United States District Court, Western District of Virginia, Abingdon Division
Melvin E. Williams and Micah D. Wright, Mel Williams PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Plaintiff;
Melissa W. Robinson and Johneal M. White, Glenn Robinson & Cathey PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Defendant Russell County, Virginia.
OPINION AND ORDER
James P. Jones United States District Judge
In this employment discrimination case, defendant Russell County, Virginia, (the “County”) moves to dismiss plaintiff Pam Kincaid’s First Amended Complaint. Kincaid claims that she was discriminated against by her employer based on her gender and religion, and retaliated against for complaining about such discrimination, including being demoted. Kincaid asserts a number of federal and state law causes of action, including violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and due process violations of her property and liberty interests.
I find that none of the state or federal claims have been adequately pled to survive the defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. The plaintiff’s state law claims must be dismissed on the ground that the County enjoys sovereign immunity from state law tort actions. As to the federal claims, I find the First Amended Complaint fails to state a claim because it does not allege sufficient facts to show that the County is in fact the plaintiff’s employer. Thus, I will grant the defendant’s motion in its entirety.
The facts alleged in the First Amended Complaint,  which I take as true solely for purposes of the Motion to Dismiss, are as follows. Kincaid was a longtime employee of the Russell County Department of Social Services (“RCDSS”), working first as a Child Protective Services Worker and then as a Social Work Supervisor overseeing the Child Protective Services Unit. On January 1, 2012, James W. Anderson was hired as the Director of RCDSS, and, as part of his duties, became Kincaid’s direct supervisor.
According to Kincaid, Anderson acted with personal spite and ill-will towards Kincaid from the time he became Director. He singled out Kincaid for malicious treatment by mandating deeds of subservience that he did not ask of others, such as requiring her to knock on his open office door, beginning job-related conversations with taunts of “what’s the magic word?” to force her to say “please, ” and moving her workspace from an office to an open area cubicle. It is further alleged that Anderson barraged Kincaid with insults, comparing her to a pit bull, implying she was a prostitute, referring to her as a “negative Nellie, ” and calling her “Darth Maul” - an evil character from Star Wars - among other comments. He made derogating remarks about Kincaid’s Catholic faith, including that she “served two masters, ” and about her gender, saying he would “turn her into a southern woman.” Further, Anderson sabotaged Kincaid’s job performance by berating her in front of work colleagues, denying her resources needed to perform her job, contradicting her orders to subordinates behind her back, and reprimanding her for following the orders he had given. Kincaid complained repeatedly to Anderson about his behavior, to no effect.
In May 2012, Anderson requested that the Russell County Department of Social Services Board of Directors (the “Board”) terminate Kincaid from her employment, claiming that several co-workers and local attorneys had complained about her unprofessional conduct. At the time, Kincaid was on leave for several weeks due to a serious medical condition. She was not informed of the hearing or given an opportunity to be heard. The Board initially demoted Kincaid from supervisor to social worker, but later reinstated her after she showed that Anderson’s complaints against her were false - while leaving Anderson as her direct supervisor. It is claimed that Anderson’s unprofessional behavior toward Kincaid continued until he resigned from his position as Director in September 2013.
As a result of the demotion, Kincaid suffered reduced wages as well as depression and suicidal thoughts. She timely filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and having received the issuance of the right to sue, filed suit in this court on January 22, 2015, against numerous defendants, including the County.
In order 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
In the context of employment discrimination claims, “a plaintiff is not required to plead facts that constitute a prima facie case” in order to survive a motion to dismiss. Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510-15 (2002)). Nevertheless, a complaint’s ‘“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”’ Coleman, 626 F.3d at 190 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The County moves to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against it on a variety of grounds. Because I find that the defense of sovereign immunity disposes of the plaintiff’s state law claims, and the plaintiff’s failure to allege adequate facts disposes of her federal law ...