Tedder v. Inch

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
PartiesMACK R. TEDDER, Plaintiff, v. MARK S. INCH, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 3:19-cv-742-MMH-JRK
Decision Date01 March 2021
I. Status

Plaintiff Mack R. Tedder, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on June 20, 2019, by filing a pro se Complaint (Doc. 1-4). He filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 27) on February 3, 2020, and a Second Amended Complaint (SAC; Doc. 38) with exhibits (Docs. 38-1; 38-2) on June 2, 2020.1 In the SAC, Tedder asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following Defendants: (1) Pride Enterprises Incorporated, Prison Rehabilitation Industries Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE); (2) Mark S. Inch,Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC); (3) Remero C. Green, Mission Programs Director at PRIDE; and (4) Brenda Griffis, a PRIDE employee in the dental laboratory at Union Correctional Institution (UCI). He asserts that Defendants engaged in unlawful hiring practices and discriminated against him when they failed to hire him to work in the UCI dental laboratory. As relief, he seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants PRIDE, Green, and Griffis's Motion to Dismiss (Motion; Doc. 40) and Defendant Inch's Motion to Dismiss (Inch Motion; Doc. 39). The Court advised Tedder that granting a motion to dismiss would be an adjudication of the case that could foreclose subsequent litigation and gave him an opportunity to respond. See Order (Doc. 6). Tedder filed responses in opposition to the Motions. See Motion in Opposition to Defendant Inch's Motion to Dismiss (Response; Doc. 42); Motion in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Response II; Doc. 54). Thus, Defendants' Motions are ripe for review.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations2

According to Tedder, he is a sixty-seven-year-old disabled,3 close-custody, parole-eligible, white male inmate who is serving a term of life imprisonment with a 2024 presumptive parole release date (PPRD), as of 2018. See SAC at 13-14, 17-18, 21-22. He states that he has been incarcerated since 1974, and the FDOC houses him at UCI. See id. at 14. He identifies the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), sections 760.01 - 760.11 of the Florida Statutes, and the Fourteenth Amendment as authority applicable to his claim that Defendants Griffis and Green wrongly denied him a job in the dental laboratory based on his life sentence. See id. at 17-18. He maintains that Defendant Inch, by and through the UCI classification officers, isresponsible for the prison work programs and Tedder's ability to participate in them. See id. at 26.

As to the underlying facts, Tedder asserts that he submitted twelve job applications to the PRIDE dental laboratory over the course of approximately four years, beginning on February 10, 2014.4 See id. at 14-16. According to Tedder, the laboratory hired life-sentenced inmates during those years, and Defendant Griffis discriminated against him when she failed and/or refused to interview him. See id. Tedder states that he submitted his thirteenth job application to the PRIDE dental laboratory on February 1, 2018, and the hiring staff granted him an interview on February 22, 2018. See id. at 16. He avers that P. Pellet (the plant supervisor and hiring manager) interviewed him and gave him a skills test, which included carving a wax candle into particular shapes within a one-hour time frame. See id. at 16-17. He states that he successfully completed the test despite the fact that he is missing one-half of his left middle finger. See id. at 17. According to Tedder, he "barely finished before the hour was up" and "did so well on the test" that Pellet wanted to hire him "on the spot." Id. (emphasis deleted). Instead, Pellet referred Tedder toGriffis, who "asked [Tedder] some questions," commented on Tedder's tugboat experience, and then asked Tedder if his 2024 PPRD was "a possibility or a maybe." Id. Tedder asserts that he reaffirmed it was his PPRD. See id. He avers that Griffis explained:

I have some bad news for you.... [Y]ou are what we need in the Dental Lab, and you have done about the best that I have ever seen on the test, but you have a life sentence and we have all the life sentence[d] inmates we can have.

Id. (emphasis deleted). Tedder states that Griffis informed him about a 60/40 quota that the hiring staff "must abide by," and she advised him to contact her if the sentencing court reduced his sentence. Id. According to Tedder, Griffis engaged in unlawful hiring practices and knew or should have known that the 60/40 quota policy was not permissible under the Florida Statutes, FCRA, ADA, or Title VII. See id. Tedder maintains that his finger injury and his status as a close-custody, life-sentenced inmate with a 2024 PPRD are qualifying disabilities under the ADA. See id. at 21-22.

