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McGuire v. Lord Corp.

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

September 30, 2019

ROBERT MCGUIRE, Plaintiff,
v.
LORD CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court upon defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (DE 15). Plaintiff has responded in opposition and defendant replied. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff initiated this action in Wake County Superior Court, on December 27, 2018, asserting claims of discrimination and retaliatory discharge against defendant, his alleged former employer, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq . (“Title VII”). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, including lost wages, as well as punitive damages, injunctive relief, attorney's fees, and interest.

         Defendant removed to this court on January 24, 2019, and filed the instant motion to dismiss on March 14, 2019. In support of dismissal, defendant relies upon a declaration of Gareth McAllister (“McAllister”), President, Asia Pacific, of defendant, attaching an Agreement for Separation between plaintiff and Lord Japan, Inc. (hereinafter, the “Separation Agreement”). In opposition, plaintiff relies upon a screenshot of defendant's web site. Defendant replied in support of the motion on May 3, 2019.

         STATEMENT OF ALLEGED FACTS

         The facts alleged in the complaint as pertinent to the instant motion, may be summarized as follows.

         Plaintiff is a resident of Minnesota, and defendant is a Pennsylvania corporation with principal office in North Carolina. Defendant hired plaintiff on October 4, 2013, for the position of “Regional Director, Japan.” (Compl. ¶ 11). During his time of employment plaintiff “received multiple performance-related recognitions and accolades, including being awarded the second highest ‘spot bonus' in the company and receiving a personal note of appreciation from [defendant's] CEO in 2017.” (Compl. ¶ 14).

         According to the complaint, in 2016, plaintiff heard “rumors that a colleague, Zhong Bei (‘Ms. Bei') did not like him and was spreading false information, ” including a “complaint against him for sexual harassment in an attempt to get him fired.” (Id. ¶¶ 16-17). In fact, according to the complaint, plaintiff was subject to sexual harassment from Ms. Bei, who made “sexually suggestive comments whenever she spoke with [plaintiff], ” tried to “touch and flirt with him at company events, ” giving plaintiff reason to believe she “was attempting to entrap him in a compromising situation and then claim he sexually harassed her.” (Id. ¶¶ 19, 21). After she “began touching him and hanging on to him” at a work event in April 2017, plaintiff demanded that she stop. (Id. ¶ 28). According to the complaint, she exposed herself to plaintiff at a work event in September 2017. (Id. ¶ 37).

         On September 15, 2017, plaintiff met with defendant's manager of human resources in Japan, to discuss the details “of the humiliating situation” “regarding Ms. Bei's offensive and inappropriate conduct.” (Id. ¶ 39-40). It was this manager's duty “to report this sexual harassment incident up the chain of command.” (Id. ¶ 41). “Less than two months later, on November 13, 2017, [plaintiff] received notice that [defendant] was terminating his employment.” (Id. ¶ 42).

         According to the complaint, although defendant “ostensibly terminated [plaintiff] for failing to succeed in his role, ” defendant in fact terminated plaintiff “in retaliation for opposing Ms. Bei's offensive workplace conduct and for making a claim to HR, or in the alternative, [plaintiff's] sexual harassment claim against Ms. Bei was a substantial factor in [defendant's] decision to terminate [plaintiff's] employment.” (Id. ¶ 44). Plaintiff also asserts in the complaint that he “was over 40 years of age at the time of his termination, was meeting [defendant's] legitimate performance expectations, and . . . was replaced by someone substantially younger.” (Id. ¶ 45).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         “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. Consideration of ...


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