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Lewis v. High Point Reg'l Health System

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 15, 2015

XYAIRA LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
HIGH POINT REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM, Defendant

Xyaira Lewis, Plaintiff, Pro se, Winston-Salem, NC.

For High Point Regional Health System, Defendant: James M. Powell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jillian M White, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, Greensboro, NC.

For U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office of General Counsel, Amicus: Jennifer S. Goldstein, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office of the General Counsel, Washington, DC.

ORDER

TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss [DE 12] and plaintiffs motion for summary judgment [18]. The motions are fully briefed and ripe for ruling. For the reasons stated herein, both motions are DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Xyaira Lewis filed this complaint on December 9, 2013, alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Specifically, Ms. Lewis alleges that she was the victim of unlawful gender discrimination by defendant High Point Regional Health System (High Point). Plaintiff is a transgendered male who identifies with the female gender. Though Ms. Lewis is anatomically a male, she is currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy in preparation for a sexual reassignment surgery

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in the future. Plaintiff is a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Around February 2012, she applied for three CNA positions with High Point: one in the radiology department, one in the orthopedics department, and one in the float pool. Ms. Lewis was interviewed for all three positions. Following her second interview, at which the orthopedic department manager was present, she was given a tour and introduced to other employees. Subsequently, Ms. Lewis attended her third interview, at which she alleges that she was interviewed by a group of CNAs who harassed and ridiculed her about her status as a transsexual. Three days, later, Ms. Lewis returned for a peer interview, which was conducted by the orthopedic department manager and a unit charge nurse. Plaintiff alleges that the unit charge nurse was aware of plaintiffs status as a transsexual by this last interview. Subsequently, Ms. Lewis was informed that the unit charge nurse wanted someone with more experience.

Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss, and plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment. In October 2014, the Court allowed the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a brief as an amicus curae [DE 25], to which High Point responded in opposition [DE 26],

DISCUSSION

I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the legal sufficiency of a plaintiffs complaint. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). When ruling on the motion, the court " must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (citing Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Specificity is not required; the complaint need only " give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complain must contain facts sufficient " to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and to satisfy the court that the claim is " plausible on its face." Id. at 555, 570; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

Defendant High Point's motion to dismiss relies on, inter alia, Wrightson v. Pizza Hut of America, Inc., 99 F.3d 138, 143 (4th Cir. 1996), and argues that Title VII does not provide a cause of action for discrimination based on sexual orientation. High Point is correct in that neither the United States Supreme Court nor that Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized Title VII as protecting individuals because of their sexual orientation. See, e.g., Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 78-80, 118 S.Ct. 998, 140 L.Ed.2d 201 (1998); Wrightson v. Pizza Hut of America, Inc., 99 F.3d 138, 143 (4th Cir. 1996). However, neither the ...


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