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Jones v. Anderson Community School Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 28, 2017

CHARLES F. JONES, Plaintiff,
ANDERSON COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, JOSEPH CRONK, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Director of Operations for the Anderson Community School Corporation, NANCY FARLEY, Individually and in Her Former Official Capacity as Director of Transportation for the Anderson Community School Corporation, MARY ANN HEINEMAN, Individually and in Her Official Capacity as Assistant Director of Transportation for the Anderson Community School Corporation, BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF THE ANDERSON COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, Individually and in Their Official Capacities, Defendants.


          SARAH EVANS BARKER, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Charles F. Jones (“Jones”) brought this employment discrimination action under 42 U.S.C § 1983 against the Anderson Community School Corporation (“the School”), its Board of Trustees (“the Board”), and three of its employees (“the Employees”), all in their individual and official capacities (“Defendants”).[1] Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the official-capacity claims for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Facts and Procedural History

         With its allegations taken as true, Jones's complaint reveals the following. Jones is a teacher and school administrator holding associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees in education and administration. Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27. Jones serves or has served as the principal and transportation director for the Delaware Christian Academy, and also works or has worked for the public schools of Muncie, Indiana. Id. ¶ 27. He is also a school-bus driver. Id. ¶ 13. Jones is black. Id.

         In 2005, Jones was hired by the School as an independent contractor to drive school buses in Anderson, Indiana. Id. ¶¶ 9, 13. For the 2006-2007 school year, Jones applied to be a “Fleet Operator” for the School, one of “four or five” contractors “which operate multiple school busses.” Id. ¶ 14. Jones's application was rejected in favor of a white contractor's. Id. ¶ 15.

         Every year from then on until before or during the 2015-2016 school year, when Jones left the School, Jones applied to be a fleet operator. Id. ¶¶ 14, 30. Every year his application was denied, id. ¶ 15, despite Jones's “perfect safety record” during his ten- year tenure. Id. ¶ 19. Every new fleet-operator contract was awarded to white or white-owned contractors, the majority of which were formed after Jones began driving for the School. Id. ¶¶ 15, 16. One such contractor, at the time its fleet-operator contract was awarded, had “recently been cited for safety violations by the Indiana State Police.” Id. ¶ 19. “When Jones inquired about this [hiring pattern], he was told that ‘seniority and performance are not factors in awarding contracts.'” Id. ¶ 17. When Jones asked what factors were used in awarding contracts, he received no answer. Id.

         In 2011, Jones was assigned a new bus route. Id. ¶ 18. His old route served primarily white students; his new route served primarily black students. Id. When Jones inquired about the reason for his reassignment, he was told it was because he could “handle those kids better.” Id. Jones's old route was reassigned to a white bus driver. Id. Jones believed this reassignment was retaliatory for his “repeated[] complain[ts]” to the Board about being subjected to race and sex discrimination. Id. ¶¶ 31, 58.

         In late 2014, the School had an opening for a new Transportation Supervisor. Id. ¶ 22. The School published the opening in early 2015, but not on its own website. Id. ¶¶ 22, 23. Jones heard of the opening through his work at another school and applied. Id. ¶ 22. In April 2015, Jones was scheduled to interview for the position, but the interview was canceled the night before for “budgetary reasons.” Id. ¶ 24. The Transportation Supervisor position apparently was never filled and was later abolished. See Id. ¶¶ 24, 25.

         Instead, in May 2015, the School created a new position, Assistant Director of Transportation, for which the School hired Mary Ann Heineman (“Heineman”). Id. ¶ 25. Heineman is a white woman with “no college degree, no teaching or other education credentials, and no prior transportation management experience.” Id. The opening for the position of Assistant Director of Transportation “was never posted in [the School] district.” Id.

         In addition to Jones's applications for a fleet-operator contract and for the Transportation Supervisor position during the 2014-2015 school year, Jones applied for a position as the School's Human Resources Director. Id. ¶ 28. That application was rejected as well, making three rejections for him during that school year. Id.

         Before the 2015-2016 school year began, “Jones learned that Heineman had changed Jones's individual [driver] contract in such a way that he would be paid $1, 000 per month less than he had been paid the year before.” Id. ¶ 30 (emphasis omitted). Again Jones believed this reduction in pay to have been retaliatory for his complaints to the Board. Id. ¶ 59. In any event, Jones found the new pay rate intolerable and “was compelled” to give up his driver's contract. Id. ¶ 30.

         When Jones left the School, he was the last nonwhite contractor there. Id. After awarding Jones his first driver's contract in 2005, the School never thereafter awarded a driver's contract to a nonwhite contractor. Id. ¶¶ 15, 21. Jones believes that no fleet-operator contract has been awarded to a nonwhite contractor since 1989. Id. ¶ 21. Though the School district is 40 percent nonwhite, its “Central Administration” is entirely white, as are all but one principal in the district. Id. ¶ 32.

         Jones brought the instant action in this Court on August 11, 2016. Dkt. 1. After Defendants answered and moved for partial judgment on the pleadings, Dkt. 8, 12, Jones filed an amended complaint on November 28, 2016. Dkt 14. The amended complaint pleads for relief for unlawful discrimination on the bases of race and sex under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 2, and for unlawful retaliation, ¶¶ 58-59, a claim we construe as arising under the First Amendment.

         Jones seeks to hold Defendants liable as follows: Count One, for race and sex discrimination in the awarding of fleet-operator contracts from the 2006-2007 school year through the 2014-2015 school year; Count Two, for race and sex discrimination in rejecting Jones's 2015 application for the Transportation Supervisor position and hiring Heineman for its successor position; Count Three, for race discrimination in the 2011 route reassignment; and Count Four, for retaliation in the 2011 route reassignment and in the 2015 pay reduction. Count Five pleads the School's municipal liability for Counts One through Four.

         Defendants moved to dismiss the official-capacity claims on January 3, 2017. Dkt. 23. Jones failed to respond to that motion, and it is therefore considered unopposed.

         Standard of Decision

         “A pleading that states a claim to 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); Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “test[s] the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chi. Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989), abrogated on other grounds by Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs v. Umbehr, 518 U.S. 668 (1996). To survive dismissal,

a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009). Factual allegations are accepted as true at the pleading stage, but “allegations in the form of legal conclusions are insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir.2012) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). . . . “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” [Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678] (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) . . . .

Adams, 742 F.3d at 728.

         Where, as here, the deadline for amending a complaint as of right has passed, Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B), further amendment requires leave of court or the defendants' consent. Id. at (a)(2). “Although leave to file a second amended complaint should be granted liberally, a district court may deny leave for several reasons including . . . futility of amendment.” Dubicz v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 377 F.3d 787, 792 (7th Cir. 2004) ...

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