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Innocenti v. Wakemed

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

August 6, 2019

JACQUELINE INNOCENTI, Plaintiff,
v.
WAKEMED, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (DE 24). The issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion is granted.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff commenced this action on March 2, 2018, alleging discrimination and retaliation on the basis of national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.. On December 19, 2018, defendant filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings, seeking dismissal based on the statute of limitations and failure to state a claim. Defendant relies upon plaintiff's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge of discrimination (DE 25-1).

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         The facts alleged in the complaint can be summarized as follows. On October 22, 2012, plaintiff, a Hispanic woman, was hired as a bilingual patient accounts representative by defendant. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 7). Defendant is a healthcare system with multiple facilities in and around Raleigh, North Carolina. (Id. ¶ 5). Prior to being hired, defendant imposed a policy restricting employees from speaking Spanish except when talking with patients or when on breaks away from the workplace. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10). Roughly one month after beginning her job, plaintiff was threatened with disciplinary action if she used Spanish to communicate with other employees. (Id. ¶ 11). Plaintiff raised her concerns with the policy to her supervisors, Sylvia Daniels (“Daniels”) and Sherri Allen (“Allen”), but her concerns were ignored. (Id.).

         During the course of plaintiff's employment, she noticed and complained of instances where Hispanic employees were treated differently that other employees. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 14). Plaintiff contends defendant enforced company policy regarding vacation, sick days, and tardiness. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges she was denied breaks and reprimanded for leaving her “available” desk lights on. (Id.). She also alleges she was not allowed a desk and faced more significant discipline for workplace misconduct. (Id.).

         On February 21, 2013, plaintiff complained to Daniels regarding Allen's behavior, alleging disparate treatment between Hispanic and non-Hispanic employees. (Id. ¶ 15). Approximately three weeks later, plaintiff received a “Level 1 Disciplinary Action” for five separate instances of misconduct. (Id. ¶ 16). On August 27, 2013, plaintiff received a “Level 3 Disciplinary Action” for giving a patient erroneous information during patient registration, which plaintiff alleges was corrected nearly immediately. (Id. ¶ 18).

         After complaining of disparate treatment, plaintiff faced various alleged retaliatory actions, such as supervisors yelling at her in front of coworkers, sabotaging her efforts to transfer to other departments, commenting that she was not a good fit for the department, scheduling plaintiff to work so that she could not have a lunch break, and refusing requests for exemption from flu vaccine shots. (Id. ¶ 19). On March 15, 2015, Daniels criticized plaintiff for how she interacted with patients and mimicked her with a belittling and inaccurate Spanish accent. (Id. ¶ 21).

         Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of stress stemming from her mistreatment by defendant, she developed anxiety, vertigo, gastritis, and other conditions. (Id. ¶ 23). Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination on March 9, 2015, and subsequently quit her job on April 18, 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 25).

         COURT'S DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         In reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court “appl[ies] the same standard as a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 375 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Burbach Broad. Co. of Delaware v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-06 (4th Cir. 2002)). To survive a motion to dismiss” under Rule 12(b)(6), “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, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In evaluating whether a claim is stated, “[the] court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ” but does not consider “legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, . . . bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement[, ] . . . unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         B. Analysis

         1. Statute ...


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