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Jackson-Brown v. Technical and Project Engineering Services, LLC

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

December 17, 2014

KYLIA JACKSON-BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
TECHNICAL AND PROJECT ENGINEERING SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GERALD BRUCE LEE, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Technical & Project Engineering Services, LLC's ("Defendant" or "TAPE") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 2). This case arises from Plaintiff Kylia Jackson-Brown's ("Plaintiff") allegations that Defendant, her former employer, discriminated against her because of her gender and her brother's sexual relationship with her supervisor, Lisa Simpson. This case also involves the allegation that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff because she filed complaints regarding this discrimination with the Senior Vice President of TAPE and with the Equal Employment Commission ("EEOC").

There are three issues before the Court. First, whether Plaintiff stated a claim for sex discrimination when she asserted she was fired following a failed sexual relationship between Plaintiff's brother and Plaintiff's supervisor. Second, whether TAPE's alleged adverse action, which began before Plaintiff engaged in a protected activity, causally linked the protected activity and the adverse employment action for the purposes of Title VII. Third, whether Plaintiff demonstrated that she exhausted administrative remedies before filing her Complaint with the Court.

The Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for three reasons. First, the sex discrimination claim is dismissed because the alleged state of affairs between Plaintiff, Plaintiff's brother, and Plaintiff's supervisor do not give rise to a violation of Title VII. Second, the retaliation claim is dismissed because no causal connection exists between Defendant's action and Plaintiff's filing as the alleged adverse employment action occurred before she filed a complaint with the EEOC. Additionally, the retaliation claim is dismissed because Plaintiff did not provide a copy of her EEOC charge with the Complaint and thus did not demonstrate that she exhausted administrative remedies before filing her Complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff first filed this Title VII Civil Rights Act discrimination case in Fairfax County Circuit Court. Defendant then removed this case to federal court. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is now properly before the Court.

The allegations which follow are drawn from the Complaint and are reviewed in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Mylan Lab., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). In July 2013, Plaintiff began working at TAPE in its Human Resources department. (Doc. 1-3 ¶¶ 1, 4.) During the first months of her employment, Plaintiff received recognition for her outstanding work and professionalism. (Doc. 1-3 ¶ 1.) By the end of October, however, Plaintiff noticed a "slight change" in rapport with her supervisor, Lisa Simpson. ( Id. ) Ms. Simpson began to monitor Plaintiff's time and ate lunch with Plaintiff on a daily basis. ( Id. ) During one of these daily lunches, Ms. Simpson informed Plaintiff that "[Plaintiff] was the reason why [Ms. Simpson's] sexual relationship with [Plaintiff's] brother ended." ( Id. )

In December 2013, Plaintiff advised the Senior Vice President of TAPE that Ms. Simpson appeared unhappy with her because of Ms. Simpson's failed relationship with Plaintiff's brother. ( Id. ) Plaintiff further advised the Senior Vice President that she felt Ms. Simpson was harassing her. ( Id. ) After this discussion, Ms. Simpson's monitoring of Plaintiff increased. ( Id. ) Ms. Simpson required Plaintiff to submit a detailed work log describing the work Plaintiff completed each day. ( Id. ) Ms. Simpson also required Plaintiff to provide notice of when Plaintiff arrived to, and left from work, by sending Ms. Simpson an email upon her arrival and departure. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that out of 184 employees, she was the only employee whose daily work product and time were monitored. ( Id. )

In January 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint against TAPE with the EEOC. ( Id. ¶ 3.) The EEOC notified TAPE of Plaintiff's complaint on March 5, 2014. ( Id. ) Immediately thereafter, Ms. Simpson took Plaintiff's personnel file from the human resources file room and kept it in her possession until March 25, 2014. ( Id. )

In February 2014, Plaintiff discussed her situation with TAPE's human resources auditing firm. ( Id. ¶ 4.) Following this conversation, TAPE appointed Christine Workman, Vice President of Administration, as Plaintiff's supervisor. ( Id. ) Plaintiff, however, continued to receive assignments from Ms. Simpson because Ms. Workman was unfamiliar with the needs of the Human Resources department. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that after Ms. Workman's appointment, Ms. Simpson emailed Plaintiff more frequently and assigned Plaintiff work with deadlines that were difficult to meet. ( Id. ¶ 5.)

On March 20, 2014, Plaintiff went to the emergency room as a result of the stress and anxiety she suffered due to her working environment. ( Id. ) Plaintiff resigned from TAPE on March 27, 2015. ( Id. ¶ 6.)

On June 4, 2014, the EEOC notified TAPE that Plaintiff's EEOC charge had been dismissed because "[b]ased upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes." ( Id. at 5.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a defendant to move for dismissal when the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1). In considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that federal subject matter jurisdiction is proper. See United States v. Hays, 515 U.S. 737, 743 (1995) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936)); Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). There are two ways in which a defendant may present a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss. First, a defendant may attack the complaint on its face when the complaint "fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction may be based." Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219. In such a case, all facts as alleged by the plaintiff are assumed to be true. Id.

Alternatively, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss may attack the existence of subject matter jurisdiction over the case apart from the pleadings. See Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)); White v. CMA Constr. Co., 947 F.Supp. 231, 233 (E.D. Va. 1996). In such a case, the trial court's "very power to hear the case" is at issue. Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. The district court is then free to weigh the evidence to determine the existence of jurisdiction. Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219. "No presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891.

A Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss should be granted unless an adequately stated claim is "supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegation in the complaint." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007) (internal citations omitted); see FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqubal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint is also insufficient if it relies upon "naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal citations omitted).

In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must set forth "a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. ; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable ...


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