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Hannah v. Westrock Services, Inc.

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

February 25, 2019

GREGORY HANNAH, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTROCK SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          W. CARLETON METCALF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4), which has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Having carefully considered the arguments, the record, and applicable authority, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the Motion be granted.

         I. Procedural Background

         On June 7, 2018, Plaintiff Gregory Hannah (“Hannah”) filed his Complaint (Doc. 1).

         On July 2, 2018, Defendant WestRock Services, Inc. (“WestRock”) filed the instant Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4) and a Brief in Support (Doc. 5). On July 23, 2018, following an extension of time (Docs. 10, 11), Hannah responded (Doc. 12). WestRock replied on July 30, 2018 (Doc. 13).

         Notices of supplemental authority were submitted by Hannah on October 2, 2018 (Doc. 14) and by WestRock on October 3, 2018 (Doc. 15).

         II. Factual Background

         The allegations in Hannah's Complaint, taking all disputed facts and reasonable inferences in favor of Hannah, are as follows:

         In approximately October of 2013, Hannah, a gay male, began working for WestRock. See Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 1, 9. Hannah was originally employed through a temporary employment agency and “worked in production” but was hired by WestRock as a regular employee in approximately January of 2015. Id. ¶ 9.

         In June of 2015, WestRock promoted Hannah to a new position on “second shift in Receiving” with increased pay. Id. ¶ 10, 11.

         Shortly thereafter, Hannah's romantic partner, who is male, also began working for WestRock through a temporary employment agency. (Doc. 1) ¶ 11.

         Rumors concerning the relationship between Hannah and his partner circulated among some WestRock employees, “drawing lots of ridicule.” Id. ¶ 12.

         Hannah's department manager, Danny Lynch (“Lynch”), was “particularly homophobic and began to harass Hannah over his sexual orientation”. Id. ¶ 13. Lynch's conduct included making disparaging comments about Hannah's sexual orientation and appearance and making a vulgar comment to “a truck driver” regarding Hannah. Id. ¶ 14.

         Hannah avoided interacting with Lynch when their shifts overlapped each workday. Id. ¶ 15.

         There were “no issues about Hannah's performance” until April of 2016 when employees at WestRock learned that Hannah planned to marry his partner. (Doc. 1) ¶ 16.

         Subsequently, Lynch began to “write [Hannah] up” sometimes on a daily basis. Id. ΒΆ 17. On one occasion, Lynch showed Hannah how his employee file had increased due to the number of complaints, an ...


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