United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
B. Russell, Senior Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court upon motion by Defendants, Murray
State University (“MSU”) and Tracey Wortham, to
dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (DN 7).
Plaintiff, Gary Morris, has filed his response. (DN 9). This
matter is ripe for review and for the following reasons,
Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
factual allegations as set out in the Complaint (DN 1), and
taken as true, are as follows.Defendant MSU hired Plaintiff as
an Assistant Professor in August of 2011. (DN 1 at 3). In the
following years, Plaintiff received a grant, published
research in scholarly journals, received the Emerging Scholar
award from MSU, developed two Study Abroad Programs for the
Occupational Safety and Health Department, and was promoted
to Associate Professor with tenure. Id. MSU promoted
Plaintiff to Chair of the Safety Department. Id. at
4. In July of 2015, Plaintiff went to work for the Board of
Certified Safety Professionals (The “Board”).
Id. Apparently, Plaintiff relinquished his position
as Department Chair when he went to work for the Board.
Defendant Tracey Wortham replaced Plaintiff as Department
Chair. Id. In August 2015, Plaintiff had a
disagreement at a board meeting with the CEO of the Board.
Because of this disagreement, Plaintiff met with Murray Dean
of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology Steve
Cobb and requested they pull his resignation letter and allow
him to remain employed with MSU. Id. Although
Plaintiff was allowed to continue working as an Associate
Professor with tenure at MSU, Wortham remained Department
issues between Plaintiff and Defendants began in October
2015, when three complaints were filed against Plaintiff with
MSU's Individual Diversity, Equity and Access
(“IDEA”) office. Id. at 4-5. Because of
the complaints, IDEA asked Plaintiff not to attend the
upcoming Future Safety Leader Conference in Chicago with his
students. Id. at 5. Students who had been contacted
in the course of the IDEA investigation called and complained
to Plaintiff that they were being asked leading questions
regarding alleged financial and behavioral problems of
Plaintiff. Id. Then, in December 2015, IDEA informed
Plaintiff that he was being removed from the Study Abroad
Program. Id. at 6. Another Professor, Dr. Keller,
replaced him in the Program. Id. The investigation
continued in the following months and more students
communicated to Plaintiff that they were being asked leading
questions about Plaintiff's behavior and financial
decisions. Id. at 6-7. Dr. Keller informed one
student that Plaintiff was being fired for financial
misconduct, that the Department did not like Plaintiff, and
that the Department wanted to rehire “Dr. Wells.”
Id. at 7.
February of 2016, Plaintiff was excluded from faculty
birthday celebrations and his research that was displayed in
the college was taken down. Id. Plaintiff was also
excluded from meetings and department functions. Id.
In May 2016, Defendant Wortham began sending emails to
Plaintiff and Dean Cobb about student complaints and missing
accreditation documents. Id. When Plaintiff met with
Dean Cobb to discuss the emails, Plaintiff learned that he
had been accused by an unnamed faculty member of being a
“sexual predator” and having a “drinking
problem.” Id. at 8. About five months later,
Dean Cobb informed Plaintiff that Wortham had told the IDEA
president that Plaintiff was “still acting up.”
Id. Dean Cobb arranged a meeting between Plaintiff
and Wortham to attempt to resolve the differences between
November 2016, Dean Cobb instructed Plaintiff again not to
attend the Future Safety Leader Conference
(“FSLC”) in Chicago with his students.
Id. at 8-9. Later that month, a student informed
Plaintiff that the student had asked Wortham if Plaintiff was
still the Department Chair and Wortham had responded,
“no, we have decided to do things more professionally
now.” Id. at 9.
year later, in September 2017, Plaintiff invited a student to
take an exam at Plaintiff's home. Id. Wortham
learned of this offer and then began “stirring the
pot” with Defendant MSU. Id. at 10. Sometime
later, Dean Cobb and MSU's provost instructed Plaintiff
to quit inviting students to his home for exams. Id.
Plaintiff alleges that it is not against policy to invite
students to the home of a professor to take an exam.
the next five months, Plaintiff was excluded from receiving
academic desk calendars, avoided by other faculty members,
and avoided by former graduate assistants. Id. at
10-12. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that Wortham asked
other faculty members if they could go on the trip to Chicago
because Plaintiff “needed a chaperone, ” denied
Plaintiff funding for a presentation at a national
convention, and prevented him from giving the presentation.
Id. at 11-12. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that he has
not been given annual evaluations since 2015 and has not been
promoted to Full Professor. Id. at 11. Throughout
the course of these events, Plaintiff repeatedly complained
to University officials. Plaintiff claims that no action was
taken in response to his complaints.
April 2018, Plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) Complaint against MSU. On or
about July 24, 2018, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a “Right
to Sue Letter.” In the complaint he has filed with this
Court, Plaintiff claims that MSU and Wortham are liable to
him for denial of due process, age discrimination, racial
discrimination, sex discrimination, hostile work environment,
retaliation, breach of contract, tortious interference,
defamation, and punitive damages. Id. at 12-17.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “[t]he
defendant has the burden of showing that the plaintiff has
failed to state a claim for relief.” Directv, Inc.
v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing
Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454-55 (6th Cir.
1991)). A complaint 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). In order to survive a
motion to dismiss under Civil Rule 12(b)(6), a party must
"plead enough factual matter to raise a
'plausible' inference of wrongdoing." 16630
Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B.,
727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d
868 (2009)). A claim becomes plausible "when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Should the
well-pleaded facts support no "more than the mere
possibility of misconduct," then dismissal is warranted.
Id. at 679. The Court may grant a motion to dismiss
"only if, after drawing all reasonable inferences from
the allegations in the complaint in favor of the plaintiff,
the complaint still fails to allege a plausible theory of
relief." Garceau v. City of Flint, 572
Fed.Appx. 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
brings ten counts alleging violations of federal and state
law against Murray State University and Director Tracey
Wortham. Although the parties do not discuss whether these
claims are brought against Wortham in her official or
individual capacity, the Court will address all ten counts in
Claims against Murray State University and Wortham in her
argue that each of Plaintiff's claims are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment and therefore must be dismissed. The
Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against on of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or ...