United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
C. DEVER III. JUDGE
October 17, 2017, Lenton Credelle Brown ("Brown" or
"plaintiff'), a pro se plaintiff proceeding in forma
pauperis [D.E. 1, 4], filed a complaint against Goodwill
Industries of Eastern North Carolina, Inc.
("defendant" or "Goodwill") claiming
violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 ("Title VII")
[D.E. 5]. On December 4, 2017, Goodwill moved to dismiss
Brown's complaint for failure to state a claim [D.E. 12]
and filed a supporting memorandum [D.E. 13]. On January 22,
2018, Brown responded in opposition [D.E. 17]. On February 5,
2018, Goodwill replied [D.E. 18]. As explained below, the
court grants Goodwill's motion and dismisses the
complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
March 3, 2016, Brown (an African-American male) began working
for Goodwill as a part-time retail manager at a Goodwill
store in Kinston, North Carolina. See Compl. [D.E. 5] 2, 12;
Def.'s Ex. 1 [D.E. 13-1] 1. On July 29, 2016, Brown
observed a white female employee (Mia Cunningham) "in
the ladies bathroom talking on her cellphone facing me with
the bathroom door open." Compl. 3; see Id. 8;
Def.'s Ex. 1 [D.E. 13-1] 1. Brown confirmed mat
Cunningham was "on the clock[, ]and sent District
Manager Larelle an email with the time she had clocked back
in from lunch and the fact that I witnessed her stealing time
on the clock by talking on her cellphone with the bathroom
door open." Compl. 3. Goodwill terminated
Cunningham's employment on an unspecified date.
was "friends both inside and outside of work" with
another manager (Keisha) and employee (Keotta). Id.
4. When Brown was hired, "Larelle... warned [him] about
how they set people up." Id. 7. Brown had
numerous unpleasant interactions with both Cunningham and
Keotta. Id. 4-7. Apparently Keotta had reported
several concerns for customer and employee safety to Larelle,
including "customers shopping in waste all day until 5
p.m.[, ]" "a little boy [who] had a nose bleed near
the toy section, " and an incident involving
unidentified "red spots" on dollar bills.
Id. 5-6, 8-10. Brown calls these reports
Brown reported to the district manager that Cunningham had
been talking on her cell phone while on the clock, Keotta
"accused Brown of harassing her in
retaliation." Id. 6-7 (emphasis in original).
According to Brown, "[i]t is against [Goodwill] policy
to retaliate against any emp[l]oyee for good faith reporting
of violations of the Code of Conduct." Id. 7.
Brown contends that Goodwill's investigation into
Keotta's complaint against Brown "was ... biased and
racist." Id. 7-8, 11. On August 2 or 3, 2016,
Goodwill terminated Brown's employment. Compare
Compl. 2 (alleging termination date of August 3.2016).
with Def.' s Ex. 1 [D.E. 13-1] 1 (alleging
termination date of August2, 2016).
October 3, 2016, Brown filed a discrimination charge with the
EEOC, claiming retaliatory discharge and discrimination on
the basis of race and sex. [D.E. 13-1] 1. On July 17, 2017,
the EEOC issued Brown a notice of dismissal and right to sue.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
complaint's legal and factual sufficiency. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 677-80 (2009); Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twomblv. 550 U.S. 544, 554-63 (2007);
Giarratano v. Johnson. 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir.
2008). To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading
"must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation
omitted); see Twomblv. 550 U.S. at 570;
Giarratano. 521 F.3d at 302. In considering the
motion, the court must construe the facts and reasonable
inferences "in the light most favorable to the
[nonmoving party]." Massey v. Oianiit. 759 F.3d
343, 352 (4th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted); see
Clatterbuck v. Citv of Charlottesville. 708 F.3d
549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013), abrogated on other
grounds by Reed v. Town of Gilbert. 135 S.Ct.
2218 (2015). A court need not accept as true a
complaint's legal conclusions, "unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments."
Giarratano. 521 F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted); see
Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678-79. Rather, a plaintiffs
allegations must "nudge [her] claims, "
Twomblv. 550 U.S. at 570, beyond the realm of
"mere possibility" into "plausibility."
Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678-79.
evaluating a motion to dismiss, a court considers the
pleadings and any materials "attached or incorporated
into the complaint." E.I, du Pont de Nemours &
Co. v. Kolon Indus.. Inc.. 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir.
2011); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); Thompson v. Greene.
427 F.3d 263, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). A court also may take
judicial notice of public records without converting the
motion to dismiss intb a motion for summary judgment.
See, e.g.. Fed.R.Evid. 201 (d); Tellabs. Inc. v.
Makor Issues & Rights. Ltd.. 551 U.S. 308, 322
(2007); Philips v. Pitt Ctv. Mem'l Hosp.. 572
F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
standard used to evaluate the sufficiency of a pleading is
flexible, "and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v.
Pardus. 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quotation
omitted). Erickson. however, does not 'hmdermine
[the] requirement that a pleading contain 'more than
labels and conclusions.'" Giarratano. 521
F.3d at 304 n.5 (quoting Twombly. 550 U.S. at 555);
see Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 677-83; Coleman v. Md.
Court of Appeals. 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010),
affd. 566 U.S. 30 (20 m: Nemet Chevrolet. Ltd.
v. Consumeraffairs.com. Inc.. 591 F.3d250, 255-56 (4th
Cir. 2009); Francis v. Giacomelli. 588 F.3d 186, 193
(4th Cir. 2009).
plausibly allege retaliation in violation of Title VII, an
employee must allege that: (1) he engaged in protected
activity; (2) his employer took an action against him that a
reasonable employee would find materially adverse; and, (3) a
casual connection between the protected activity and the
adverse employment action. See DeMasters v. Carilion
Clinic. 796 F.3d 409, 416 (4th Cir. 2015);
Bover-Libero v. Fontainbleau Corp.. 786 F.3d 264,
281 (4th Cir. 2015) (en banc); Balas v. Huntington
Ingalls Indus.. Inc.. 711 F.3d 401.410 (4th Cir. 2013):
see also Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar. 570
U.S. 338, 362-63 (2013); Burlington N. & Santa Fe Rv.
v. White. 548 U.S. 53, 68-69 (2006). To survive a motion
to dismiss, a Title VII plaintiff must plausibly allege a
statutory claim, not a prima facie case. See
McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep'tof Transp.. State Highway
Admin.. 780 F.3d 582, 585-88 (4th Cir. 2015).
relevant part, Title VH's retaliation provision prohibits
an employer from discriminating against any individual
"because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful
employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has
made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any
manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this
subchapter." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a).
"Oppositional activity must be directed to 'an
unlawful employment practice' under Title VII."
DeMasters. 796 F.3d at417: see
Bover-Liberto. 786 F.3d at282: Bonds v.
Leavitt. 629 F.3d 369.384 (4th Cir. 2011); Laughlin
v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth..149 F.3d 253, 259 (4th
Cir. 1998). An "employee is protected when [he] opposes
not only employment ...