United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
C. DEVER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
25, 2019, Michael Sheppard ("Sheppard" or
"plaintiff'), proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis, filed a complaint against the Beaufort County
Sheriffs Office ("BCSO") alleging claims under
Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq. [DE. 5, 6]. On July 25, 2019,
Sheppard filed a corrected complaint that added Ernie Coleman
("Coleman"), Charlie Rose ("Rose"), Kelly
Cox ("Cox"), and William Ragland
("Ragland"; collectively, "defendants")
as defendants [DE. 15]. On August 2, 2019, Sheppard through
counsel amended his corrected complaint and added claims
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 [D.E. 18].
August 12, 2019, BCSO moved to dismiss the corrected
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted [D.E. 19] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E.
20]. On August 22, 2019, Cox, Ragland, and Rose also moved to
dismiss the corrected complaint for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted [DE. 27] and filed a
memorandum in support [D.E. 28]. On the same date, Coleman
answered the corrected complaint [D.E. 29]. Sheppard did not
respond to the motions to dismiss. As explained below, the
court grants Sheppard leave to amend his corrected complaint,
grants Cox, Ragland, and Rose's motion to dismiss,
dismisses Ragland and BCSO from this action, and denies as
moot BCSO's motion to dismiss.
March 2007, Sheppard completed basic law enforcement training
at Beaufort County Community College. See Am. Compl. [D.E.
18] ¶ 7. On May 1, 2007, Sheppard joined BCSO as a road
deputy. See Id. ¶ 8. In that role, Sheppard
primarily served court documents, executed warrants,
responded to calls, and conducted traffic enforcement. See
Id. Coleman is the current sheriff of Beaufort
County. See Id. ¶ 4. BCSO employs Rose,
Ragland, and Cox. Cf. Id. ¶¶ S.
November 2016, Sheppard saw Ragland point a loaded firearm at
the head of a former deputy sheriff, Dominic Franks
("Franks"), for approximately fifteen seconds and
use a racial slur to refer to Franks. See Id.
¶¶ 1, 9. Franks is biracial. See
id.¶1. Franks feared that Ragland would shoot
him. See Id. ¶ 9. Several other deputies
witnessed this episode. See id Sheppard also alleges that he
witnessed Ragland refer to Franks as "monkey boy"
and "boy," and that Ragland would refer to
Franks's hair as "rhino lining" because of its
texture and color. See Id. ¶ 10. Coleman also
referred to Franks as "deeply psychotic."
alleges that he notified Ragland's supervisor, Cox, on
numerous occasions about Ragland's behavior. See
id. ¶ 11. Although Cox assured Sheppard that he
would inform his supervisor Rose about Ragland's
behavior, Ragland's behavior continued. See Id.
For example, Ragland told Sheppard that Franks's uncle
had sued him for allegedly creating a hostile work
environment, and Ragland continued to use racial slurs to
refer to Franks and his uncle. See Id. ¶¶
February 8, 2017, Coleman informed Sheppard that he would
terminate Franks because he believed Franks to be
"psychotic" as a consequence of too much
"trigger time" during the war. Id. ¶
14. During this conversation, Sheppard told Coleman that he
believed Franks had been subjected to a hostile and racist
work environment. See Id. Coleman terminated Franks
soon after this conversation. Cf. Id.
February 10, 2017, Sheppard arrived at BCSO around 6 p.m. See
Id. He noticed that Coleman and Rose's vehicles
were in the parking lot, which he found abnormal given the
time and day. See Id. Sheppard began to record video
on his cell phone. See Id. When Sheppard entered the
building, Coleman and Rose escorted him into
Rose's office. See Id. ¶ 16. Coleman told
Sheppard that he was aware of the complaints concerning
Franks and Ragland and that Sheppard's statements on
February 8, 2017, bad" stuck with him."
Id. Coleman also asked Sheppard why he continued to
work at BCSO if he thought that the BCSO command staff were
racists. See Id. Sheppard responded that he did not
think that BCSO command staff were racists. See Id.
