United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina
SONIA I. WRIGLESWORTH, Plaintiff,
ERIC FANNING, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Army, Defendants.
C. DEVER III Chief United States District Judge
20, 2016, Sonia I. Wriglesworth ("Wriglesworth" or
"plaintiff') filed a pro se employment
discrimination complaint in this court against Eric Fanning,
the Secretary of the Army ("Fanning" or
"defendant") [D.E. 1]. On October 14, 2016,
Wriglesworth amended her complaint [D.E. 7]. On December 12,
2016, Fanning moved to dismiss Wriglesworth's complaint
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state
a claim [D.E. 10] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E.
11]. On January 5, 2017, Wriglesworth responded in opposition
[D.E. 13]. As explained below, the court grants Farming's
motion to dismiss.
is a former employee of the Department of the Army, Army
Reserve ("the Army"). Compl. [D.E. 1] ¶ 5. On
April 28, 2015, Wriglesworth filed an Equal Employment
Opportunity complaint ("the fourth EEO complaint")
against the Army, claiming that procedural irregularities in
the Army's investigation and processing of her EEO
complaints were reprisals for three previous EEO complaints.
Id. ¶ 6; [D.E. 1-1]. On May 11, 2015, the Army
dismissed the fourth EEO complaint. Compl. ¶ 7; [D.E.
1-2]. On June 15, 2015, Wriglesworth appealed the Army's
dismissal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC"). Compl. ¶ 8; [D.E. 1-3].
27, 2015, Wriglesworth filed another EEO complaint with the
Army ("the fifth EEO complaint"), claiming reprisal
for the three EEO complaints mentioned in the fourth EEO
complaint as well as the fourth EEO complaint itself. Am.
Compl. [D.E. 7] ¶ 6; [D.E. 7-1]. On August 11, 2015, the
Army dismissed the fifth EEO complaint. Am. Compl. ¶ 7;
[D.E. 7-2]. On September 11, 2015, Wriglesworth appealed the
Army's dismissal of the fifth EEO complaint to the EEOC.
Am Compl. ¶ 8; [D.E. 7-3].
November 3, 2015, the EEOC affirmed the Army's dismissal
of the fourth EEO complaint. Compl. ¶ 11; [D.E. 1-6]. On
December 7, 2015, Wriglesworth requested that the EEOC
reconsider. Compl. ¶ 12; [D.E. 1 -7]. On March 9, 2016,
the EEOG affirmed the Army's dismissal of the fifth EEO
complaint. Am Compl. ¶ 11; [D.E. 7-6]. On April 13,
2016, Wriglesworth requested that the EEOC reconsider. Am
Compl. ¶ 12; [D.E. 7-7]. On April 20, 2016, the EEOC
denied reconsideration of the fourth EEO complaint. Compl.
¶ 14; [D.E. 1-9]. On July 13, 2016, the EEOC denied
reconsideration of the fifth EEO complaint. Am Compl. ¶
14; [D.E. 7-9].
20, 2016, Wriglesworth filed a complaint against Fanning
[D.E. 1], which she amended on October 14, 2016 [D.E. 7]. Her
complaint does not mention any causes of action, although it
mentions both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17
("Title VU"), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. ('the Rehabilitation
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests a complaint's
legal and factual sufficiency. See Ashcroft v.
Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 677-80, 684 (2009); Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544.554-63 (2007),
Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir.
2008). To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading
"must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation
omitted); see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570;
Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302. In considering the
motion, the court must construe the facts and reasonable
inferences "in the light most favorable to the
[nonmoving party]." Massey v. Ojaniit 759 F.3d
343, 347, 352-53 (4th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted); see
Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville. 708 F.3d
549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013). A court need not accept as true a
complaint's legal conclusions, "unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments."
Giarratano. 521 F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted); see
Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678-79. Rather, a plaintiff s
allegations must "nudge[ ] [her] claims, "
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, beyond the realm of
"mere possibility" into "plausib[ility]."
Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678-79. "[N]aked assertions
of wrongdoing, " devoid of "factual enhancement,
" cannot "cross the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief."
Francis. 588 F.3d at 193 (quotations omitted). A
plaintiff armed with nothing more than "labels and
conclusions, " or "a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action, " cannot proceed into the
litigation process. Twombly. 550 U.S. at 555; see
Francis, 588 F.3d at 193.
legally sufficient complaint must meet the standards of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. See Francis v.
