Gallentine v. Hous. Auth. of Port Arthur, CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:12-CV-417

CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtMARCIA A. CRONE
Decision Date18 January 2013
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 1:12-CV-417




SIGNED: January 18, 2013


Pending before the court is the Housing Authority of the City of Port Arthur, Texas, (the "Housing Authority") and Seledenio Quesada's ("Quesada") (collectively "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss (#5). Defendants move for dismissal of Plaintiff Berlinsia Gallentine's ("Gallentine") claims for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, § 1981, and § 1983 on the ground that they are legally and factually infirm. Gallentine opposes Defendants' motion, arguing that her claims are viable. Having considered the instant motion, the submissions of the parties, the pleadings, and the applicable law, the court is of the opinion that Defendants' motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

This dispute arises out of purportedly racially-motivated employment actions taken by Defendants against Gallentine. Gallentine, a black female, began her employment with the Housing Authority on July 7, 1997. She eventually rose to the position of Housing Counselor and is currently Operations Manager. Problems allegedly arose, however, when the Housing

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Authority hired Paula Watts ("Watts"), a Hispanic female. Gallentine claims that upon the commencement of Watts's employment, Quesada, the Housing Authority's Executive Director and a Hispanic male, has discriminated against Gallentine on the basis of race and retaliated against her for complaining about racial discrimination.

Gallentine's complaint describes several instances where Quesada allegedly treated her less favorably that Watts. The following are the specific incidents of purportedly discriminatory and retaliatory conduct that, according to the complaint, occurred between 2007 and 20101 :

1. Watts was promoted numerous times ahead of Gallentine despite having less experience and inferior qualifications. Moreover, Gallentine asserts that many of the jobs to which Watts was promoted were not posted pursuant to the Housing Authority's policies.
2. Quesada created a new position entitled Client Services Manager specifically for Watts.
3. On2 July 27, 2007, Watts received a pay raise but Gallentine did not.
4. Later, on August 26, 2008, another employee, Anji Johnson ("Johnson") resigned, and Quesada ordered Gallentine to assume Johnson's caseload.
5. In December 2008, Quesada asked Gallentine to assume Watts's caseload because Watts was overwhelmed. As a result, Watts was allegedly left with

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no caseload at all and had no responsibilities other than to oversee the admissions department. At the same time, Watts was given an assistant, Elaina Lee ("Lee"), a white female, and allowed to hire her daughter, Ciara, to assist her with clerical matters. Gallentine, however, was not afforded similar benefits.
6. Gallentine requested that Quesada divide or reassign her office work on numerous occasions to alleviate her workload, but he denied her request each time. According to Gallentine, Quesada, motivated by Gallentine's race, assigned her an unbearable workload in order to force her to quit.
7. On December 16, 2008, Quesada criticized Gallentine for wearing jeans to work in an alleged attempt to embarrass her. Watts often wore jeans to work but was never criticized or reprimanded for doing so.
8. On January 19, 2009, Quesada directed Gallentine to absorb approximately 100 more cases in addition to Watts's caseload.
9. Gallentine also states that she had never been "written-up" or reprimanded by the Housing Authority during her first thirteen years of her employment. Although Quesada never personally gave Gallentine a performance evaluation during the time he supervised her, he allegedly verbally criticized and denigrated Gallentine on numerous occasions in front of her fellow co-workers.
10. In January 2010, both Gallentine and Watts were enrolled in college while also continuing to work at the Housing Authority. Because Gallentine had

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to complete an internship during normal work hours, Quesada directed Gallentine to work nights instead. Quesada permitted Watts, who also required scheduling changes to accommodate the demands of her course work, to work from home.
11. On September 7, 2010, Gallentine, based on the incidents described above, along with several other employees of the Housing Authority, filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions ("EEOC"). Gallentine's charge averred that she was treated less favorably than Watts and was subjected to a hostile work environment.
12. In September 2010, after filing the charge, Gallentine was demoted to the position of Housing Counselor, where she was under the supervision of Lee.
13. On December 2, 2010, Lee "wrote up" Gallentine concerning a particular client's case without any prior discussion or consultation. This reprimand was characterized as a verbal warning but was later placed in written form in Gallentine's personnel file. Gallentine maintains that the warning was given in retaliation for her filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and for supporting others with their grievances against the Housing Authority.

In addition to these contentions, Gallentine's complaint includes allegations concerning the internal decision-making structure at the Housing Authority. She states that the Housing Authority's Personnel Policy Manual describes the duties of an Executive Director as follows:

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"set policy, establish priorities, goals and objectives for organizational design, job design and restructuring to provide upward mobility and increased job opportunities for minorities, women and handicapped (i.e., part time, entry level, etc.)." Furthermore, she argues that the Housing Authority is governed by a Board of Commissioners ("Board"), which has delegated to Quesada, in his position as Executive Director, the authority to make policy concerning personnel matters.

Gallentine further alleges that the Board has instituted discriminatory practices, policies, and customs and has adopted or acquiesced in similar practices, policies, and customs instituted by Quesada. The policies and customs include: (1) never personally evaluating Gallentine's tenure or job performance; (2) allowing Hispanic employees, but not African-American employees, to hire their family members; (3) promoting Hispanic employees with less experience or training over African-American employees; (4) allowing Hispanic employees to wear types of clothing that African-American employees cannot; (5) failing to enforce departmental policies concerning the posting of job openings; (6) creating new positions for Hispanic employees and not African-American employees; (7) overloading African-American employees with the job responsibilities of Hispanic employees, yet paying Hispanic employees higher wages; and (8) retaliating against African-American employees for filing complaints with the EEOC or participating in an EEOC investigation.

On May 24, 2012, the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter to Gallentine, indicating that she had a right to file a claim against the Housing Authority within 90 days of the letter's receipt. Thereafter, on August 23, 2012, Gallentine filed the instant complaint against the Housing Authority and against Quesada in his individual capacity, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C.

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§ 2000e, et seq. On September 17, 2012, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Gallentine's claims on numerous grounds.

II. Analysis

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard3

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests only the formal sufficiency of the statement of a claim for relief and is "appropriate when a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim." Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 960 (2002). It is not a procedure for resolving contests about the facts or the merits of a case. See 5A CHARLES A. WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2d § 1356, at 294 (1990). In ruling on such a motion, the court must accept the factual allegations of the complaint as true, view them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), abrogated on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982); In re S. Scrap Material Co., LLC, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 1669 (2009); Lovick v. Ritemoney Ltd., 378 F.3d 433, 437 (5th Cir. 2004); Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161. Nevertheless, "the plaintiff's complaint [must] be stated with enough clarity to enable a

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court or an opposing party to determine whether a claim is sufficiently alleged." Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161 (citing Elliott v. Foufas, 867 F.2d 877, 880 (5th Cir. 1989)). The "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); accord Cuvillier v. Taylor, 503 F.3d 397, 401 (5th Cir. 2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1182 (2008).


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