Hudson v. City of Riviera Beach

Citation982 F.Supp.2d 1318
Decision Date13 November 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 12–80870–CIV.
PartiesMichael A. HUDSON, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF RIVIERA BEACH, Gloria Shuttlesworth, Doretha Perry, and Paul White, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Michael A. Hudson, Miami, FL, pro se.

Abigail Hanni Kofman, Steven Adam Siegel, Fisher & Phillips, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

ROBIN S. ROSENBAUM, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [D.E. 29]. The Court has considered the Motion, the parties' briefs, and the Amended Complaint and is otherwise fully advised in this matter. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The Court further provides Plaintiff with an opportunity to amend his Amended Complaint.

I. Factual Background1

According to the allegations in Plaintiff Michael Hudson's Amended Complaint, City of Riviera Beach employee Defendant Doretha Perry used her position of power with the City to force Hudson, a City employee, to take a drug test for no reason other than a personal vendetta against him. The vendetta allegedly arose out of Hudson's relationship with Troy Perry (Troy), the son of Defendant Doretha Perry (Perry).

Hudson, who was a multi-media specialist for the City of Riviera Beach's government-access television station, had an argument with Troy shortly after Hudson began working for the City. Id. at ¶¶ 1, 2, 16, 19. The Amended Complaint contends that Troy, who was serving as the City's fire chief, tried to have Hudson reprimanded as a result of Hudson's disagreement with Troy, but he was unsuccessful. Id. at ¶ 2. As the Amended Complaint explains events, Troy's failure to have Hudson reprimanded exacerbated Troy's anger with Hudson and caused Troy to threaten, [T]his is not over.” Id.

During a subsequent upheaval in the City, the City Manager was forced to resign, and Troy “was named and or given the duties of Interim Assistant City [Manager].” Id. at ¶ 1. In his interim position and true to his word, the Amended Complaint suggests, Troy apparently enlisted the assistance of his mother, Perry, to even the score with Hudson. See id. at ¶¶ 1–3.

Perry, who was the Human Resources Director of the City at the time, arranged on February 3, 2009, for Hudson to be required to submit to three different types of drug tests. Id. at ¶¶ 18, 28. She did this, the Amended Complaint asserts, even though she was not Hudson's supervisor, Hudson's supervisor neither requested the drug test nor suspected Hudson of using drugs, Hudson had consistently received “excellent” evaluations and had never been reprimanded or disciplined in his four years of employment with the City, and Hudson did not work in a safety-sensitive position or perform safety-sensitive functions. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 16, 19, 23. Nor did Perry or anyone in her department work at the same location as Hudson. Id. at ¶ 39. To the contrary, Hudson alleges, they all worked at an office approximately three miles away from where Hudson worked, and Perry's department had no interaction with Hudson. Id. As for Perry, she saw Hudson only at City Council meetings or on rare occasions when she and Hudson passed each other when Perry visited the City's main campus. Id.

The Amended Complaint further avers that Hudson was advised that if he refused to take the drug tests, he would be fired. Id. at ¶ 27. When Hudson asked why he was being required to submit to drug testing, the City's risk manager responded that the test was based on “reasonable suspicion,” although he did not know what the reasonable suspicion supporting the test was. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 22. According to the Amended Complaint, however, both the risk manager and Hudson's supervisor advised Hudson that they did not suspect Hudson of drug use. Id. at ¶¶ 20, 23. Nevertheless, the risk manager explained, Perry had required him to direct Hudson to submit to the tests. Id. at ¶¶ 20, 23.

Therefore, on February 4, 2009, the Amended Complaint asserts, Hudson reluctantly took a Breathalyzer test, a urine test, and a hair-sample test. Id. at ¶ 28. After complying with the drug-test directive, Hudson asked Perry what the reasonable suspicion was for the testing and requested that Perry provide him with any records supporting reasonable suspicion. Id. at ¶ 30. The Amended Complaint claims that Perry became infuriated and retorted, “It does not work like that[.] [T]here are no records[.] I don't have to give you copies of anything.” Id. When Hudson responded by showing Perry the Florida Drug Free Work Place Act, the Amended Complaint avers, Perry taunted, [I]f I did break the law[,] what are you gonna do about it?” Id.

Hudson left Perry's office and immediately notified then-Interim City Manager Gloria Shuttlesworth of his grievance regarding the drug testing. Id. at ¶ 31. Defendant Shuttlesworth stated that Perry should provide Hudson with copies of the documents that he had requested. Id.