Tedder states that he wrote a letter to PRIDE four days later (February 26, 2018), stating in pertinent part:

I am writing concerning the unlawful hiring practices and discrimination of the Union dental lab against me.
Beginning on February 10, 2014 to the present date, I had some twelve previous job applications[sent] to Union dental lab for employment opportunities and they all went unanswered until I sent in the latest job application to Union dental lab on February 1, 2018.
On February 22, 2018, I received from Union dental lab, the very first job interview in the four (4) year period of which I sought employment opportunity from the dental lab.
In years past, I was overlooked by Union dental lab, for other life term inmates who had not sought out employment opportunities until several years after I first began to seek employment with Union dental lab. And, this can be easily verified from a review of Union dental lab hiring records.
After the interview on February 22, 2018, I was told that I would not be hired because of a 60/40 hiring practice.
When I got back to work where I work in the law library, I began to research the denial of being hired on February 22, 2018, and I discovered many things.
Pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 760.10: "It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer: (a) ... to fail or refuse to hire any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to ... privileges of employment ..." (b) "[t]o limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual o[f] employment opportunities...[.]"
Pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 946.502(6): "It is further the intent of the Legislature that the corporation will devise and operate correctional work programs to utilize inmates of all custody levels withspecific emphasis on reducing idleness among close custody inmates."
Pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 946.520: ... "This 60-percent requirement does not apply to any correctional work program, or private sector business authorized under this part, within an institution for any year in which, as of January 1 of that year, the average years remaining before the tentative release date of all inmates assigned to that institution exceeds 12 years."
Pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 946.523: (1)..."The purposes and objectives of this program are to: (d) [p]rovide additional opportunities for rehabilitating inmates who are otherwise ineligible to work outside the prisons, such as maximum security inmates."
Therefore, as a result of the above authorities and the actions performed against me, I sincerely request that I will be hired by PRIDE Union dental lab in the very near future in order to end this discrimination being directed toward me for whatever reason.

Doc. 38-1 at 3-4 (emphasis added and deleted). Tedder asserts that Defendant Green failed to correct "the injury," SAC at 21, on March 8, 2018, when he stated:

PRIDE is in receipt of your letter postmarked March 01, 2018, regarding employment opportunity.
Hiring is based on the needs of the industry. Inmates interested in PRIDE assignment must receive the approval of the institution's classification department. PRIDE['s] new inmate profile is to hire inmates with6-10 years left on their sentence, as they will be a candidate for our transition program.

Doc. 38-2 at 1. Tedder maintains that the referenced "inmate profile" did not consider life-sentenced inmates, such as Tedder, with six to ten years to reach their PPRDs. SAC at 20.

Tedder describes PRIDE's "unlawful employment practices" as favoritism, nepotism, inmate transfers from the PRIDE furniture factory and tag plant to the dental laboratory, and "janitor ploy" where PRIDE "quickly worked" life-sentenced inmates up from positions as janitors to dental employees. Id. at 19-20. He provides examples of PRIDE's discriminatory practices related to hiring inmates in the dental laboratory: (1) Michael Stinespring, #791408 (no life sentence), Terry Stettler, #094945 (life sentence), and David Weeks, #098612 (life sentence) hired in 2014; (2) Darrell Trout, #059409 (life sentence) and James Clark, #537252 (life sentence) in 2015; (3) Robert Holveck, #637223 (life sentence) and Paul Lessing, #143410 (life sentence) in 2017; (4) Lindsey Cameron, #294122 (no life sentence) and William Davis, #888492 (life sentence) in 2018; (5) Steven Weldon, #573245 (life sentence) in 2019; and (6) Arthur Wilson, #863153 (life sentence) in 2020. See id. Tedder maintains that PRIDE's 2018-2020 hiring of life-sentenced inmates Davis, Weldon, and Wilson "negates" Defendants' "60/40 quota" explanation for not hiring Tedder. Id. at 20.

III. Motion to Dismiss Standard

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1 (2002); see als...

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