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Clements v. Town of Sharpsburg

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

October 10, 2019



          Louise W. Flanagan United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the court on defendant's second motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (DE 20). The issues raised have been fully briefed, and in this posture are ripe for ruling. For the reasons noted, defendant's motion is granted.


         Plaintiff, a former lieutenant in defendant's police department, initiated this action on November 28, 2018. Plaintiff alleges discrimination and retaliation on the basis of race and sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (“ADA”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. With leave of court, plaintiff filed her amended complaint on June 3, 2019. Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff has failed to state claims of unlawful discrimination or retaliation.


         Plaintiff was hired by defendant in 2014. (Am. Compl. & 9). She served as lieutenant, and was the only black female officer, in defendant's police department. (Id.). In June 2017, plaintiff was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and diabetes controlled with insulin injections, but “continually and consistently” performed all her duties for defendant despite her disability. (Id. & 11).

         After John Hunt (“Hunt”) became chief of police, plaintiff received different treatment than white male police officers. (Id. & 10). Hunt stripped plaintiff of her supervisory and administrative duties. (Id. & 13). Sergeant Hinson (“Hinson”), a white male, was later promoted in July 2017 to second in command, the position plaintiff formerly held. (Id. & 17). Hinson was paid higher wages than when plaintiff served as second in command. (Id. & 17). He referred to plaintiff as “bitch” without repercussion. (Id. & 14). No. white employees in the police department would communicate, coordinate or work with plaintiff. (Id. && 15-16).

         Plaintiff's assigned police vehicle was taken away because it was allegedly needed for second shift, but the male officers assigned to second shift already had vehicles assigned to them. (Id. & 18). After plaintiff turned her vehicle in and it was used by other male officers, plaintiff was disciplined for failing to maintain the vehicle. (Id. & 19). On August 29, 2017, plaintiff was required to submit to a medical fitness for duty evaluation, although her conduct, attendance, and performance did not give rise to the need for such evaluation. (Id. & 20; see First EEOC Charge (DE 18-1) at 1). When plaintiff asked Hunt why she was being referred for the Medical Fitness for Duty Evaluation, Hunt allegedly responded, “because you are a female and diabetic.” (Am. Compl. & 21). One day later, she was suspended for three days without pay for allegedly listening to inappropriate music in her assigned vehicle. (Id. & 23).

         Plaintiff filed her first charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) based upon the alleged discriminatory practices of defendant on or about September 1, 2017. (Id. & 24). Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave on or around September 8, 2017 pending the results of her Medical Fitness for Duty Evaluation. (Id. & 25). Plaintiff was determined physically fit to return to work, but defendant then required a psychological evaluation prior to her return to work. (Id. & 26). Plaintiff was determined to be psychologically fit for duty as well. (Id. & 27).

         Defendant terminated plaintiff on or about January 11, 2018, allegedly for failing to take evidence to the SBI crime lab on time in May 2017. (Id. & 29). While working for defendant, plaintiff requested training and access to the SBI evidence portal, but her request was denied by defendant Hunt. (Am. Compl. & 33; Appeals Decision (DE 18-5); Higher Authority Decision (DE 18-6)). Plaintiff then filed her second charge of discrimination with the EEOC. (Am. Compl. & 34; Second EEOC Charge (DE 18-2) at 1). After plaintiff's second charge was filed, Hunt allegedly said that he “kn[e]w definitively that [plaintiff] was discriminated against by the majority of the Board of Commissioners, who all happen to be Caucasian.” (Am. Compl. & 37; Wilson Times Article (DE 18-7) at 1).


         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 ...

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