United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
Richard L. Voorhees, United States District Judge
MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on Defendant Hickory Springs
Manufacturing Company's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 15).
Having been fully briefed (see Docs. 16, 19, 20),
the Motion is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons
stated below, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 15) is GRANTED and
Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED.
John David Ballard, proceeding pro se, commenced
this action by filing a complaint that, when liberally
construed, raises claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. (Doc. 1 at 1-2). Relevant to
these claims, Ballard alleges that he was
“punched” because of his job performance and that
Defendant Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company
(“HSMC”) or Talent Force, who is not a named
defendant, terminated his employment based of his criminal
record without first determining whether he received
effective assistance of counsel at his criminal proceeding.
Id. at 2-3; (see also Doc. 19 at 1-2).
Ballard also alleges that his supervisors at HSMC, including
Defendant Rodrigez, spoke in Spanish when communicating with
him and about him such that he could not understand their
communications. (Doc. 1 at 2; see also Doc. 19 at
6). Finally, Ballard states that Defendants violated his
right under the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution to be free from involuntary servitude and that
Defendant HSMC “did not provide [him] with the equal
protection that is required by law.” (Doc. 1 at 2-3).
Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed informa
pauperis and service was returned executed as to each
named Defendant. (See Docs. 3, 8-11). Defendant
HSMC filed the pending Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), arguing that
Ballard's Complaint (1) fails to allege the elements of a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and (2) fails to allege
that he exhausted his administrative remedies with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) prior
to filing this civil action. (Doc. 16 at 2-5). In his
responsive filing, Ballard attempts to elaborate on his 42
U.S.C. § 1985(3) claim. (Doc. 19 at 6-7). Ballard also
asserts that he submitted documentation to the EEOC but
acknowledges that he “is yet to receive anything in
writing” from the EEOC. Id. at 5. Finally,
Ballard's responsive filling suggests that he seeks to
raise a cause of action sounding in workplace discrimination
under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
Id. at 3.
Standard of Review
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, or when
reviewing a complaint under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), this Court must examine the legal
sufficiency of the complaint; it may not resolve factual
disputes or weigh the claims and defenses against one
another. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro,
178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999); see also Thomas v. The
Salvation Army S. Territory, 841 F.3d 632, 637 (4th Cir.
2016) (“The standards for reviewing a dismissal under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) are the same as those for reviewing
dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6).” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Rather,
the court must accept as true all of the well-pled factual
allegations contained in the complaint. See Mylan Labs.,
Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). A
court may, however, determine whether the facts alleged are
sufficient, when taken at face-value, to reasonably imply
liability on the part of the defendant. In order to survive
such a motion, the complaint's “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Indeed, the
“complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially
plausible when the factual content allows for the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
a pleading that offers mere “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In order to assert a claim
for relief, the complaint must allege facts that imply more
than a “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully” or “facts that are ‘merely
consistent with' a defendant's liability[.]”
Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
557). Critically, “‘[t]he presence . . . of a few
conclusory legal terms does not insulate a complaint from
dismissal . . . when the facts alleged in the complaint'
cannot support the legal conclusion” alleged or the
relief sought. See Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming
Int'l, 248 F.3d 321, 326 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Young v. City of Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 577
(4th Cir. 2001)). “Legal inferences drawn from the
facts, unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments are not part of the [court's]
consideration.” Dolgaleva v. Va. Beach City Pub.
Sch., 364 F. App'x 820, 827 (4th Cir. 2010); see
also E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. LLP, 213 F.3d
175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
applying this standard, the Supreme Court has reiterated that
“[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally
construed and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). However, the Fourth Circuit has
“not read Erickson to undermine
Twombly's requirement that a pleading contain
more than labels and conclusions[.]” Giarratano v.
Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 304 n.5 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal
quotation marks omitted); accord Atherton v. Dist. of
Columbia Off. of Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82 (D.C. Cir.
2009) (“A pro se complaint . . . ‘must
be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.' But even a pro se
complainant must plead ‘factual matter' that
permits the court to infer ‘more than the mere
possibility of misconduct.'” (quoting
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94; Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679)). The rules governing the generous construction of
pro se pleadings “do not relieve the
plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which
a recognized legal claim could be based.” Ashby v.
City of Charlotte, 121 F.Supp.3d 560, 562 (W.D. N.C.
2015) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also
Silvers, 2016 WL 427953, at *7.
42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) Claim
1985(3) of Title 42 creates a cause of action
“reach[ing] private conspiracies to deprive others of
legal rights.” Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403
U.S. 88, 104 (1971). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1985(3), a plaintiff must allege:
(1) a conspiracy of two or more persons, (2) who are
motivated by a specific class-based, invidiously
discriminatory animus to (3) deprive the plaintiff of the
equal enjoyment of rights secured by the law to all, (4) and
which results in injury to the plaintiff as (5) a consequence
of an overt act committed by the defendants in connection
with the conspiracy.
Simmons v. Poe, 47 F.3d 1370, 1376 (4th Cir. 1995).
To satisfy the second element, a plaintiff must allege
“some racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based,
invidiously discriminatory animus behind the
conspirators' action.” Griffin, 403 U.S.
at 104. Inherent to a plaintiff's ability to satisfy this
requirement and advance a § 1985(3) claim is
plaintiff's ability to demonstrate that he belongs to a
class protected by § 1985(3). See Ruiz v.
Hofbauer, 325 F. App'x 427, 431 (6th Cir. 2009)
(“To state a claim under § 1985(3), a claimant
must allege both membership in a protected class and
discrimination on account of it.”); MotJuste Tirade
of Vim Andre Juste v. Brennan, 16 F.Supp.3d 716, 730-31
(N.D. W.Va. 2014). A ...