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Lamb v. Lowe's Companies, Inc.

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

March 7, 2018

TOM LAMB, Plaintiff,
v.
LOWE'S COMPANIES, INC., A/K/A LOWE'S HOME IMPROVEMENT, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Robert J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Tom Lamb's (“Plaintiff's”) Complaint, (Doc. No. 1); Lowe's Companies, Inc.'s (“Defendant's”) Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 10); and Defendant's Memorandum in Support (Doc. No. 10-1). Plaintiff did not file a response to the Motion. Defendant argues that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect to the right of association and intentional infliction of emotional distress causes of action. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion dismissing Plaintiff's fourth and sixth causes of action, is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         In late 2015 or early 2016, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against Defendant with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that he experienced discrimination based on his age, race, and religion, and that his employment was terminated in retaliation for complaining about such discrimination. (Doc. No. 1 at 5). On or about November 11, 2016, the EEOC issued to Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue, advising him of his right to sue within ninety days. (Id.).

         On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this suit, alleging the following causes of action: (1) age discrimination; (2) religious discrimination; (3) discriminatory harassment; (4) violation of right of association; (5) retaliatory termination; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at 1-11). On May 22, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim with respect to Plaintiff's causes of action for the right of association and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. No. 10 at p. 1). Plaintiff did not file a response to the Motion to Dismiss.

         B. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is a fifty-one year old Caucasian male and a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 1 at 2). Defendant is a corporation engaged in the retail sale of home improvement and construction products, and has its principal place of business in Mooresville, North Carolina. (Id.). From March 1999 to November 2015, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant in various marketing positions. (Id. at 2-3). At the time of his termination, Plaintiff held the position of Chief Marketing Officer. (Id. at 3).

         In 2012, Defendant hired Mike Jones, an African-American male, for the position of Chief Merchandising Officer. (Id.). In 2014, Jones was promoted to Chief Customer Officer, a position to which the Chief Marketing Officer reported. (Id.). In the course of supervising Plaintiff, Jones regularly made comments to Plaintiff that were antagonistic to Plaintiff's age, race, and religion. (Id.). With respect to age, Jones told Plaintiff that he was “the old guard” and disconnected. (Id.). Jones also told Plaintiff to hire younger employees so as to better appeal to younger customers and instructed Plaintiff to encourage an employee in her fifties to retire. (Id.). With respect to race, Jones told Plaintiff that Defendant needed to appeal to Hispanics and African Americans, that Jones's family and friends thought of Defendant as “country and redneck, ” and that Defendant overly focused on people like Plaintiff. (Id. at p. 4). With respect to religion, Jones said Plaintiff and others deferred much to the “religious Christian right” and made hostile comments about Plaintiff's association with, and support of, the American Family Association. (Id.).

         On several occasions, Plaintiff requested a meeting with Defendant's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, to address the problems with Jones, but was repeatedly thwarted by Jones. (Id. at 5). On November 19, 2015, Defendant abruptly terminated Plaintiff's employment. (Id.). These are the facts alleged by Plaintiff viewed in a light most favorable to him.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). Except in certain specified cases, a plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the “simplified pleading standard” of Rule 8(a), Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy the Rule 8 requirement, the showing must consist of at least “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, ” however, “do not suffice.” Id.

         Although the Court must consider all well-pled allegations in the complaint as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and must construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999), the Court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Although the court cannot weigh the facts or assess the evidence at this stage, a complaint entirely devoid of any facts supporting a given claim cannot proceed. Potomac Conference Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Takoma Acad. Alumni Ass'n, Inc., 2 F.Supp.3d 758, 767-68 (D. Md. 2014).

         III. ...


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