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Hall v. Bank of America Corp.

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

September 8, 2017

MICHAEL LEE HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT J. CONRAD, JR.UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and memorandum in support, (Doc. Nos. 4, 5); Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 7); Defendant's Reply in Support of Its Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 9); Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer's Memorandum and Recommendation and Order (“MR&O”) recommending that this Court grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 10); Plaintiff's Objection to the MR&O, (Doc. No. 11); Plaintiff's Memorandum on Judicial Misconduct, (Doc. No. 12); Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Objection to the MR&O, (Doc. No. 13); and Plaintiff's Amended Objection, to the MR&O, (Doc. No. 14).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Michael Lee Hall (“Plaintiff”), a 55-year old male, has been employed by Bank of America, N.A. in varying capacities since December 30, 2004. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 6, 21, 25-26) (hereinafter “Compl.”). He alleges that he was discriminated against from “Q3-2013 to March 22, 2016” due to his sex. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 11). Specifically, he asserts that Bank of America Corporation (“Defendant”) failed to promote Plaintiff, denied Plaintiff equal pay and work, and retaliated against Plaintiff when Plaintiff raised violations of federal guidelines for predictive modeling. (Id. at ¶ 10).

         Plaintiff claims he attempted to file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on April 11, 2016, “but the disability inflicted by Defense hindered completion of this filing” until August 19, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 8). Upon filing his complaint with the EEOC, Plaintiff received a Notice of Right to Sue. (Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff states that he is currently out on long-term disability for recurrent major depression. (Id. at ¶ 12).

         Prior to long-term disability, Plaintiff applied for and began short-term disability on March 23, 2016, because he was “suffering from a ‘nervous breakdown'” due to his supervisor's discrimination. (Id. at ¶¶ 52-53). Plaintiff alleges that his Bank of America supervisor, Jaime Ramos (“Ramos”), failed to promote him in the third quarter of 2013, in August 2014, and in November 2015. (Id. at ¶¶ 31-43). Meanwhile, “Ramos hires and promotes female employees exclusively while ruthlessly attacking any perceived male rivals.” (Id. at ¶ 30).

         On October 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed his pro se Complaint asserting claims against Defendant for (1) failure to promote based on gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; (2) violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.; (3) harassing him and sabotaging his career in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 5567 et seq.; (4) failure to promote under the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (“NCEEPA”), N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 143-422.2 et seq.; and (5) retaliation under the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (“REDA”), N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 95-240 et seq..

         On November 7, 2016, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 6), in which it argued that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to Title VII, the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”), and Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act Claim (“REDA”), and otherwise failed to state plausible claims for relief under the NCEEPA, the EPA, and CFPA. On November 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 7), to which Defendant filed a reply, (Doc. No. 9), on November 21, 2016. On January 12, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued an MR&O recommending that the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss be granted and staying the case pending resolution of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 10). On January 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Objection to the MR&O, (Doc. No. 11), as well as a Memorandum on Judicial Misconduct, (Doc. No. 12). On February 1, 2017, Defendant filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Objection to the MR&O. (Doc. No. 13). And finally, on February 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Objection to his original Objection to the MR&O. (Doc. No. 14). Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is ripe for adjudication.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A district court may assign dispositive pretrial matters, including motions to dismiss, to a magistrate judge for “proposed findings of fact and recommendations.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B). The Federal Magistrate Act provides that “a district court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id. at § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). De novo review is not required by the statute when an objecting party makes only general or conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate judge's recommendations. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44 (4th Cir. 1982). Further, the statute does not on its face require any review at all of issues that are not the subject of an objection. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985); Camby, 178 F.2d at 200. Nonetheless, a district judge is responsible for the final determination and outcome of the case, and, accordingly, this Court has conducted a careful review of the Magistrate Judge's M&R and all related documents.

         The standard of review for a motion to dismiss tests the “legal sufficiency of the complaint” but “does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) seeks to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The existence of subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold issue the court must address before considering the merits of the case. Jones v. Am. Postal Workers Union, 192 F.3d 417, 422 (4th Cir.1999). “The subject matter jurisdiction of federal courts is limited and the federal courts may exercise only that jurisdiction which Congress has prescribed.” Chris v. Tenet, 221 F.3d 648, 655 (4th Cir. 2000) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Subject matter jurisdiction is so limited that federal “[c]ourts have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges it.” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010) (internal citations omitted). “No party can waive the defect, or consent to [subject matter] jurisdiction. No court can ignore the defect; rather a court, noticing the defect, must raise the matter on its own.” Wisconsin Dep't of Corr. v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 389 (1998) (internal citations omitted).

         A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss will survive if it contains enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility means allegations that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. “Threadbare recitals for the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Specific facts are not necessary, but rather, the statement need only “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the … claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545 (quoting Copperweld Corp. v. Independence Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752, 775 (1984)). Additionally, when ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56). Nonetheless, a court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Courts cannot weigh the facts or assess the evidence at this stage, but a complaint entirely devoid of any facts supporting a given claim cannot proceed. Potomac Conference Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Takoma Academy Alumni Ass'n, Inc., 2 F.Supp.3d 758, 767-68 (D. Md. 2014). Furthermore, the court “should view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkar, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993).

         The Court is mindful of the latitude extended to the pleadings of pro se litigants. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (holding that a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers). Nonetheless, courts cannot act as the pro se plaintiff's advocate or develop claims which the plaintiff failed to raise clearly on the face of his complaint. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1152 (4th Cir. 1978) (recognizing that district courts are not expected to assume the role of advocate for the pro se plaintiff). As a result, even a pro se plaintiff's claim for relief “requires more than labels and conclusions.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Like plaintiffs who are represented by counsel, a pro se plaintiff must still “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [a] claim.” Bass v. E.I. ...


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