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Elhassan v. Proctor & Gamble Manufacturing Co.

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

March 27, 2014

SAFA ELHASSAN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE PROCTOR & GAMBLE MANUFACTURING COMPANY and XLC SERVICES, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM OSTEEN, Jr., District Judge.

Presently before the court is the Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim filed by Defendant XLC Services, LLC (Doc. 8), which was filed in response to Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1). Plaintiff has since filed an Amended Complaint and Demand for Trial by Jury. (Doc. 17.)[1] While a few of Defendant's minor points have thereby been rendered moot, Defendant's major arguments for dismissal remain viable. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion to dismiss in full.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Plaintiff is a female whose religion is Islam, and whose country of origin is the Republic of Sudan. (Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") (Doc. 17) ¶ 3.) Defendant XLC Services, LLC ("Defendant") is a staffing agency that employed Plaintiff and assigned her to work for Defendant The Proctor & Gamble Manufacturing Company ("P&G") in Guilford County, North Carolina. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 12.) Although P&G maintained a blanket policy prohibiting workers from wearing jewelry on the job site (id. ¶ 16), Plaintiff consistently wore her wedding ring to work pursuant to her religious beliefs. (Id. ¶ 17.) Other employees of different religions and national origins also regularly wore jewelry under their clothing and/or protective wear, apparently in violation of the policy, but were not punished or searched. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff also routinely wore a hijab - a head and neck wrap worn by Muslim women - in conformity with her religious beliefs. (Id. ¶ 19.)

On or about September 5, 2011, Ernestine Wilson ("Wilson"), a "shift leader" for P&G (id. ¶¶ 22, 41), "forcibly search[ed]" Plaintiff for jewelry by removing Plaintiff's hand from her pocket against her will. (Id. ¶ 22.) Wilson also "forcibly" removed Plaintiff's hijab in front of her male coworkers (id. ¶ 23) and "threatened [Plaintiff] with future humiliation." (Id. ¶ 24.) Wilson had previously been involved in a "friendly, physical, and/or romantic relationship" with another coworker (id. ¶ 38), who had been fired after Plaintiff brought a sexual harassment complaint against him. (Id. ¶ 37.)

Plaintiff subsequently reported Wilson's actions to both P&G and Defendant, and Wilson was suspended from work from September 7, 2011 through September 11, 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 29.) Wilson and Plaintiff were also assigned to different shifts from September 12, 2011 through September 14, 2011 "so that they would have minimal contact while working." (Id. ¶ 30.) At one point, a P&G human resources employee "pressured" Plaintiff to accept Wilson's apology. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff refused to do so because "she felt the apology to be insincere." (Id.) On September 16, 2011, after receiving notice that P&G was going to remove Plaintiff from her position, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. (Id. ¶ 33.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Defendant has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must allege "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). For a claim to be facially plausible, a plaintiff must "plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable" and must demonstrate "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true. Id. However, a court does not have to accept as true mere legal conclusions, and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).[2]

III. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff has alleged five causes of action against Defendant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as a sixth cause of action for negligence under North Carolina state law.[3] Defendant has moved to dismiss all six claims on various grounds; those grounds are summarized as follows:

1. Plaintiff's Title VII hostile work environment claims based on religious harassment (First Cause of Action) and sexual discrimination (Fifth Cause of Action) should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendant had the authority to take "corrective steps" against a P&G supervisor and has not otherwise established that the P&G supervisor's conduct could be imputed to Defendant. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem.") (Doc. 9) at 6, 10.)

2. Plaintiff's Title VII disparate treatment claims based on religious discrimination (Second Cause of Action) and national origin discrimination (Fourth Cause of Action) should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege that her faith had anything to do with Defendant's decision to terminate her. (Id. at 7, 8-9.)

3. Plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim (Seventh Cause of Action) should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege either that Defendant knew she was engaging in any protected activity or that Defendant ...


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