United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
OF THE CASE
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.
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.
OF ALLEGED FACTS
facts alleged in the complaint as pertinent to the instant
motion, may be summarized as follows.
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).
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.
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).
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).
Standard of Review
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).
Consideration of ...