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White v. Gannette Co., Inc.

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

May 26, 2018

NICOLE WHITE, a/k/a NIKKI WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
GANNETTE CO., INC., a Delaware corporation doing business in North Carolina as the Citizen-Times, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          Dennis L. Howell United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's[1] Motion to Dismiss (# 4) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The issues have been fully briefed, and the matter is now ripe for ruling. For the reasons addressed below, the Court will recommend that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         I. Procedural Background

         On August 29, 2017, Nicole White a/k/a Nikki White (“Plaintiff”) initiated this action in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, in Haywood County, North Carolina. On October 5, 2017, Defendant timely removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.[2], [3] (# 1.)

         Plaintiff purports to allege the following three causes of action: (1) wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, (2) negligent supervision and retention, and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). See Compl. (# 1, Ex. B).

         II. Factual Background[4]

         The facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, are the following: Plaintiff has worked as a sales representative for at least 21 years. Id. ¶ 8. In her role as a sales representative, Plaintiff was responsible for selling digital ads, websites, and other marketing media. Id.

         Around April 2015, Plaintiff started working for Defendant. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff was employed as a sales representative with Defendant and its subsidiary, the Citizen-Times. Id. ¶ 7.

         Plaintiff did not have any problems with the director of sales until Vivian Marciano (“Marciano”) was hired. Id. ¶ 9. During the time that Plaintiff was working for Defendant, Marciano was hired as the new manager and director of the sales department. Id. ¶ 10.

         Marciano was Defendant's employee and agent; therefore, Defendant is responsible for Marciano's actions. Id. ¶ 11. From the time Marciano was hired, she targeted Plaintiff by making verbal threats to her, which included the following attacks:

a. The way Plaintiff dressed;
b. Plaintiff's alleged Human Resources file. (Upon information and belief, there were no complaints or warnings against Plaintiff in her file);
c. Stating Plaintiff was working on getting herself fired;
d. Getting more Human Resources issues brought forth;
e. Firing Plaintiff if she wanted to;
f. Accusing Plaintiff of unethical sales practices;
g. Creating a competitive work environment because Plaintiff was a woman and questioning her ability to do her job;
h. Creating a generally hostile work environment with verbal abuse and threats; and
i. Playing mind games to insinuate that Marciano was setting Plaintiff up to lose her job.

Id. ¶ 12.

         Marciano discriminated against Plaintiff based upon her sex. Id. ¶ 13. For example, in an effort to force Plaintiff to resign, Marciano stated that she previously managed a woman who slept with both men and women and who “ran tracks over my face” and insinuated Plaintiff was similar and would be treated as such. Id.

         Plaintiff was also discriminated against based upon her political beliefs. Id. ¶ 14. For example, during the November 2016 election, Plaintiff was called by David Foster and advised not to go into the Asheville office the day after the election. Id. Additionally, there had been prior issues with political debates in the office. Id. Plaintiff was singled out because her beliefs were opposed to those held by her coworkers. Id. Plaintiff's political beliefs were different than most of the other employees at the Citizen-Times, and Plaintiff was singled out and treated different to get her to resign. Id. ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff performed her job in a professional manner, which was up to similar standards within the community and profession. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff attempted to protect her interests by contacting Defendant's Human Resources department at the Citizen-Times to submit a grievance regarding Marciano's actions. Id. ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff's efforts to utilize the Human Resources department were generally ignored, and Marciano's harassment was allowed to continue. Id. ΒΆ 18. Marciano retaliated against Plaintiff for ...


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