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Holmes v. The University of North Carolina

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 2, 2019




         On September 28, 2018, Jermaine Holmes ("Holmes" or "plaintiff') filed an amended complaint against The University of North Carolina ("UNC"), North Carolina State University ("NC State"), Carrie Doyle ("Doyle"), and Michael Mullen ("Mullen"; collectively "defendants") [D.E. 22]. On November 27, 2018, defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted [D.E. 30] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E. 31]. On January 7, 2019, Holmes responded in opposition [D.E. 33]. On January 18, 2019, defendants replied [D.E. 34]. As explained below, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss.


         On March 3, 2014, NC State hired Holmes, an African American male, for the position of Associate Athletics Director ("AAD") and Director of Academic Support Program for Student Athletes ("ASPSA"). See Am. Compl. [D.E. 22] ¶¶ 11-12. Holmes managed 22 full time staff members and oversaw over 110 individuals who provided academic assistance to NC State athletes. See Id. ¶ 14. Before starting at NC State, Holmes reviewed the state of the athletic department and conducted a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis ("SWOT" analysis). See Id. ¶¶ 15-16. As part of Holmes's SWOT analysis, Holmes discovered that NC State hired Christine Lutz ("Lutz"), the daughter of NC State's Associate Head Men's Basketball Coach, as a tutor. See Id. ¶¶ 17, 19. Holmes believed that hiring the daughter of a basketball coach violated "NC State's best practices and conflict of inter[est] policies." Id. ¶ 17. Holmes also learned that interns consistently worked more than 60 hours per week but were paid for only 40 hours of work, which Holmes believed violated state and federal labor laws. See Id. ¶ 18.

         On May 9, 2014, Holmes and his administrative assistant met with representatives of NC State's human resources department See Id. ¶ 20. Holmes discussed "converting three intern positions to temporary administrative-office support staff positions" and raised "several integrity issues and deficiencies within ASPS A." Id. ¶¶ 20, 50. On June 16, 2014, Holmes met with Debbie Yow ("Yow"), NC State's Director of Athletics, and others to discuss Holmes's proposed budget See Id. ¶ 21. After the meeting, Yow e-mailed Mullen to inform him about the meeting and stated that Holmes was "well prepared for the meeting." Id. ¶ 22. On the same day, Holmes also prepared a memorandum concerning ASPSA budget needs titled "Priority, Description, & Justification." Id. ¶ 23. Holmes alleges that, following the meeting with Yow, he began to be treated differently. See Id. ¶ 50.

         On October 21, 2014, Holmes met with Doyle, the Senior Associate Director of Compliance, to discuss "the loss of three interns." Id. ¶ 24. On October 24, 2014, Doyle asked Holmes to provide her with a written plan explaining how he would address the loss of three interns and oversight of tutors. See Id. ¶ 25. On October 25, 2014, Doyle provided Holmes with specific concerns of Jody Moylon ("Moylon") that Holmes needed to address in his plan. See Id. ¶¶ 26-27. Holmes alleges that Moylon told Doyle that replacing interns with academic specialists would increase the risk of academic misconduct. See Id. ¶ 51. Holmes also alleges that Doyle began to investigate Moylon's claims "without first verifying the veracity of her statements." Id. ¶ 52.

         On October 26, 2014, Holmes forwarded an e-mail to Mullen, Doyle, Yow, and other athletics staff members informing them that Moylon hired Lutz in 2013 and that, in doing so, Moylon may have violated NC State's best practices and conflict of interest policies. See Id. ¶¶ 28, 42. Holmes asked several staff members why "no one took action to remedy the perceived integrity issues." Id.. ¶ 42. On November 3, Holmes submitted a report to Doyle, titled "Tutor Oversight Report" (the "Report"), that "detailed what [Holmes] believed to be factors that could lead to integrity and NCAA issues and violations." Id. ¶ 29. On November 4, 2014, Holmes held a staff meeting at which he addressed hiring Lutz. See Id. ¶¶ 30, 43.

         On November 19, 2014, Holmes met with Dr. Joanne Woodard, NC State's Vice Provost of Institutional Equity and Diversity, "to discuss his concerns about unfair and unequal treatment from [Doyle] regarding staff complaints and false representations." Id. ¶ 31. On November 25, 2014, Mullen informed Holmes that he received a report from Doyle indicating that Holmes had provided Yow with incomplete reports, which Yow had then used for a presentation on November 21, 2014. See Id. ¶ 54. On November 25, 2014, Holmes e-mailed Mullen "expressing concerns about what [Holmes] felt was unfair and unequal treatment... related to certain false representations being reported to management about [Holmes's] leadership." Id. ¶ 32.

         On December 1, 2014, Holmes met with Mullen, Yow, Doyle, and a faculty athletics representative to discuss the Report. See Id. ¶ 33. Yow was frustrated with Holmes for e-mailing the Report because the Report contained sensitive information that could be interpreted as "the athletic department... not properly supporting its student athletes." Id. Holmes alleges that, during the meeting, management formally disciplined him with a verbal reprimand. See Id. ¶ 34.

         On February 4, 2015, Holmes met with Mullen, who informed Holmes about numerous issues with his performance. See Id. ¶ 44. Mullen noted that Holmes "was not always on top of important issues, . . . that reporting was not complete, . . . and that [Holmes] was not always responsive." Id. ¶ 45; see Id. ¶ 46. Holmes alleges that meeting was the first time that anyone raised performance issues with him. See Id. ¶ 44. Mullen summarized the meeting in a memorandum for Holmes. See Id. ¶¶ 47-49. In the memorandum, Mullen suggested that the "singular issue" with Holmes's performance was Holmes's perceived reluctance to engage with the Office of Student Conduct concerning a student athlete accused of academic dishonesty. See Id. ¶ 49.

         On April 9, 2015, Holmes met with Mullen and Dan O'Brien, and Mullen told Holmes that he was being removed from his role as Director of ASPS A. See Id. ¶ 35. Later, defendants discharged Holmes. See id. ¶ 39. On April 13, 2015, Mullen named Katie Sheridan ("Sheridan"), a white woman, interim Director of ASPS A. See id. ¶ 36. On August 4, 2015, Sheridan became the Assistant Dean and Director for ASPSA. See Id. ¶ 38.

         On April 28, 2015, Holmes met with Dr. Joanne Woodard again to discuss "his discriminatory and disparate treatment and how he had been forced out of his position without any prior notice or warning." Id. ¶ 37. Holmes alleges that Doyle made numerous misrepresentations to Mullen concerning Holmes's performance. See Id. ¶ 55.

         On April 9, 2018, Holmes filed a complaint against defendants [D.E. 1]. On September 28, 2018, Holmes filed a first amended complaint against defendants [D.E. 22]. Holmes alleges six claims: (1) disparate investigation and disparate discipline in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, (2) retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (3) denial of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, (4) tortious interference with contract, (5) negligent supervision and retention, and (6) negligent ...

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