United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE
before this court are motions to dismiss filed by each of the
following Defendants: (1) The Procter & Gamble
Manufacturing Company ("P&G"), (Doc. 28); (2)
Scott Spillmann, M.D. ("Spillmann"), (Docs. 31,
38); and (3) Candy Wright ("Wright"), (Doc. 33.)
Each Defendant moves to dismiss the relevant claims in
Plaintiff's complaint, (Amended Complaint ("Am.
Compl.") (Doc. 26)), for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons that
follow, this court finds that the motion to dismiss filed by
Defendant Spillmann should be granted. This court further
finds that the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants P&G
and Wright should each be granted in part and denied in part,
as described more fully herein.
concise summary of the factual allegations in the complaint
follows. Plaintiff Dorothea Robinson is black and worked for
Defendant P&G from 1989 to 2017, first as a technician
and later as a registered nurse. (Am. Compl. (Doc. 26)
¶¶ 1, 8, 40.) Plaintiff's claims are based on
events that occurred between 2013 and 2017, when she was
working as a registered nurse at P&G's
Greensboro/Browns Summit facility. (Id. ¶ 8.)
Plaintiff worked under the medical license of Defendant
Spillmann, a contract physician but not a direct P&G
employee, with Spillmann's permission. (Id.
¶¶ 16-18.) Plaintiff's duties included
reviewing the sufficiency of invoices submitted to P&G by
Spillmann. (Id. ¶ 19.)
2013, Plaintiff applied for a promotion to an open Nurse
Manager position. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges
that P&G failed to follow its own hiring procedures and
that she complained to P&G supervisors; approximately one
year after applying, Plaintiff received the promotion.
(Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) P&G then hired
Defendant Wright, who is white and had less experience than
Plaintiff, as a second Nurse Manager at the Greensboro/Browns
Summit facility. (Id. ¶ 14.) Wright had the
same title and responsibilities as Plaintiff and both were
full-time P&E employees working under Spillmann's
medical license. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) In 2017,
Plaintiff learned that Wright was paid a higher salary than
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff inquired
within P&G about the salary differential but did not
receive a satisfactory answer. (Id. ¶¶
subsequently applied for a position on the P&G disability
board and requested additional training to advance her
career; however, Plaintiff did not receive necessary support
for her application and was denied training. (Id.
¶¶ 23-24.) Plaintiff made official complaints
within P&G about racial discrimination around this time.
(Id. ¶¶ 25-28.) Plaintiff, who was
responsible for reviewing Spillmann's invoices, also
raised concerns with the P&G Finance Manager because she
believed that Spillmann was submitting inaccurate and
incomplete invoices. (Id. ¶ 33.)
mid-2017, Plaintiff contends that Spillmann and Wright began
a campaign to discredit her by raising concerns about her job
performance. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) In September
2017, Wright submitted a complaint to the North Carolina
Board of Nursing alleging that Plaintiff had violated
professional standards of conduct in patient care.
(Id. ¶¶ 36-37.) Plaintiff alleges that
Wright made false and defamatory statements about her job
performance, both to Spillmann and to the Board.
(Id. ¶¶ 66-73.) In August 2017, Spillmann
filed an internal complaint against Plaintiff and revoked her
ability to practice as a nurse under his medical license.
(Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff was suspended pending an
investigation into her performance and ultimately terminated
by P&G in late 2017. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.)
received a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on November 21,
2017. (Id. ¶ 41, Ex. A) Plaintiff then timely
filed her initial complaint in Guilford County Superior Court
on January 24, 2018, (see Doc. 1-1 at 23), and
P&G removed the case to this court on February 23, 2018.
subsequently filed an amended complaint. (Am. Compl. (Doc.
26).) Each Defendant then moved to dismiss the amended
complaint and filed a memorandum in support of its respective
motion: P&G, (Doc. 29); Spillmann, (Doc. 32); and Wright,
(Doc. 34). Defendants P&G and Wright separately filed
answers to the amended complaint. (Docs. 30, 35,
respectively.) P&G then filed an amended answer, (Doc.
37). Spillmann filed an amended consolidated answer and
motion to dismiss, (Doc. 38), and a memorandum in support
thereof, (Doc. 39). These amendments were permitted as a
matter of course. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) .
responded opposing each motion to dismiss. (Docs. 40, 41,
43). Each Defendant filed a reply. (Docs. 42, 45, 46.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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)). In other words, the plaintiff must plead facts that
"allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable" and must demonstrate "more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, this court must accept the
complaint's factual allegations as true. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. Further, "the complaint, including all
reasonable inferences therefrom, [is] liberally construed in
the plaintiff's favor." Estate of Williams-Moore
v. All. One Receivables Mgmt., Inc., 335 F.Supp.2d 636,
646 (M.D. N.C. 2004) (citation omitted). Despite this
deferential standard, a court will not accept mere legal
conclusions as true, and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, [will] not suffice." Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678.
discrimination complaints must meet the
Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard;
however, the plaintiff is not required to make out a prima
facie case or satisfy any heightened pleading requirements at
the motion to dismiss stage. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002); McCleary-Evans v.
Md. Dep't of Transp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d
582, 584-85 (4th Cir. 2015). The plaintiff is, however,
required to plead facts that permit the court to reasonably
infer each element of the prima facie case, including less
favorable treatment than similarly-situated employees outside
of the protected class. McCleary-Evans, 780 F.3d at
585; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682-83 (plaintiff
must plead facts supporting reasonable inference of
discriminatory intent); Coleman v. Md. Ct. of
Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 191 (4th Cir. 2010) (stating that
a complaint must "assert facts establishing the
plausibility" that plaintiff was terminated based on
plaintiff may prove that an employer took action with
discriminatory or retaliatory intent through direct evidence
or through the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green." Strothers v. City of
Laurel, 895 F.3d 317, 327 (4th Cir. 2018). Under the
McDonnell Douglas framework, once the plaintiff has
made a plausible showing of each element, the claim will
survive a motion to dismiss and the burden then shifts to the
defendant to provide "some legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason" for the disparate treatment. McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973).
VII employment discrimination claim includes the following
elements: "(1) membership in a protected class; (2)
satisfactory job performance; (3) adverse employment action;
and (4) different treatment from similarly situated employees