Coleman then wished Sheppard good luck and left. See
Id. Sheppard resigned in lieu of termination. See
Id. Sheppard video recorded the entire encounter on
his cell phone. See id.
count one, Sheppard alleges that BCSO and Coleman in his
official capacity retaliated against him under Title `VH
because Sheppard reported Ragland's behavior towards
Franks. See Id. ¶¶ 18-19. In count two,
Shepard alleges that Coleman, Cox, and Rose retaliated
against him in violation of 42 U.S.C § 1983 and 42
U.S.C. § 1981. See id. ¶¶ 20-21.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
complaint's legal and factual sufficiency. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-80 (2009); Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554- 63 (2007);
Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190
(4th Cir. 2010), aff'd, 566 U.S. 30 (2012);
Nemet Chevrolet. Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com. Inc.,
591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009); Giarratano v.
Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). To withstand
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading "must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation omitted); see
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Giarratano, 521
F.3d at 302. In considering the motion, the court must
construe the facts and reasonable inferences "in the
light most favorable to the [nonmoving party]."
Massey v. Ojaniit, 759 F.3d 343, 352 (4th Cir. 2014)
(quotation omitted); see Clatterbuck v. City of
Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013),
abrogated on other grounds
by Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct. 2218
(2015). A court need not accept as true a complaint's
legal conclusions, "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable
conclusions, or arguments." Giarratano, 521
F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted); see Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678-79. Rather, plaintiffs' allegations must
"nudge their claims," Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570, beyond the realm of "mere possibility" into
"plausibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
Sheppard's Title VII claim against BCSO, Sheppard
voluntarily dismissed his claim against BCSO in the amended
complaint. Thus, the court denies as moot BCSO's
motion to dismiss. Alternatively, Sheppard's Title VII
claim against BCSO fails because BCSO is not a legal entity
capable of being sued. See, e, g,, Williams v
Melochick, No. 5:18-CV-254-H, 2018 WL 8130558, at *2
(E.D. N.C. Dec. 5, 2018) (unpublished), memorandum and
recommendation adopted, 2019 WL 1867930 (E.D. N.C. Apr.
25, 2019) (unpublished): Jilani v. Harrison, No.
5:15-CT-3271-FL, 2018 WL 1545584, at *IO (E.D. N.C. Mar. 29,
2018) (unpublished), aff'd, 732 Fed.Appx. 208
(4th Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (unpublished); Sullivan v.
N. C., No. 7:11-CV-238-D, 2012 WL 3762445, at *4 (E.D.
N.C. Aug. 29, 2012) (unpublished); Cooper v. Brunswick
Cty. Sheriffs Dep't, No. 7:10-CV-14-D, 2011 WL
738610, at *4-5 (E.D. N.C. Feb. 7, 2011) (unpublished),
memorandum and recommendation adopted, 2011
WL 736670 (E.D. N.C. Feb. 23, 2011) (unpublished); Hill
v. Robeson Cty., N.C., 733 F.Supp.2d 676, 690 (E.D. N.C.
2010); Parker v. Bladen Cty., 583 F.Supp.2d 736, 740
(E.D. N.C. 2008). Thus, the court dismisses BCSO from this
Sheppard's Title VII claims against Cox, Rose, and
Ragland in their individual capacities, Sheppard appears to
have abandoned the claims in his amended complaint. See Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 18-19 (naming BCSO and Coleman as the
only defendants to Sheppard's Title VII claims).
Alternatively, "supervisors are not liable in their
individual capacities for Title VII violations."
Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc.,159 F.3d 177, 180
(4th Cir. 1998); see Abeles v. Metro. Wash. Airports
Auth.,676 Fed.Appx. 170, 176-77 (4m Cir. 2017)
(percuriam) (unpublished); Scottv. Md. State
Dep't of Labor,673 Fed.Appx. 299, 307-08 (4th Cir.
2016) (per curiam) (unpublished); Baud ex rel. Baird v.
Rose,192 F.3d 462, 472 (4th Cir. 1999); Amos v.
Welles. No. 4:18-CV-28-D, 2018 WL 5305537, at *l (E.D.
N.C. Oct. 25, 2018) (unpublished) (collecting cases);
Brown v. Wake Cty. Gov't, No. 5:16-CV-806-D,
2017 WL 2982971, at *3 (E.D. N.C. ...