United States District Court, District of Columbia
J. NICHOLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Joe Redmon was a male supervisory lifeguard for Defendant
YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, where he had worked for
several years. See generally Am. Compl., Dkt. 11.
But after receiving anonymous complaints of sexual harassment
by one or more of the female lifeguards Redmon supervised,
the YMCA suspended and then terminated him. Id.
¶¶ 24-25. Redmon alleges that the termination was
pretextual and that he was in fact terminated on the basis of
his sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Am. Compl. ¶¶
39-51. The YMCA argues that the Amended Complaint fails to
state a claim. See generally Def.'s Mem. in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl., Dkt. 12-1
(“Mot.”). The Court agrees and grants the
YMCA's Motion to Dismiss.
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the Court must accept well pleaded facts in the
Amended Complaint as true. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Redmon was a
long-time YMCA lifeguard and had recently been promoted to
the position of “Aquatic Coordinator.” Am. Compl.
¶¶ 14, 17. In his new job, he supervised several
junior lifeguards of both sexes. Id. ¶¶
16, 20. By his own estimation, Redmon “was a stellar
employee who was a highly skilled lifeguard, supervisor, swim
instructor and coach.” Id. ¶ 17. Among
his other duties, Redmon regularly counseled and disciplined
lifeguards, including issuing formal disciplinary reports.
Id. ¶ 32. On at least one prior occasion, a
female subordinate fabricated a sexual harassment claim
against Redmon in retaliation for his role in disciplining
her, but he was later exonerated. Id. ¶¶
alleges that, despite his supervisory responsibilities, he
was just another lifeguard and engaged in regular social
interactions, including jokes and banter of a sexual nature,
with his fellow lifeguards. Id. ¶ 19. That
changed on April 30, 2018, when his employer confronted him
with allegations of sexual harassment reported by an
anonymous female lifeguard. Id. ¶ 18. Redmon
asserts that he has no knowledge of the purported incident
because the YMCA refused to inform him of when it occurred,
who was there, or what Redmon or others may have said.
Id. ¶¶ 21-23, 26, 29, 38. Redmon
nevertheless denied any misconduct, but the YMCA placed him
on immediate administrative leave pending an investigation.
Id. ¶¶ 23-24.
days later, the YMCA terminated Redmon's employment
without further investigation or explanation. Id.
¶ 25, 27. Redmon alleges that the YMCA made no attempt
to learn his account of the incident or determine the
allegations' credibility and that it had no formal policy
for handling sexual harassment complaints. Id.
¶¶ 27-30. As far as Redmon knows, no other employee
(male or female) was ever disciplined for participating in
the sexual banter Redmon believes formed the basis for the
harassment complaint against him. Id. ¶¶
filed a complaint with the EEOC within a month of the
incident, alleging, among other claims, discrimination on the
basis of national origin in violation of Title VII.
Id. ¶ 10. The EEOC issued a “right to
sue” letter on September 6, 2018, and Redmon timely
filed this suit on December 6, 2018. Compl., Dkt. 1. Redmon
amended his theory of the case between the EEOC proceeding
and this action, dropping his other claims and alleging only
discrimination on the basis of sex. See Compl.
¶¶ 29-41, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 39-51. Following
an initial motion to dismiss, Redmon amended his Complaint on
March 4, 2019, which the YMCA moved to dismiss on March 25,
pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
Although the Court accepts all well pleaded facts in the
Amended Complaint as true, “[f]actual allegations must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “While
a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations,
a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Id. at 554-55
(internal quotations omitted). The claim to relief must be
“plausible on its face, ” enough to “nudge[
the] claims across the line from conceivable to
plausible.” Id. at 570.
briefing in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss misapprehends
this standard. He cites repeatedly to the “no set of
facts” language contained in Conley v. Gibson
and its progeny. See Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. to Mot.
to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl., Dkt. 13 at 4
(“Opp.”) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) (“[A] complaint should not be
dismissed . . . unless it appears beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.”)); see also
Id. (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467
U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (holding dismissal is proper “only
if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set
of facts that could be proved consistent with the
allegations”)). But Conley “described
the breadth of opportunity to prove what an adequate
complaint claims, not the minimum standard of adequate
pleading to govern a complaint's survival.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563. The “no set of
facts” phrase “is best forgotten as an
incomplete, negative gloss on an accepted pleading standard:
once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported
by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations
in the complaint.” Id. Therefore, to survive
the Motion to Dismiss, Redmon must allege sufficient facts
for the Court to determine that his suspension and
termination were at least plausibly caused by the YMCA
discriminating against him because he is a man and not
because of some other legitimate reason.
state a claim for sex discrimination under Title VII, Redmon
must allege that “(1) he is a member of a protected
class, (2) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (3)
the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of
discrimination (that is, an inference that his employer took
the action because of his membership in the protected
class).” Forkkio v. Powell, 306 F.3d 1127,
1130 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The YMCA concedes the first two
points, but it disputes that Redmon has plausibly alleged any
burden of showing a prima facie case at the pleading
stage is not onerous.” Easaw v. Newport, 253
F.Supp.3d 22, 26 (D.D.C. 2017) (internal quotation omitted).
Redmon can raise an inference of discrimination in one of two
ways. He can show either (1) that he “was treated
differently from similarly situated employees who are not
part of the protected class” or (2) that his
termination “[was] not attributable to the two . . .
common legitimate reasons for discharge: performance below
the employer's legitimate expectations or the elimination
of the plaintiff's position altogether.” George
v. Leavitt, 407 F.3d 405, 412 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
opts for the former method, alleging disparate treatment. He
points to the purported incident of sexual harassment and
alleges that it was merely one instance of a longstanding
practice of sexual banter among colleagues. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 18-19. The YMCA had never disciplined anyone for
such behavior, he argues, but it suddenly singled him out,
suspended him, and terminated him without investigation based
on a single, unsubstantiated allegation. Id.
¶¶ 21-22, 33-34. In Redmon's view, many
employees, particularly female lifeguards, participated in
the same conduct for which he was punished, but none suffered
any adverse consequences. Id. ¶¶ 21, 35,
38. Rather than consider the possibility that the instant
allegation was yet another false accusation in retaliation
for Redmon's disciplinary activities, the YMCA took the
subordinate's word at face value, discredited