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Obimah v. American Red Cross

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

August 3, 2018




         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 6) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


         Plaintiff Christy N. Obimah (“Plaintiff”) initiated this claim against her former employer Defendant American Red Cross (“Defendant”) alleging hostile work environment and retaliation under both Title VII and 42 U.S.C. §1981.

         Plaintiff was hired by Defendant on or about July 20, 2000 as a senior accountant. Plaintiff, who is Nigerian, alleges that she endured harassment and ridicule because of her national origin. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was often ridiculed because of her accent and about “Nigerian scams and Nigerian leaders being crooks.” (Compl., Doc. No. 1, p. 2). Plaintiff was also allegedly told that “she had better go back to Africa” and that Homeland Security should not have let her back into the country after she took a trip to Nigeria. (Id.). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges she was mocked regarding the similarity of her name to President Obama and told she cannot be promoted because “there was no telling how many Mercedes-Benz she would get.” (Id.).

         In August 2015, Plaintiff sought help from Defendant's Human Resources Department to address the alleged discriminatory conduct to which she had been subjected. Plaintiff claims her working conditions deteriorated after she reported her complaints to Human Resources. Plaintiff alleges that her work was more strictly scrutinized and that she was ultimately terminated on November 18, 2015 as a result of her complaints.


         A. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Twombly at 556). This plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Conclusory allegations or legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 681.

         B. Title VII Claims

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges both retaliation and hostile work environment under Title VII. A plaintiff has ninety (90) days from the date of receipt of the EEOC Right-to-Sue Letter in which to file an action. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-5; See also Land v. Food Lion, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-00006- GCM, 2012 WL 1669678, at *3 (W.D. N.C. May 14, 2012) (“Failure to bring suit within the prescribed ninety day limit of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 is grounds for dismissal of this action.”) (quoting Reid v. Potter, No. 3:06cv267, 2007 WL 3396424, *2 (W.D. N.C. Nov. 9, 2007)). “Where the date of the receipt is unknown or in dispute, courts presume receipt three days after the date of mailing by the EEOC.” Id. (citing Taylor v. Potter, 355 F.Supp.2d 817, 819 (M.D. N.C. 2005)). The issuance of a second notice only tolls the 90 day limitation when the second notice is issued pursuant to a reconsideration on the merits under 29 C.F.R. § 1601.21(b), (d). See Santini v. Cleveland Clinic Fla., 232 F.3d 823, 825 (11th Cir. 2000) (citing Gitlitz v. Compagnie Nationale Air France, 129 F.3d 554, 557 (11th Cir.1997)).

         The Right to Sue Letter in this case was mailed on January 4, 2018 but was erroneously dated January 4, 2017. The EEOC issued a corrected Dismissal and Notice of Rights to Plaintiff dated January 10, 2018. Plaintiff filed her lawsuit on April 10, 2018. It is undisputed that Plaintiff filed too late with respect to her receipt of the original EEOC letter, but Plaintiff argues that her claim should still be allowed because she filed within 90 days of receipt the corrected letter. However, the second notice did not restart the 90 day requirement because it merely corrected a technical defect. See Id. As Plaintiff filed her Complaint 96 days after the issuance of her right to sue letter, her Title VII claims must be dismissed.

         C. Section 1981 Claims

         1. Hostile ...

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