Giacomelli. 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). Under
Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain "a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2)
exists to ensure that defendants have adequate notice of the
nature of the claims against them. See, e.g..
Francis. 588 F.3d at 192.
standard used to evaluate the sufficiency of a pleading is
flexible, "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) (quotation omitted).
Erickson, however, does not "undermine [the]
requirement that a pleading contain 'more than labels and
conclusions.'" Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 304
n.5 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-83; Coleman v. Md. Ct. of
Appeals. 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010), affd, 566
U.S. 30 (2012); Nemet Chevrolet Ltd., 591 F.3d at
255-56; Francis. 588 F.3d at 193. Although a court
must liberally construe a pro se plaintiff s allegations, it
"cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts"
that set forth a cognizable claim. Johnson v. BAC
Home Loans Servicing. LP. 867 F.Supp.2d 766,
776 (E.D. N.C. 2011); see Giarratano, 521 F.3d at
304 n.5. "The 'special judicial solicitude' with
which a district court should view... pro se complaints does
not transform the court into an advocate. Only those
questions which are squarely presented to a court may
properly be addressed." Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Every
party-pro se or otherwise-must comply with the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. See Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678;
Baldwin Ctv. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147,
152 (1984) (per curiam).
evaluating a motion to dismiss, a court considers the
pleadings and any materials "attached or incorporated
into the complaint." E.I, du Pont de Nemours &
Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (2011); see
Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); Thompson v. Greene. 427 F.3d
263, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). A court also may take judicial
notice of public records without converting the motion to
dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See,
e.g.. Fed.R.Evid. 201(d); Tellabs. Inc. v. Makor
Issues & Rights. Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007);
Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176,
180 (4th Cir. 2009).
together, Wriglesworfh's complaint and amended complaint
do not state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Wriglesworfh apparently brings her claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-16(c), which allows an employee who has filed an
EEO complaint "if aggrieved by the final disposition of
his complaint... [to] file a civil action as provided in
section 2000e-5 of this title, in which civil action the head
of the department... shall be the defendant." But
Wriglesworfh does not allege any facts beyond the procedural
history of her EEO complaints, and "that the EEOC erred
by affirming the [Army's] final decision of dismissal and
by denying reconsideration." Compl. ¶ 15; Am.
Compl. ¶ 15. Even if Wriglesworth could bring a claim
against the Army based on the EEOC's alleged errors, she
has offered no evidence beyond the conclusory allegation that
the EEOC erred.
VII does not provide an implied cause of action permitting a
plaintiff to challenge procedural deficiencies in an
agency's handling of an EEO complaint[W]hen there have
been procedural irregularities in [a federal employer's]
handling of an employee's EEO complaint, the employee
does not have a right under Title VII to file a separate
procedural claim, but must seek redress for the alleged
discrimination by filing a substantive claim to be
adjudicated de novo in the district court." Nielsen
v. Haeel, 666 F.App'x 225, 232 (4th Cir. 2016)
(unpublished) (citations omitted); see Jordan v.
Summers. 205 F.3d 337, 342 (7th Cir. 2000). If Title VH
does not implicitly authorize a suit against a federal
employer for its own mishandling of an EEO complaint, then
Title VJJ does not implicitly authorize a suit against a
federal employer for the EEOC's acts in
mishandling an employee's complaint. Thus, the court
holds that a federal employee may not sue her employer under
Title VJJ based on the EEOC's alleged mishandling of her
extent Wriglesworth has attempted to bring a retaliation
claim under Title VJJ, she has failed to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. To establish a retaliation
claim, a plaintiff must prove that (1) she engaged in a
protected activity under Title VJJ, (2) her employer took
action against her that a reasonable employee would find
materially adverse, and (3) her employer took the adverse
action because of the protected activity. See Burlington
N. & Santa Fe Rv. Co. v. White,548 U.S. 53, 67-70
(2006); DeMasters v. Carilion Clinic, 796 F.3d409,
416 (4th Cir. 2015); Bover-Libero v. Fontainbleau
Corp.,786F.3d264, 281 (4th Cir. 2015) (en banc);
Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711 F.3d
401, 410 (4th Cir. 2013). The second prong requires wrongful
action by the employer. In her complaint, Wriglesworth does
not allege any wrongful acts by her employer, the Army.