United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RAYMOND A. JACKSON, District Judge.
Before the Court is Plaintiff Sean Mohammed's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Amend Complaint pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 18) and Defendant Mini Price Storage's ("Defendant" or "Mini Price") Motion to Dismiss the original Complaint (ECF No. 15). Plaintiff's proposed First Amended Complaint maintains the same allegations against Defendant Mini Price Storage as the original Complaint, but provides further factual detail regarding the basis of his claims. Defendant requests that the Court deny the Motion to Amend and grant its Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's amendments are futile and do not cure any deficiencies to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim. This matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for determination. For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion to Amend Complaint is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as moot.
I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The facts, stated in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, are as follows: Plaintiff, a former assistant manager for Mini Price, is a Seventh Day Adventist whose religious beliefs include observation of the Sabbath on Saturday. Compl. ¶ 7. Tashondi Goodman became area manager of Peninsula area Mini Price locations in 2010 and Plaintiff began working directly under her. Id. at ¶ 13-14. Ms. Goodman spoke openly and critically in front of employees about Plaintiff's observation of his Sabbath. Id. at ¶ 18. In a meeting with Ms. Goodman and Joey Cole, the store manager, Ms. Goodman told Plaintiff that "he was not a team player, and would never advance within the company if he did not give up his Sabbath and work on Saturdays." Id. at ¶ 15. After the meeting, Plaintiff's hours were drastically cut and he was forced to drive more than thirty minutes to work at a location outside of his area. Id. at ¶19. Plaintiff sent an email to complain about his reduced hours. Id. At some point afterwards, his hours were cut even further. Id. Plaintiff was terminated in January of 2011. Id. at ¶ 20. In an exit interview held in February of 2011, Mini Price stated that it would not appeal any request for unemployment benefits. Id. at ¶¶ 21. Plaintiff was initially granted unemployment benefits, but after filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge, he was informed that Defendant would appeal his benefits. Id. at ¶¶ 22-23. On appeal, Plaintiff lost unemployment benefits. Id. at ¶ 26.
On February 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC alleging discrimination based upon religion and retaliation. The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on May 23, 2013. Plaintiff filed a two-count Complaint against Mini Price on August 21, 2013, alleging unlawful religious discrimination, with claims for hostile environment, failure to accommodate and failure to promote, and unlawful retaliation. On March 5, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. However, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Amend Complaint on March 19, 2014 along with his opposition to the Motion to Dismiss.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
A. Motion to Amend
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that a party may amend its pleading after the expiration of the time periods specified in Rule 15(a)(1) "only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Rule 15(a)(2) further provides that leave to amend shall be freely given by the court "when justice so requires." Id. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ("Fourth Circuit") has recognized three situations where a district court may deny leave to amend: (1) where allowing the amendment would prejudice the opposing party; (2) the moving party acted in bad faith; or (3) where the amendment would be futile. See Equal Rights Ctr. v. Niles Bolton Assocs., 602 F.3d 597, 603 (4th Cir. 2010). An amendment is futile where the proposed amendment fails to conform to the requirements of the federal rules. Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 471 (4th Cir. 2011); U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008). Ultimately, the decision whether or not to grant a party leave to amend is up to the discretion of the Court. See New Beckley MM. Corp. v. Int'l Union, United Mine Workers of Am., 18 F.3d 1161, 1164 (4th Cir. 1994).
B. Motion to Dismiss
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that, in addition to a statement of the court's jurisdiction and a demand for relief, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of actions that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Francis v. Giacomello, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). "To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Tivombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (internal quotations omitted)); Francis, 588 F.3d at 193; Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). Courts will favorably construe the allegations of the complaint and assume that the facts alleged in the complaint are true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, a court "need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts, " nor "accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.
Plaintiff, in seeking to amend his Complaint, aims to cure factual deficiencies in the record. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that his proposed amendments provide further factual detail regarding the foundation of his allegations. Defendant counters that Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint still fails to satisfy the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standard to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, making the amendments futile. Defendant relies primarily on the argument that the proposed First Amended Complaint does not contain plausible allegations sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Defendant further requests that the Court award Mini Price its costs in preparing and arguing this Motion to Amend.
A. Discrimination Claims
Defendant claims that Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint still fails to cure the previously identified deficiencies that warrant dismissal. In particular, Defendant contends that the First Amended Complaint is futile because Plaintiff fails to introduce any fact that would give rise to a cause of action under Twombly/Iqbal as to Plaintiff's ...