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Walton v. N.C. Department of Commerce

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina

March 16, 2018



          Martin Reidinger United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 22].


         On February 21, 2017, the Plaintiff Cecilia D. Walton, proceeding pro se, filed this action against her former employer, the North Carolina Department of Commerce. [Doc. 1]. As stated in her Second Amended Complaint [Doc. 21], the Plaintiff asserts claims of retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1), et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 623, et seq. (“ADEA”), a claim of age discrimination under the ADEA, and state law claims for tortious interference, breach of contract, payment of wages, and blacklisting.

         On July 28, 2017, the Defendant filed the present Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 22], seeking dismissal of this action pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). On August 7, 2017, the Plaintiff filed her Brief in Opposition. [Doc. 24].

         Having been fully briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.


         Taking the well-pleaded allegations of the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint as true, the following is a summary of the relevant facts.

         The Plaintiff is a forty-nine-year-old female. [Doc. 21 at ¶ 7]. In 2002, the Plaintiff was hired by the Employment Security Commission (“ESC”), a division of the Defendant North Carolina Department of Commerce, as a claim adjudicator. [Id. at ¶ 8].

         In March 2004, the Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge against ESC for sex discrimination. [Id.]. In April 2004, the Plaintiff resigned from ESC, in part due to a hostile work environment following the Plaintiff's return from maternity leave. [Id. at ¶ 9]. On December 9, 2009, the Plaintiff was hired by the Division of Workforce Solutions (“DWS”), another division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, to work in its Charlotte South office as an intermittent (part-time) employee. [Id. at ¶¶ 10, 42]. The Plaintiff received positive feedback from her DWS Charlotte South supervisor. [Id. at ¶¶ 15, 46]. The Plaintiff never received any disciplinary actions. [Id. at ¶ 46].

         In September 2010, the Plaintiff requested and received a transfer to the main DWS office in Charlotte (“Charlotte Main”). [Id. at ¶ 16]. The Plaintiff's supervisors at Charlotte Main were Area Manager Randall Darnell (“Darnell”) and Assistant Office Manager Stephanie Lattimore (“Lattimore). [Id.]. The Plaintiff was assigned to the Claims Unit and worked alongside two other claims specialists. [Id. at ¶¶ 17-18].

         In December 2010, DWS hired Roderick Bailey (Bailey), a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. [Id. at ¶ 19]. In January 2011, Bailey asked the Plaintiff for her phone number because he wanted to date her. [Id. at ¶ 20]. The Plaintiff refused. [Id.]. Soon thereafter, Bailey asked the Plaintiff out to lunch. [Id. at ¶ 21]. The Plaintiff initially accepted but changed her mind. [Id.]. Bailey became mad toward the Plaintiff. [Id. at ¶ 21].

         Bailey began to ridicule the Plaintiff in front of others, including referring to her as “Celeto, ” an inside office euphemism for an unmarried older woman. [Id. at ¶ 22]. Further, Bailey used false and slanderous information to convince other male employees to “start friendships” with the Plaintiff. [Id. at ¶ 22]. Lattimore called the Plaintiff out at meetings and made derogatory statements toward her. [Id. at ¶ 26]. On one occasion, Lattimore made the Plaintiff feel unwelcome at the annual office Christmas party. [Id.]. Lattimore referred to herself as “mulatto” in office conversations, in contrast to the Plaintiff being dark-skinned. At one office meeting, Lattimore stated that babies and small children were not to be brought to the office because they were a distraction. [Id. at ¶ 27].

         From 2011 to 2012, the Plaintiff made a series of complaints about Lattimore and Bailey to Darnell both in person and via email but Darnell did nothing. [Id. at ¶ 28]. The Plaintiff dropped her first complaint because she was afraid of retaliation; however, due to escalating treatment the Plaintiff filed another complaint. [Id.].

         Beginning in 2011, contemporaneously with the office harassment, the father of the Plaintiff's child began to make harassing phone calls to the Plaintiff. [Id. at ¶ 25]. In December 2011, the harassment escalated and the Plaintiff filed a report with local police. [Id. at ¶ 30]. The Plaintiff's child's father began to call DWS and contact one of the Plaintiff's coworkers in order to keep tabs on the Plaintiff. [Id.]. The Plaintiff complained to Darnell, but Darnell failed to take any action and failed to offer to “institute a restraining order per state policy on workplace violence in Plaintiff's behalf.” [Id.]. The Plaintiff obtained an initial ex parte restraining order against her former partner but was repeatedly denied a permanent restraining order. [Id. at ¶ 31]. The Plaintiff alleges that her child's father, by himself and through agents, interfered with her job, including contacting prospective employers and altering online networking profiles. [Id. at ¶¶ 32-33].

         In January 2013, the Plaintiff felt increased scrutiny and harassment at work. [Id. at ¶¶ 35-36]. The Plaintiff was watched at lunch; followed outside on lunch and breaks; constantly teased; and her car was broken into. [Id. at ¶ 35]. The Plaintiff, believing that Lattimore was behind the harassment, reported Lattimore to Darnell but no investigation took place. [Id. at ¶ 35].

         Also beginning in January 2013, the Plaintiff discovered a breach of her cellphone account. [Id. at ¶ 37]. Specifically, the Plaintiff asserts that Lattimore cloned and intercepted the Plaintiff's cellphone without her knowledge or authorization. [Id.]. The Plaintiff reported this to the Defendant's integrity unit; however, the Plaintiff was told that the unit could not investigate unless she sought a restraining order against ...

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