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Archuleta v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 1, 2017




         I. SUMMARY

         Plaintiffs LeeAnn Archuleta and Michael Dickens (“Plaintiffs”) claim they were involuntarily terminated in violation of federal and state law. Defendant Corrections Corporation of America (“Defendant” or “CCA”) filed a Second Motion to Dismiss (“Motion”) (ECF No. 36) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) after Plaintiffs submitted their First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) (ECF No. 33). The Court has reviewed the Motion, Plaintiffs' response (ECF No. 37) and Defendant's reply (ECF No. 40). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion is granted and Plaintiffs' FAC is dismissed with prejudice.


         On July 6, 2016, Plaintiffs Archuleta and Dickens filed their FAC against CCA after Defendant's first motion to dismiss was granted with leave for Plaintiffs to amend. (ECF Nos. 30, 31.) In the FAC, Archuleta alleges unlawful retaliation claims under Title VII and for filing a worker's compensation claim. (ECF No. 33 at 9-11, 13-15.) Dickens alleges an unlawful retaliation claim under Title VII, an unlawful racial discrimination claim under Title VII, and a claim for violation of NRS § 603.010(1). (Id. at 11-13, 15-18.) Both Plaintiffs allege that Defendant negligently hired, trained, and supervised their employees. (Id. at 18-19.) Plaintiffs claim that they exhausted their administrative remedies under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act before seeking judicial review.

         The following facts are taken from the FAC. Plaintiffs were employed at Nevada Southern Detention Center (“NSDC”), a CCA prison. Archuleta asserts that CCA involuntarily terminated her employment on June 4, 2014, after roughly ten years of employment. (Id. at 4.) She was employed in the position of Chief of Unit Management at the time of her termination. Dickens asserts that CCA involuntarily terminated his employment on or about June 4, 2014, after roughly twelve years of employment. At the time of his termination, he was employed as Assistant Warden.

         Archuleta claims that she suffered a significant injury on August 27, 2013, while working at NSDC and was taken via ambulance to a hospital where she was treated for a concussion and injuries to her neck and back. Archuleta then acquired worker's compensation benefits under the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act (“NIIS”), NRS chapters 616A-616D. (Id. at 5.) Around that same time, allegations emerged[1] that Archuleta had been sexually harassed by Chief Corrections Officer and Executive President Harley G. Lappin during a site visit he had made to NSDC. On September 3, 2013, Archuleta was interviewed by an investigator about the incident; Archuleta informed the investigator that Mr. Lappin had grabbed her hand while touring the facility, ostensibly so that Mr. Lappin could look at a ring on her finger. Based on a video recording of this incident, Warden Charlotte Collins (“Warden Collins” or “Collins”) allegedly falsely accused Archuleta of having an improper relationship with Mr. Lappin.

         Subsequently, on September 9, 2013, Archuleta received a written disciplinary action, her first while employed by Defendant, based on allegedly false and spurious allegations that she had failed to report inmate misconduct at NSDC. (Id. at 6.) On September 16, 2013, Archuleta filed a complaint with human resources alleging that the written disciplinary action was inappropriate and unfounded. No action resulted from her complaint. On March 31, 2014, CCA placed Archuleta on administrative leave, but she was not provided with a reason for the leave. While on administrative leave, an investigator interviewed Archuleta about an incident involving the release of a detainee from segregation. The interview occurred in the public lobby of a hotel, and the interviewer's son was present during the interview and participated in the interrogation. Archuleta told the interviewer that the detainee was not released as scheduled because a particular sergeant - possibly Sergeant Harland[2] - convinced Warden Collins to reverse her prior decision to release the detainee. The interviewer then asked Archuleta if she believed there was racism at the facility due to the race of Warden Collins - who is black - to which Archuleta replied no. Archuleta also told the interviewer that she had heard rumors that Warden Collins was involved in an inappropriate relationship with an employee and that Collins had told Archuleta that she was upset no disciplinary action had been taken against the person disseminating the rumors.

         The detainee incident resulted in the termination of Archuleta on the basis that she had ordered subordinate officers to identify themselves as refusing to move a detainee out of segregation. (Id. at 7.) Dickens wanted to take disciplinary action against the sergeant involved in the incident but was told by Warden Collins not to do so. She allegedly told Dickens that he was “playing with fire” in trying to hold the particular sergeant responsible. (Id. at 8.) Collins then ordered Dickens to write up Archuleta and the investigator who had asked Archuleta about the touching incident for failure to report sexual harassment. However, Collins ultimately charged only Archuleta with an offense. Dickens told Collins he disagreed with the disparate treatment between Archuleta and the investigator. On April 6, 2014, Dickens participated in an investigation into the separate incident regarding failure to move a detainee out of segregation and affirmed Archuleta's credibility. Dickens was then terminated on June 4, 2014.


         A. Legal Standard

         A court may dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A properly pled complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations it demands more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citation omitted).

         In Iqbal, the Supreme Court clarified the two-step approach district courts are to apply when considering motions to dismiss. First, a district court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint; however, legal conclusions are not entitled to an assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported only by conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. at 678. Second a district court must consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint allege a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff's complaint alleges facts that allow a court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 678. Where the complaint does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint “has alleged - but not show[n] - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted). When the claims in a complaint have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, the complaint must be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         A complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations concerning “all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1989) (emphasis in original)).

         B. ...

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