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Tutah v. Camden Development, Inc.

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

May 30, 2018



          Graham C. Mullen United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 5) filed by Defendant Camden Development, Inc. (“Camden”). Plaintiff Taghreed Tutah (“Tutah”) has responded, and Defendant has filed a reply. This matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is granted in part, denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the Complaint, Tutah began her employment with Camden in 1998, serving as a Property Manager. On or about September 9, 2013, Tutah applied for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act in order to receive treatment for “psychiatric and physical medical conditions caused by changes at her job implemented by management.” While Tutah was on leave, she was the subject of a “pointed investigation” by Camden. As a result, Tutah's credibility and authority were undermined and her medical information was shared with her co-workers.

         The Complaint alleges that, upon returning to work, Tutah was disciplined for “simple mistakes in paperwork going back several years, ” even though she had never been disciplined previously. Tutah's supervisors also did not initiate any conversations with her about her need for an accommodation. Nonetheless, she continued her employment without incident until February 2016.

         Tutah alleges that, in February 2016, she informed her supervisor and human resources that she needed to apply for FMLA leave again. Her supervisor, Connie Farr, then instructed her that there was no need to file for FMLA. Tutah also repeatedly informed Connie Farr and human resources of her difficulties performing the essential functions of her job and of her need for an accommodation, but Camden failed to investigate Tutah's complaints.

         Tutah claims that her medical conditions “substantially limit multiple major life activities including the ability to handle excessive stress.” But despite her conditions, she “was able to perform her job functions and had previously received favorable reviews.” Tutah was instructed to work from home from February 18 through February 23, 2016, and she complied. Tutah was then instructed to work at the corporate office on February 24, 2016, and she again complied. On or about February 25, 2016, Tutah was asked to work at two other properties even though she had previously informed Camden of a doctor's appointment scheduled for that morning. On that day, Tutah was terminated for “alleged employee misconduct.” On September 21, 2017, Tutah filed this Complaint in North Carolina state court, alleging: (1) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) wrongful harassment and termination based on age and handicap in violation of North Carolina public policy as set forth in the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (“NCEEPA”); (3) wrongful harassment and terminated based on disability in violation of North Carolina public policy, as set forth in the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act (“NCPDPA”); (4) and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”).

         On November 2, 2017, Camden removed the lawsuit to federal court. Camden subsequently filed this Motion to Dismiss all of Tutah's claims on November 9, 2017. After Camden filed its Motion to Dismiss, Tutah voluntarily dismissed its first claim for relief under the ADA on November 27, 2017. Accordingly, this Order only addresses the three remaining counts under Camden's Rule 12(b)(6) motion.


         When faced with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must “accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and . . . view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). The Court “assume[s] the[] veracity” of these factual allegations, and “determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). However, the court “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. LLP, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint or counterclaim 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 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).


         A. Wrongful Discharge (NCEEPA)

         North Carolina is an employment at-will state, meaning that “in the absence of a contractual agreement between an employer and an employee establishing a definite term of employment, the relationship is presumed to be terminable at the will of either party without regard to the quality of performance of either party.” Kurtzman v. Applied Analytical Indus., Inc., 493 S.E.2d 420, 422 ( N.C. 1997). However, there is a “public-policy exception” to the employment-at-will rule. Id. An employee may accordingly bring a wrongful discharge claim if the employee was discharged “(1) for refusing to violate the law at the employers request, (2) for engaging in a legally protected ...

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