Campbell v. Anderson et al
ORDER GRANTING 23 Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and DENYING AS FUTILE 31 Plaintiff's Motion to Amend. This matter is dismissed in its entirety and the clerk is directed to close the file. Signed by US District Judge Terrence W. Boyle on 10/14/2014. Copy mailed to pro se plaintiff, via US Mail, to 209 East 23rd Street, Lumberton, NC, 28358. (Fisher, M.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
SOUTHEASTERN REGIONAL MEDICAL,
CENTER, et al.,
This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)( 6) and 10 [DE 23] and plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint
[DE 31]. The motions are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion
to dismiss is GRANTED and plaintiff's motion to amend is DENIED AS FUTILE.
Plaintiff, Ms. Campbell, initiated this action by filing a pro se complaint and a request to
proceed informapauperis with the Court on February 24,2014. On March 7, 2014, the Court
granted plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff brings a race-based claim of
employment discrimination against defendant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(Title VII). While the complaint is somewhat unclear as to plaintiff's theories of employment
discrimination, they appear to be based on a hostile work employment, retaliation, and disparate
treatment. Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint as to the individual defendants
alleging that Title VII does not provide for claims against them, and as to all defendants alleging
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) and failure to
comply with the pleading requirement under Rule 10.
The pleading requirements of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure are designed to "give
the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiffs claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."
Slade v. Hampton Roads Reg'! Jail, 407 F.3d 243,252 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Conely v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,47 (1957)). Courts should be liberal in their construction of prose
complaints, but they should not go beyond deciphering the meaning of words written in the
complaint to attempt to discern the unexpressed intent of the plaintiff. Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d
404, 413 (4th Cir. 2006). Liberal construction ofthe complaint is especially appropriate when a
prose plaintiff raises civil rights issues. Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978).
Motion to Dismiss
The Court first addresses Ms. Campbell's claims against the individual defendants,
Joanna Anderson, Amy Hammonds, James McLeod, M.D., Jessica Taylor, Jackie Strickland,
Dean Ruth, and Lynn Wheatley (sic). Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against
employees on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. The
enforcement provision of Title VII allows actions against an "employer, employment agency,
labor organization, or joint labor-management committee." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). Title VII
defines an employer in pertinent part as "a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce
who has fifteen or more employees." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b). The Fourth Circuit has "expressly
held that Title VII does not provide a remedy against individual defendants who do not qualify as
'employers."' Baird ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F .3d 462, 4 72 (4th Cir. 1999). Individual
supervisors do not fit within the definition of an employer. Lissau v. Southern Food Serv., Inc.,
159 F.3d 177, 180-81 (4th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff's Title VII claims against all individual
defendants must fail as a matter of law, as she has alleged no facts that demonstrate these
individuals qualify as employers. Therefore, dismissal as to the individual defendants is
FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM
A Rule 12(b)( 6) motion challenges the legal sufficiency of a plaintiffs complaint.
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). When ruling on the motion, the court
"must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007). Although complete and detailed factual allegations are not required, "a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the 'grounds; ofhis 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and
conclusions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). "Threadbare recitals ofthe
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Similarly, a trial court is
"not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555.
A. Disparate Treatment
In order to establish a prima facie case for disparate treatment under Title VII, plaintiff
must show that she belongs to a protected class, was subjected to adverse employment actions,
maintained satisfactory job performance, and that similarly employees outside her class received
more favorable treatment. See, e.g., White v. BFI Waste Servs., LLC, 375 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir.
2004). On a motion to dismiss, the Court may only consider the complaint in its entirety,
including any documents incorporated or attached thereto. E.!. DuPont Nemours & Co. v. Kalan
Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435,448 (4th Cir. 2011). Ms. Campbell did not allege her race in the
complaint. Moreover, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that similarly situated employees
outside her class received more favorable treatment. Plaintiff merely alleges that employees
Jackie Strickland and Jessica Taylor were allowed to work overtime, while she was not. These
employees are identified in the complaint as an RN and an LPN, respectively. Ms. Campbell was
a clinical assistant. Giving plaintiffs complaint liberal construction and assuming plaintiff meant
to identify Strickland and Taylor as nurses, they are not similarly situated employees for
purposes of Title VII. As such, Ms. Campbell cannot make out the prima facie case for disparate
treatment, and her claim must be dismissed.
B. Hostile Work Environment
In order to state a hostile work environment claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege
that she experienced unwelcome harassment based on her gender, race, or age that was
"sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive
atmosphere." E.E.O.C. v. Xerxes Corp., 639 F.3d 658, 668 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).
Further, the Fourth Circuit has recognized that a plaintiff alleging a hostile work environment is
required to plead supporting facts to survive a motion to dismiss. Bass v. E. I DuPont de
Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). ("While a plaintiff is not
charged with pleading facts sufficient to prove her case, as an evidentiary matter, in her
complaint, a plaintiff is required to allege facts that support a claim for relief.")
Plaintiff complains of denial of overtime, being yelled at by Dr. McLeod, being
humiliated by Amy Hammond, and having her computer reviewed. Even viewing the facts as
most favorable to Ms. Campbell, the discrete acts complained of do not amount to a workplace
that is "permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that [was] sufficiently
severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of [plaintiffs] employment and create an abusive
working environment." Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993) (internal quotations
and citation omitted). As such, plaintiff has failed to state a facially plausible claim and her
hostile work environment claim must be dismissed.
Similar to a disparate treatment claim, the elements of a retaliation claim include: (1)
engagement in a protected activity; (2) an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link
between the protected activity and the stated adverse employment action. See, e.g., King v.
Rumsfeld, 328 F.3d 145, 150-51 (4th Cir. 2003). Protected activity involves opposing or
participating in an "investigation, proceeding, or hearing" concerning employment practices
made unlawful under Title VII.§ 2000e-3(a); Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d
253, 259 (4th Cir. 1998). Ms. Campbell has not alleged any facts that constitute engagement in
any investigation, proceeding, or hearing prior to her termination from Southeast Medical. As
plaintiff fails to allege any facts that demonstrate that she engaged in a protected activity, her
claim must be dismissed.
Plaintiffs Motion to Amend
Leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15. It is
within the discretion of the court to allow or deny the amendment. Farnan v. Davis, 371 U.S.
178, 182 (1962). The right to amend is not unfettered, however. "The law is well settled that
leave to amend a pleading should be denied only when the amendment would be prejudicial to
the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment
would be futile." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal
quotation and citation omitted). A proposed amendment is futile when "it advances a claim or
defense that is legally insufficient on its face." Joyner v. Abbott Labs., 674 F.Supp. 185, 190
Here, plaintiff's proposed amendments to her complaint do not cure the deficiencies set
forth supra. Ms. Campbell fails to plead facts supporting her claims. The proposed amendment
simply includes missed pages substantially similar to those in the original complaint.
Accordingly, the amendment is futile and is denied as such.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss [DE 24] is GRANTED.
Plaintiff's motion to amend [DE 31] is DENIED AS FUTILE. This matter is DISMISSED in its
entirety and the clerk is directed to close the file.
SO ORDERED, this
j_!f_ day of October, 2014.
NCE W. BOYLE
UNITED STATES DISTRIC
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