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Jackson v. Tyco Electronics Corp.

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

May 22, 2017

BOBBIE A. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
TYCO ELECTRONICS CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the court on defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (DE 12). The motion has been fully briefed, and in this posture issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action September 21, 2016, in the General Court of Justice Superior Court Division for Harnett County, North Carolina, seeking reinstatement of employment, compensatory and punitive damages, and other ancillary relief arising from defendant's alleged acts of employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (“NCEEPA”), loosely pleaded in the first three claims for relief. Plaintiff alleges in three separate tort-based claims the following: 1) wrongful termination; 2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and 3) negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendant removed the case to this court October 27, 2016, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.

         Defendant filed the instant motion November 28, 2016, seeking dismissal for failure to state a claim as to plaintiff's claims for NCEEPA violations as well as plaintiff's claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendant also seeks dismissal as to plaintiff's claim of wrongful termination on the ground that the claim either never existed under North Carolina law or is time-barred. Finally, defendant seeks dismissal as to plaintiff's remaining claims for damages and other relief on the ground that such claims do not constitute independent causes of action.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The facts alleged in the complaint may be summarized as follows. Defendant is engaged in the business of assembling, packing, and shipping electronic components. Plaintiff, a resident of Harnett County, North Carolina, became defendant's employee May 15, 1990. In her complaint, plaintiff alleges problems arising no later than early 2015 between plaintiff and her supervisors.

         At a company meeting held January 6, 2015, with plaintiff, defendant's manufacturing supervisor, Robert Yarborough (“Yarborough”), and plant manager, Mark Johnson, Yarborough engaged in angry outbursts. Plaintiff contends he yelled at her and slapped his hands near plaintiff's face. (DE 1-1 ¶ 15). Defendant took no action to address Yarborough's behavior. (Id. ¶ 16).

         At other times, defendant's supervisor, Raphael Marconi (“Marconi”), responded negatively to plaintiff's suggestions, belittling plaintiff by stating in response to her comments that “he had a wife[, ]” and, after forming his hand in a manner to mime choking, told plaintiff “[y]ou better be glad this table is between us.” (Id. ¶ 11). Yet another of defendant's supervisors, Martin Ramirez (“Ramirez”), belittled plaintiff and often said “[w]e have to keep the young guys happy because they are the future of the company[.]” (Id. ¶ 13).

         Following these events, plaintiff filed an internal complaint with defendant's human resources department February 13, 2015, alleging employment discrimination. (Id. ¶ 18). On the same day, defendant's human resources director, Emily Du, without first allowing plaintiff to describe her version of the January 6, 2015, incident involving Yarborough, instructed plaintiff to undergo anger management training. (Id. ¶ 17).

         On March 18, 2015, Betsy Boger, another human resources director for defendant, notified plaintiff that her February 13, 2015, complaint had been investigated, which concluded in plaintiff's favor, (id. ¶ 19), even though defendant's investigator never discussed the January 6, 2015, incident with plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 23). Also on March 18, 2015, defendant issued to plaintiff a “performance improvement plan[, ]” which outlined several areas of concern not described in the complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21). Plaintiff already had addressed the areas of concern outlined in the performance improvement plan weeks before the plan issued. (Id. ¶ 22).

         On March 21, 2015, plaintiff filed another internal complaint alleging retaliatory employment discrimination. (Id., ¶ 24). On the same day, Brandon Burton, employed by defendant as a human resources generalist, informed plaintiff that she was being suspended without pay because she had an open retaliation claim and management did not want her at the workplace during the investigation. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26). Defendant terminated plaintiff's employment April 10, 2015. (Id. ¶ 27).

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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