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Harris v. Guilford County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

February 12, 2019

KATIE D. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
GUILFORD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOE L. WEBSTER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Guilford County Sheriff's Office motion to dismiss for failure to file a timely lawsuit, failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and for failure to state a claim. (Docket Entry 11.) Plaintiff Katie D. Harris opposes the motion.[1] (Docket Entry 16.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff's motion entitled, “Request For: Judicial Recusal by United States Magistrate Judge(s).” (Docket Entry 10.) For the following reasons, it is recommended that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendant's motion, and deny Plaintiff's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant on June 19, 2018 alleging discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, and age pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

         (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (See generally Complaint, Docket Entry 2.) In its entirety, Plaintiff's statement of her claim reads:

When applying for this position [with the Guilford County Sheriff's Office] one of the question[s] asked was “what would make you a good [candidate] for the job?” My answer: Because I am an Evangelist and I have a compassion for as well as a need for helping people. There was also a request to check credit and I ask[ed] what was the basis for checking my credit and would this affect my being hired; because I am coming out of a divorce and my credit has taken a hit as a result. The answer was no that has no barren [sic] on your getting hired. I was further informed that they only looked at it to screen out anyone who would be suspect for embezzlement or fraud. I was then instructed to go to my home county and obtain a background check and return it to the Office for further processing of my application.

Id. at 4. In her section for relief, Plaintiff states:

The search for employment was extended due to the closing of the application with this Office for discriminatory conduct. Damages in the amount of $54, 000 for the year and a half of continued unemployment encountered as a result of discrimination by this Office. The entry level offer at that time of application was $36, 000 to $40, 000 plus paid vacation and sick leave.

Id. at 4-5.

         Attached to Plaintiff's Complaint are three documents.[2] There is a letter of Determination from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) dated May 30, 2014. (Docket Entry 2 at 7-8.) In the letter, the EEOC stated that Defendant's policy of utilizing credit information to determine whether a candidate's application will be closed disproportionately affected Black applicants by screening out Black applicants as a class. (Id. at 7.) It further stated that, based on the same information, it was unable to conclude that Plaintiff had been discriminated against because of her religion, sex, or age. (Id. at 8.) On September 8, 2014, Plaintiff received another letter from the EEOC indicating that the Title VII aspects of Plaintiff's case had been referred to the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) for review to determine if the DOJ would pursue an action in federal court based upon Plaintiff's charge. (Id. at 9.) The letter further informed Plaintiff that if the DOJ brought a federal lawsuit, then Plaintiff would be able to intervene; however, if the DOJ declined to do so, Plaintiff would be notified by the DOJ and issued a Notice of Right to Sue. (Id.) A Notice of Right to Sue was issued by the DOJ on April 11, 2018. (Id. at 6.) The right to sue letter does not reference Plaintiff's claim brought under the ADEA. (Id.) Plaintiff filed the instant federal Complaint on June 19, 2018. (Id. at 5.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may seek dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should be granted if the complaint does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relied that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In other words, the factual allegations must “be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. “Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to relief is ‘probable,' the complaint must advance the plaintiff's claim ‘across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). As explained by the United States Supreme Court:

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. The plausibility standard is not akin to probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         A 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint and “does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). Accordingly, a court should “assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations.” E. Shore Mkts. Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). Although the truth of the facts alleged is assumed, courts are not bound by the “legal conclusions drawn from the facts” and “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Id.

         Furthermore, the Fourth Circuit has a long practice of liberally construing the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs. Hill v. Braxton, 277 F.3d 701, 707 (4th Cir. 2002). A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff, “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). If “a pro se complaint contains potentially cognizable claims, the plaintiff should be allowed to particularize those claims.” Veliaminov v. P.S. Bus. Parks, 857 F.Supp.2d 589, 591-92 (E.D. Va. 2012) (citation omitted).

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must be read in conjunction with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” so as to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Rule 8 does not, however, unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Fair notice is provided by setting forth enough facts for the complaint to be “plausible on its face” and “raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact) . . . .” Id. at 555 (internal ...


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