United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
BOBBY W. LINDSAY, Plaintiff,
EAST PENN MANUFACTURING CO. INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE
Bobby W. Lindsay brings claims for employment discrimination
and retaliation against his former employer, Defendant East
Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc. (Complaint (Doc. 7).) Defendant
has moved to dismiss these claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). (Doc. 12.) For the reasons that follow, this court
finds that Defendant's motion should be denied.
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
reviewing a motion to dismiss, this court “must accept
as true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
was employed by Defendant from 2008 until 2016. (Complaint
(“Compl.”) (Doc. 7) ¶ 3.) In approximately
2014, Plaintiff applied for an internal promotion to lead man
and did not receive the position. (Id. ¶ 12.)
Instead, Defendant allegedly hired a less-qualified white
employee from outside the company. (Id.) Plaintiff
alleges that, when he brought this to the attention of
management, “he was informed by East Penn management
that the company had a policy of not promoting black
employees.” (Id. ¶ 13.)
further alleges that, on multiple occasions, he was the
recipient of racial slurs and demeaning comments from several
specific co-workers, including being called a “black
mother fucker” in August 2016. (Id.
¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff further alleges that certain
white co-workers spat on black co-workers on multiple
occasions. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff complained
about these incidents to management in late August 2016, who
allegedly took no meaningful action and blamed Plaintiff for
bringing the treatment on himself. (Id. ¶¶
the complaint about disparaging racial comments in late
August 2016, Defendant allegedly disciplined Plaintiff for
using foul language on September 2, 2016 and then terminated
Plaintiff for insubordinate conduct on October 4, 2016.
(Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Plaintiff filed his
Complaint in this matter in Forsyth County Superior Court on
April 9, 2018, (Doc. 4-1), and Defendant then removed the
matter to this court as a federal-question case. (See Doc.
4.) Plaintiff brings claims for a hostile work environment,
discriminatory failure to promote, and retaliation pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and for violation of a state public
policy. (Compl. (Doc. 7) ¶¶ 14-23.) Defendant has
moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), (Doc. 12), and
submitted a memorandum in support of its motion, (Def.'s
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s
Mem.”) (Doc. 13).) Plaintiff has responded, (Doc. 15),
and Defendant has replied, (Doc. 16.)
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.
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
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 race). The Fourth Circuit has explained,
however, that “evidentiary determinations regarding
whether the comparators' features are sufficiently
similar to constitute appropriate comparisons generally
should not be made at” the motion to dismiss stage.
Woods v. City of Greensboro, 855 F.3d 639, 650 (4th
Cir.), cert. denied sub nom., City of Greensboro v. BNT
Ad Agency, LLC, U.S., 138 S.Ct. 558 (2017).
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).