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Goode v. Central Virginia Legal Aid Society

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

August 12, 2014

FREDDIE L. GOODE, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL VIRGINIA LEGAL AID SOCIETY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted, and the case will be dismissed without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations to be true, and views all facts in the light most favorable to him. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). Viewed through this lens, the facts are as follows.

Plaintiff, Freddie L. Goode ("Goode"), an African-American male, worked for Defendant, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society ("CVLAS"), from 1988 until his allegedly wrongful termination on March 31, 2013. (Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, 7, 10.) CVLAS is a 501(c)(3) organization. ( Id. ¶¶ 3.) Goode started as a volunteer at CVLAS, and progressed to other positions, which included paralegal, staffattorney, senior staff attorney, managing attorney, and most recently, Senior Managing Attorney. ( Id. ¶¶ 7-9.) At the time of his termination, Goode was seventy-two (72) years old, earned an annual salary of $85, 000, and was one of nine attorneys working for CVLAS. ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 11-12.)

In his work as Senior Managing Attorney, Goode's duties included: representing and advising clients on civil matters; overseeing the Social Security, elder law, and public benefits units; and supervising the volunteer lawyer pro bono hotline. ( Id. ¶¶ 13, 31.) Goode contends that during his tenure at CVLAS, he always met or exceeded performance expectations. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Goode worked out of CVLAS' Richmond office under Stephen Dickinson, a Caucasian male and the Executive Director of CVLAS. ( Id. ¶ 14.)

On March 11, 2013, the CVLAS Board of Directors ("Board") allegedly met and discussed potential restructuring of its attorney workforce in light of a loss in government funding. ( Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Goode heard that the Board discussed all CVLAS employees at this meeting and that his "veteran and other benefits" were mentioned as reasons Goode would be less affected than others by the reorganization. ( Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Subsequently, CVLAS terminated Goode and four other African-American employees over the age of forty (40). ( Id. ¶ 23.) Goode does not state the gender, exact age, or position of the other terminated employees, but he was the oldest CVLAS employee at the time. ( Id. ¶ 24.)

Prior to his termination, Goode suggested to Dickinson alternative methods to reduce spending that would have allowed Goode to maintain his employment status. ( Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Goode's suggestions included increasing employee contributions to health insurance premiums, requiring managing employees in Richmond to pay their own parking fees, and cutting annual salaries that exceeded $65, 000 by ten percent. ( Id. ) Dickinson allegedly rejected these suggestions, because they would not sufficiently reduce costs and he had promised employees raises. ( Id. ¶ 29.) Dickinson indicated that two female Caucasian attorneys were single parents who would be affected by Goode's proposed salary reduction. ( Id. ¶ 30.) As an alternative to termination, Dickinson offered Goode a position in which he would continue to supervise the volunteer lawyer pro bono hotline. ( Id. ¶¶ 13, 31.) Goode does not explain how he responded to this offer. On April 8, 2013, eight days after terminating Goode, CVLAS offered him a severance package which Goode rejected as "meager" and an inadequate reflection of his work history. ( Id. ¶¶ 34-36.)

Explaining its decision to terminate Goode and eliminate his position, CVLAS[1] cited budget cuts and a decision to stop litigating Social Security cases, which was one of Goode's responsibilities. ( Id. ¶¶ 37, 40.) Goode alleges these explanations were pretext for CVLAS' actual reasons for his termination-race, sex, and age discrimination. ( Id. ¶ 37.) Though Goode was terminated, others remained employed by CVLAS. ( Id. ¶¶ 26, 39, 45-46.)

Martin Wegbreit, the Senior Managing Attorney in charge of litigation services, was Caucasian, "substantially younger" than Goode, and his salary was higher. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-17.) Goode alleges that he and Wegbreit were "similarly situated... in terms of workload and responsibility." ( Id. ¶ 15.) According to the Complaint, CVLAS retained Wegbreit in the same capacity and at the same salary as before Goode's termination. ( Id. ¶ 26.) There is no indication of Wegbreit's exact age, salary, or job description beyond that he was "in charge of litigation services." ( Id. ¶ 15.)

Christianne Queiroz, a "much younger" female Latina attorney, also continued working for CVLAS. ( Id. ¶¶ 39, 46.) Queiroz's employment status changed to part-time, but her salary allegedly remained the same after Goode's termination. ( Id. ) The Complaint provides no information regarding Queiroz's exact age, salary, or job description beyond "attorney." ( Id. ¶ 46.)

In response to these events, Goode filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging race, sex, and age discrimination. ( Id. ¶ 6.) After receiving a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter from the EEOC, Goode brought this action against CVLAS. ( Id. ) He asserts three separate counts ofdiscriminatory termination based on race (Counts I and II) and age (Count III) in violation ofTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e through 2000e-17 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1) ("ADEA").[2] CVLAS moves to dismiss allclaims against it pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[] only a short and plain statement ofthe claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice ofwhat the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not assert "detailed factual allegations, " but must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation ofthe elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). Thus, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), to one that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. In considering ...


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