Darden v. Wayne County Board of Education
ORDER granting  ORAL Motion to Amend 1 Complaint; denying 13 Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint not later than April 27,2018. Signed by District Judge Terrence W. Boyle on 4/12/2018. The parties are reminded to read the attached order in its entirety. (Downing, L.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
GLEN I. DARDEN,
WAYNE COUNTY BOARD OF
This cause comes before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has responded and a hearing on the
matter was held before the undersigned on April 10, 2018, at Elizabeth City, North Carolina. For
the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is denied.
Plaintiff initiated this action on April 23, 2017, by filing a complaint for wrongful
termination of plaintiffs employment under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. After service had been
properly effected on defendant and defendant failed to answer, plaintiff moved for entry of default.
Two days thereafter, counsel appeared for defendant and requested leave to file an answer out of
time. Finding that cause to set aside default existed in light of the appearance of counsel, the court
denied the motion for entry of default and allowed defendant an opportunity to answer. Defendant
timely filed its answer and motion to dismiss on October 5, 2017.
This case arises out of plaintiffs employment with defendant which began in 2002 and
continued until his termination on September 30, 2014. Plaintiff, and African-American male, was
employed by defendant at Eastern Wayne High School as an instructional assistant and varsity .
basketball coach. Plaintiff alleges that he never received a negative work evaluation by defendant
during his employment.
In March 2013, a minor female student accused plaintiff of grabbing her and attempting to
kiss her. Plaintiff turned himself in to law enforcement after a warrant was issued for his arrest
but he maintained his innocence. On December 13, 2013, defendant's Assistant Superintendent
for Human Resources, Dr. Marvin McCoy, sent a letter to plaintiff indicating that in light of the
charges plaintiff had been placed on suspension with pay. The letter stated that plaintiff could
return to work should all matters be cleared. On January 14, 2014, Dr. McCoy sent another letter
to plaintiff stating that plaintiff had been placed on suspension without pay and that he would be
contacted about the next step within thirty days.
On September 30, 2014, in the first
communication with plaintiff since the January 2014 letter, defendant terminated plaintiffs
employment. The State of North Carolina dismissed all charges against plaintiff on February 9,
2015. On February 10, 2015, Dr. McCoy called plaintiff and informed him that he was not
welcome on campus and would not be permitted to return to work.
Plaintiff further alleges that two white male teachers were accused of making inappropriate
sexual comments about female students.
Both of these teachers admitted to making the
inappropriate remarks and were allowed to retain their teaching positions with defendant and to
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief' and which provides ''the defendant fair
notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
93 (2007) (internal quotations, alterations, and citations omitted). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests
the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 283 (1986). When acting
on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "the court should accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff." Mylan Labs.,
Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.1993). A complaint must allege enough facts to state
a claim for relief that is facially plausible. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). Facial plausibility means that the facts pled "allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged," and mere recitals of the elements
of a cause of action supported by conclusory statements do not suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). I
The Court has reviewed the complaint in light of the applicable standards and finds
dismissal to be inappropriate at this time. A plaintiff seeking to establish a prima facie case of
discrimination in the termination of employment under § 1981 must demonstrate that "'(1) he is a
member of a protected class; (2) he was qualified for his job and his job performance was
satisfactory; (3) he was fired; and (4) other employees who are not members of the protected class
were retained under apparently similar circumstances."' Honor v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc.,
383 F.3d 180, 188 (4th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted) (noting same standard used in claims
proceeding under Title VII).
Plaintiff has alleged that he is a member of a protected class, that he was qualified for his
position, and that prior to the events which led to his termination he was performing his job
Because defendant has filed an answer, its motion to dismiss is more properly considered as a
motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). However, a Rule 12(c)
motion raising the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is assessed
under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir.
satisfactorily. Plaintiff has alleged that he was fired, and that other employees not members of the
protected class, namely two white male teachers, were allowed to remain in their positions under
apparently similar circumstances.
Although, as defendant points out, plaintiffs alleged
comparators were accused of making sexually inappropriate comments to students as opposed to
being accused of making attempted inappropriate contact with a student, both of the comparators
are alleged to have admitted to committing the offensive conduct. The Court finds that at this
stage of the proceeding plaintiff has alleged sufficiently similar comparators to nudge his claim
across the line from conceivable to plausible. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss [DE 13] is DENIED. Plaintiffs
oral motion to amend his complaint to add additional factual support, made at the hearing before
the undersigned, is GRANTED. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint not later than April 27,
SO ORDERED, this _i1.ctay of April, 2018.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?