. 858, 887 n.39 (E.D. Tex. 1996). Put anotherPage 8 way, an a......
  • MC Oil & Gas, LLC v. Ultra Res., Inc., Case No. 1:15–cv–0038–DN.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • November 12, 2015
    ...increases are agreed upon, this Agreement will be amended to reflect the volume change and any new pricing negotiated.”39 The first 145 F.Supp.3d 1073 and last sentences of Paragraph 2 call for future agreement for any binding obligation to arise and encapsulate the central sentences of tha......
  • Frankola v. La. State Univ. Sch. of Med., CIVIL ACTION NO: 15-5933 SECTION: "H"(5)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • January 26, 2017
    ...1681. 21. Easley v. Univ. of Texas at Arlington, 984 F. Supp. 2d 631, 635 (N.D. Tex. 2013). 22. See Conley v. Nw. Florida State Coll., 145 F. Supp. 3d 1073, 1079 (N.D. Fla. 2015); Varlesi v. Wayne State Univ., 909 F. Supp. 2d 827, 854 (E.D. Mich....

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