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Ballard v. Hickory Springs Mfg. Co.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

February 3, 2017

HICKORY SPRINGS MFG. CO., HSM FIBERS, VIRGILIO RUBINOS, and FNU RODRIGEZ, lead person Hickory Springs Mfg., Co., Defendants.


          Richard L. Voorhees, United States District Judge

         THIS 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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).

         This Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed informa pauperis and service was returned executed as to each named Defendant.[1] (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.


         A. Standard of Review

         When 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 alleged. Id.

         However, 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).

         In 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.

         B. 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) Claim

         Section 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 ...

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