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Saniri v. Christenbury Eye Center, P.A.

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

December 5, 2017



          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Defendants' partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 28) pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff responded (Doc. No. 37), and Defendant replied to Plaintiff's response (Doc. No. 39). This matter is now ripe for review. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Niloufar Saniri, is a former employee of Defendant, Christenbury Eye Center (“CEC”). (Doc. No. 23, p. 2). Defendant, Jonathan Christenbury, M.D., is the majority shareholder of CEC, and Defendant, Ellie Pena-Benarroch, is its Chief Operating Officer. Id. at 3.

         On or about July 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed her action against Defendants in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. (Doc. No. 1, p. 2). Defendants timely filed a Notice of Removal on August 11, 2017, asserting federal question jurisdiction. On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed her corrected Amended Complaint stating the following eight causes of action: (1) violations of Title VII based on sex, quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment based on sex, retaliation, and wrongful termination against CEC and Dr. Christenbury; (2) wrongful discharge in violation of public policy based on sex against CEC and Dr. Christenbury; (3) assault against CEC and Dr. Christenbury; (4) battery against Dr. Christenbury and CEC; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress against CEC and Dr. Christenbury; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress against Pena-Benarroch; (7) North Carolina Wage and Hour violations against all Defendants; and (8) breach of contract against CEC and Dr. Christenbury. (Doc. No. 23, p. 36-53).

         The claims stem from Plaintiff's employment relationship with Defendants beginning at an undisclosed time in the fall of year 2014. Id. at 23. Plaintiff alleges that she worked in a marketing capacity with CEC but also performed personal assistant services for Dr. Christenbury for which she was paid in cash. Id. During her tenure with CEC, Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination. Id. at 1. Plaintiff filed two charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and received notices of right to sue on or about March 31, 2017. Id. at 4.

         Defendants filed this Motion to Dismiss on October 31, 2017. (Doc. No. 28). Plaintiff responded (Doc. No. 37), Defendants Replied (Doc. No. 39), and this motion is now ripe for review.


         Plaintiff has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). 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). When a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), “the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, 945 F.2d at 768. The district court should grant the Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss “only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Id. See also Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) 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); Eastern Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D. Assoc. Ltd. Partnership, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). 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, 697 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Robinson v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 551 F.3d 218, 222 (4th Cir. 2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. The Supreme Court has also opined that

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; the statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” In addition, 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) (internal citations omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Title VII claims against Dr. ...

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