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Sutton v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

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

July 30, 2018

KAREN SUTTON, Plaintiff,



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education, and Julie Babb's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. No. 4). Having considered the Motion, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for the reasons that follow.


         Plaintiff Karen Sutton (“Plaintiff”) commenced this action on December 8, 2017 in the Superior Court of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 1-1). Plaintiff asserts claims for discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C § 2000e-2 et. seq., retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 et. seq., vicarious liability/respondent superior, gross negligence, and negligent retention. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 22-26). Plaintiff also requests punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 26-27). Defendants subsequently removed the action to this Court on April 2, 2018. (Doc. No. 1). On April 30, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), and (6). (Doc. No. 4). Because Plaintiff appears pro se, the Court issued a Roseboro notice (Doc. No. 5) informing Plaintiff of the burden she carries in responding to Defendants' Motion and the deadline for responding to Defendants' Motion. Plaintiff was also informed that Plaintiff's failure to respond, “may result in Defendants being granted the relief they seek, that is dismissal of the Complaint.” (Doc. No. 5 at 4). The deadline for Plaintiff's response has passed, and Plaintiff has not filed a response. Defendants' Motion is ripe for review.


         Plaintiff applied for and interviewed for a position with the Pre-K department of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (“CMS”) on or about March 2013. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16). Plaintiff sought a position as a temporary part-time Pre-K Screener. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16). In April 2013, Plaintiff was hired by Defendant Julie Babb, the Pre-K Director of CMS, at an hourly rate of twenty-one dollars and twenty-seven cents. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16). Plaintiff was qualified for her position. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16).

         After accepting the position and commencing work, Plaintiff was informed she would be categorized as a “substitute” and only receive an hourly rate of twelve dollars and fifty-four cents. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16). The reduced hourly rate was less than white employees with the same responsibilities and duties as Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16). Plaintiff informed Defendant Babb of the discrepancy, and Defendant Babb after some delay submitted a notice or request to other departments based on the discrepancy on or about November 2013. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 16-17). The notice or request was enacted, resulting in Plaintiff receiving retroactive payment for salary discrepancies between November 2013 and January 2014. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 17). Plaintiff continued to request retroactive payment for salary discrepancies between her date of hire and November 2013, but her request was never granted. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 17).

         At a staff meeting in the summer of 2014, Defendant Babb announced that there was a vacancy for a full-time Pre-K Screener. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 17). At the time of the announcement, the listing for the position had run and closed. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 17). The listing was posted as an instructional position due to added requirement in the job description of “birth through kindergarten certification” preferred. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 17). Pre-K screener positions are traditionally listed as non-instructional. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 17).

         In September 2014, Plaintiff cooperated with CMS Employee Relations Investigator Donnie Simmons's investigation of racial discrimination against Defendant Babb. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 18). After her cooperation, management staff under Defendant Babb retaliated against Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 18). In October 2014, Plaintiff was informed that her services would not be required during the month of November 2014 due to a “mandatory hiatus policy.” (Doc. No. 1-1 at 18). Plaintiff, the only black employee, was the only one banned from work; other white employees with the same title and classification continued working with no hiatus. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 19). Plaintiff was similarly informed in October 2015 that her services would not be needed in November 2015. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 19). Plaintiff was also informed that payroll issues delayed her return to work in December 2015. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 19). Plaintiff's white counterparts, also temporary Pre-K Screeners, worked without incident or interruption from payroll. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 19). Plaintiff asked to file a complaint but never received the form or packet. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 20). However, shortly thereafter, Defendant Babb informed Plaintiff she could return to work. In January 2016, Cher Holcomb and Defendant Babb informed Plaintiff she was not selected for the permanent position for which she had applied previously. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 20). The next day, an African-American male began working in the full time permanent position. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 20). Plaintiff expressed her concerns that she was “denied the position due to her compliance in the active discrimination complaint against Ms. Babb” to Human Resources and her desire to file a formal complaint against Defendant Babb and Ms. Holcomb. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 20). She sent other complaints and notices to management, who either ignored or responded nonchalantly. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 21). Plaintiff's formal grievance email was forwarded to Employee Relations, but no action resulted. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 21).

         In February 2016, Plaintiff requested an adjustment to her work schedule to accommodate caring for an ailing family member, but the request was denied. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 21). After contacting Human Resources, Plaintiff's schedule change request was approved. (Doc. No. 1-1). Plaintiff's white peers had permanent schedules based on their choosing and convenience. (Doc. No. 101 at 21).

         Plaintiff filed a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on or about July 29, 2016. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 21). Plaintiff received EEOC's notice of Right to Sue on September 11, 2017. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 22).


         A. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(1)

         Rule 12(b)(1) provides for dismissal when a federal court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the lawsuit. Subject matter jurisdiction exists when the complaint raises a federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time either by a litigant, or by the court. Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884). “[W]hen a federal court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety.” Mosley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 802 F.Supp.2d 695, 698 (E.D.Va. 2011) (quoting Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006)). The party ...

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