Armed with this information, Hudson returned to Perry's office and told her that Shuttlesworth had said that Perry should be able to provide copies of the records to Hudson. Id. at 132. According to the Amended Complaint, Perry responded that she had no records but told Hudson that if he returned with a records request, she would provide him with a report. Id.

Hudson complied and presented the request to Perry within an hour. Id. But Perry did not provide the records at that time. Id. Instead, the Amended Complaint alleges, she angrily advised Hudson that she had twenty-four hours to respond to his records request and that she would respond within that time frame. Id.

The next day, Perry provided Hudson with a one-paragraph explanation for why she ordered the drug testing. Id. at 135. The paragraph stated that Perry had “received several complaints from employees the latest on January 29th 2009, alleging [Hudson's] eyes were glassy and he smelled like marijuana.” Id. at 135. It did not identify which employees had allegedly complained about Hudson, and Perry later stated that she could not recall who had complained and could not even remember the gender of the allegedly complaining person or persons. Id. at 136. Nor did Perry inform Hudson's immediate supervisor, Carrie E. Ward, that she had received complaints about Hudson. Id. at 140. During a subsequent unemployment-appeal hearing and deposition, the Amended Complaint avers, Perry contradicted her earlier explanation and instead stated that she had tested Hudson “on a whim[,] a mere hunch,” and that she had been determining who to drug test in that manner “for years.” Id. at 137.

In the meantime, Hudson's urine test returned negative results. Id. at 160. On February 6, 2009, Hudson contacted Concentra, who had administered the drug testing, and advised the company of the circumstances surrounding Hudson's drug testing. Id. at 159. Concentra then informed Hudson that he had a right to revoke the rights of the test under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, to the extent that the results had not yet been returned. Id. Upon learning this information, Hudson submitted a letter to Concentra revoking the rights to his protected health information until all administrative or legal matters were resolved. Id. Therefore, the results of the hair-sample test were not provided to the City.2Id. at ¶ 60.

On February 10, 2009, Hudson wrote a grievance letter to Defendant Shuttlesworth. Id. at ¶ 61. In that letter, Hudson asked Shuttlesworth to direct Perry to end all inquiries regarding the drug testing that Perry had ordered Hudson to undergo. Id. Shuttlesworth did not do so. Id. Instead, under what the Amended Complaint describes as a “new unapproved Clause” that Defendants and the City's attorneys created and added to the City's union agreement with its employees, Defendants suspended and then terminated Hudson's employment. Id. at ¶ 63.

As noted above, Hudson's employment was governed by a collective-bargaining agreement 3 entered into between the City and the Florida Public Service Union and the Service Employee International Union (the “Agreement”). D.E. 29–1. Article 29 of the Agreement outlines the City's Drug–Free Workplace Policy, which was implemented pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 440.102.4Id. The policy states, in relevant part, that an employee may be drug tested when reasonable suspicion exists that an employee is using or has used drugs or alcohol. Id.

In March 2009, Hudson was suspended from work. Id. at ¶ 64. The Amended Complaint avers that the City suspended him in retaliation for his refusal to release the results of his hair-sample test. Id. According to the Amended Complaint, the allegedly new clause that Defendants added to the City's union agreement specified that a revocation of a drug test was tantamount to a refusal to take the test. Id. at ¶ 63. The City's drug policy provides that “any employee who refuses to submit to a drug test may be terminated from employment.” D.E. 27–1 at 75. Hudson asserts that Defendant Paul White, the Assistant City Manager, was instrumental in drafting this new provision. Id. at ¶ 66.

An administrative hearing took place in late April 2009 regarding whether Hudson should be terminated. Id. at ¶ 73. The Amended Complaint contends that the hearing was inadequate because Perry, Hudson's initial accuser, was not present, and Hudson was not given an opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses. Id. at ¶¶ 74–75. In addition, the Amended Complaint avers, Defendants did not provide Hudson with certain requested documentation until after the hearing had already occurred. Id. at ¶ 80. Moreover, Perry was permitted to make the recommendation as to Hudson's termination. Id. at ¶ 83. On May 15, 2009, the City terminated Hudson's employment. Id. at ¶ 85.

Following his discharge, Hudson requested an appeal before the Civil Service Board. Id. at ¶ 87. At the time of...

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