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Morrison v. Resource Management Concepts, Inc.

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

March 21, 2017



          Graham C. Mullen United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The pro se Plaintiff has filed a response, and the Defendant has elected not to file a Reply. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for disposition.


         The pro se Plaintiff, an African-American female, filed her Amended Complaint alleging race and sex discrimination and retaliation. This action arises from the Plaintiff's employment and subsequent discharge from her position as an Occupational, Safety, and Health Specialist in Defendant Resource Management Concepts, Inc.'s (“RMC”) Environmental & Safety Division. Plaintiff was hired by RMC on February 4, 2013. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 6). She alleges that she was the only African-American and the only female under the supervision of Brent Elrod. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. She alleges that after Elrod became her supervisor, she “began to be falsely blamed for not completing assignments, missing meetings, and being nonresponsive to [her] clients.” Id. at ¶ 10.

         At her 2014 annual performance review, Elrod commented that Plaintiff “had an unprofessional and confrontational tone/approach in written responses to customers and peers” and that she was “unresponsive to calls from [Elrod], and failed to attend scheduled team meetings.” Id. at ¶ 12. On April 6, 2015, Plaintiff was provided a performance improvement plan as a result of the 2014 annual review. Id. at ¶¶ 14, 18. On the same day, at a meeting discussing the review, Plaintiff indicated that she disagreed with Mr. Elrod's evaluation. Id. At the same meeting, Plaintiff also commented that she believed she was being accused of being confrontational and aggressive “because of misperceptions based on [her] sex and race. Id. at ¶ 15. In August of 2015, Plaintiff was told that she was responsible for presenting two Power Point presentations. Id. at ¶ 19. She completed the presentations but complained to Mr. Elrod that one did not go well due to mistakes made by those who created the presentations. Id.

         On November 2, 2015, Mr. Elrod called the Plaintiff and told her that she was being discharged due to the poor presentations in August and because “RMC had received negative comments about [her] from all of [her] clients.” Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff alleges that throughout her employment with Defendant she has “satisfactorily performed [her] job duties and met RMC's expectations.” Id. at ¶ 21.

         Plaintiff alleges that her termination was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., in that she was terminated because of her race and sex, and that she was retaliated against for complaining that she was being discriminated against on the basis of her race and sex. Defendant seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


         When faced with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts are instructed to “accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and . . . view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). However, this procedural safeguard does not apply to both implausible factual allegations and any of a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679-80 (2009).

         Moreover, Plaintiff has the burden of pleading “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations omitted). While “hyper-technical” pleadings of earlier legal eras are not required, Plaintiffs must make more than “naked assertions of wrongdoing” without any “factual enhancement.” Id., quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007).

         The Fourth Circuit requires district courts to construe pro se complaints liberally to ensure that valid claims do not fail for lack of legal specificity. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.1978). However, this liberal construction need not extend to outright advocacy for the pro se plaintiff nor will it permit a district court to ignore a clear failure of the pro se plaintiff to allege facts in the complaint which set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law. Id.; Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Services, 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir.1990). The Court does not have to divine facts not disclosed by the Plaintiff in her Complaint, nor must the Court invoke causes of action that are neither articulated nor supported by factual allegations.

         Indeed, pro se plaintiffs, with the assistance of the district court's lenient eye, must still do more than a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Like plaintiffs who are represented by counsel, a pro se plaintiff must still “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim.” See Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). In light of Twombly and Bass, conclusory statements with insufficient factual allegations, even when asserted by pro se plaintiffs, will simply not suffice. To survive a motion to dismiss under Twombly, a plaintiff must allege enough facts “‘to raise a right to relief above the speculative level' and must provide ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Robinson v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 551 F.3d 218, 222 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570).

         In order to allege a plausible prima facie claim for sex or race discrimination, the Plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to establish: (1) membership in a protected class; (2) satisfactory job performance; (3) an adverse employment action; and (4) more favorable treatment of similarly-situated employees outside the protected class. See Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) aff'd 566 U.S. 30 (2012).

         The Amended Complaint fails to allege facts that establish that the Plaintiff performed her job duties in a satisfactory manner. There are no allegations that the Plaintiff was told by any of her supervisors at RMC that her performance met their expectations. Plainly stated, outside of the Plaintiff's naked assertion that she “satisfactorily performed [her] job duties and met RMC's expectations, ” (Amd. Compl. ¶ 21), the Amended Complaint is devoid of any facts that establish that the Plaintiff performed her job in a satisfactory manner. Instead, the Amended Complaint discloses facts that establish the opposite - that the Plaintiff consistently failed to meet RMC's ...

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