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D. Sidney Potter v. Suntrust Bank

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

October 23, 2014

D. SIDNEY POTTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SUNTRUST BANK, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Partial Motions to Dismiss filed by Randstad US, L.P.S. ("Randstad") (ECF. No. 25) and SunTrust Mortgage Inc. ("SunTrust"), Reginald Ford, Linda Galipeau, Julie Hardy, Christine Miles, William Rogers, Margaret Slaughter, and Charmaine Surgeon ("individual defendants") (ECF. No. 10) and a Motion for Sanctions filed by D. Sidney Potter (ECF. No. 18). For the reasons below, the Court hereby GRANTS both Partial Motions to Dismiss (ECF. Nos. 10, 25) and DENIES Potter's Motion for Sanctions (ECF. No. 18).

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 12, 2013, Plaintiff D. Sidney Potter ("Potter"), who is white, was hired for a 1-year contract as a mortgage operations consultant. Compl. at 6.[1] Randstad hired Potter to perform work, on temporary assignment, for SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. ("SunTrust"). Id. According to Potter, while he was at work, "there was a persistent dialogue amongst the Nigerians who spoke in their foreign tongue." Id. at 7. Potter was distracted by these conversations since, in his view, "any language (i.e., French, German, Spanish), when spoken in the workplace [is] permissible, so long as it effectuate[s] the completion of work product." Id. Potter, who was sitting "directly next to two of the Nigerians, asked out of common respect if the persistent native conversations could be toned down, since the language acted as a distraction in completing the client workload." Id. This request resulted in a heated altercation. Id. Potter's temporary assignment was terminated on September 26, 2013.[2] Id. at 9-10.

On March 24, 2014, Potter filed identical administrative charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against the individual defendants and SunTrust, as well as Randstad, alleging that the termination of his temporary assignment with SunTrust resulted from reverse race discrimination. Id. at 11. Potter's charge, which is referenced in his Complaint, pertained only to alleged race discrimination. Specifically, the box entitled, "Race" was marked on the charge form but the "Retaliation" box was not. See id. at 12; Defs.' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint ("Defs.' Mem.") Ex. A. Potter provided a narrative in the EEOC charge form, which stated as follows:

On July 1, 2013, I was hired on a 1-year contract as a mortgage operations consultant. The basis of my termination was considered politically incorrect to ask someone to speak English. More specifically, I politely asked three other consultants that were seated right next to me too kindly converse in English (as much as possible). This was the third request in a four-week period. The country of origin for the three consultants is Nigeria, and the other consultants in the small workroom are approximately 90% Afro-American, of the 18 consultants on the work team. As a consultant of Caucasian ancestry, one of the Nigerians' response during this last incident was aggressive, direct and violent. At the height of this 2 to 3 minute verbal altercation, one of the other consultants got up to physically restrain this particular Nigerian. I was seated at a workstation during the entire exchange. He then made a physical threat. Approximately 45 minutes later the room was emptied out and I was "silently/forcefully" extricated from the room. Security and two other people had entered the room; wherein, I was promptly asked for my badge. I silently got up and placed the badge down on the desk as I exited the room and left the building by the stairwell from the third floor.

(Defs.' Mem. Ex. A). On April 14, 2014, the EEOC dismissed Potter's charge upon a finding of no cause. Compl. at Ex. 1.

On June 17, 2014, proceeding pro se, Potter filed a Complaint in this Court against SunTrust, Randstad, and the individual defendants. The Complaint alleges violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000 et seq. ("Title VII"). Compl. 14-28. These allegations arise from alleged racial discrimination and retaliatory acts that he encountered at his previous jobs at SunTrust and Randstad. Potter asserts two causes of action in his Complaint: (1) Count One contains a cause of action for discrimination under Title VII and (2) Count Two contains a cause of action for retaliation under Title VII.

On July 31, 2014, the individual defendants and SunTrust filed a motion to dismiss Potter's Complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. SunTrust moved to dismiss Count Two of Potter's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure. The individual defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On Augusts, 2014, Potter filed his opposition. ECF. No. 17. Potter additionally filed a motion for sanctions on August 5, 2014, which is literally the same language that his opposition contains. See ECF. No. 18. The individual defendants and SunTrust filed their reply on August 11, 2014. Subsequently, on August 14, 2014, Randstad also filed a motion to dismiss Potter's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Potter did not respond.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 allows for a number of defenses to be raised to a complaint at the pleading stage. Among these are the defenses that a Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), and that the pleadings fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Once subject matter jurisdiction has been challenged, it is the plaintiffs "burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists." Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, unlike a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "the district court may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Velasco v. Government of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir.2004) (citing Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir.1982)). Therefore, this Court may weigh the evidence and resolve factual disputes regarding jurisdiction by considering evidence outside the Complaint. Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir.1995)" Even though such a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is not converted into a motion for summary judgment, district courts "should apply the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment, under which the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 945 F.2d at 768. Only when "the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law" should the Court grant the motion. Id.

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted challenges the legal sufficiency of a claim, rather than the facts supporting it. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007); Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). A court ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must therefore accept all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, see Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999); Warner v. Buck Creek Nursery, Inc., 149 F.Supp.2d 246, 254-55 (W.D. Va. 2001), in addition to any provable facts consistent with those allegations, Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), and must view these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406 (2002). The Court may consider the ...


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