United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
Melvin E. Williams and Micah D. Wright, Mel Williams PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for
Henry S. Keuling-Stout, Keuling-Stout, P.C., Big Stone Gap, Virginia, for Defendants Russell County Department of Social Services, Board of the Russell County Department of Social Services, Harry Ferguson, Roger Brown, Laurel Rasnick, Bill Hale and Rebecca Dye.
OPINION AND ORDER
JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.
In this employment discrimination case, certain of the defendants have moved to dismiss the plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. The plaintiff 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. She 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"), the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and due process violations of her property and liberty interests.
The defendants Russell County Department of Social Services (the "Department"), the Board of the Russell County Department of Social Services (the "Board"), and the named Board members themselves (the "Board Members"), move for dismissal on a number of grounds, including sovereign immunity, failure to state a claim, the statute of limitations, and qualified immunity. For the following reasons, I will deny the motion as to the Title VII claims against the Department and the Board, but grant the motion as to the remainder of the plaintiff's claims against these defendants.
The essential facts as alleged in the First Amended Complaint,  which I take as true solely for purposes of the Motion to Dismiss; are as follows. The plaintiff, Pam Kincaid, a supervisor at the Department, claims she was harassed on the basis of gender and religion by the Department's director, James W. Anderson, from the time he was hired in January 2012. According to Kincaid, Anderson demeaned her by demanding acts of subservience that he did not ask of others, and by making malicious remarks about her Catholic faith and her gender. For example, Anderson would refer to Kincaid as a prostitute, and state that he was going to "turn her into a southern woman." (Compl. 5, ECF No. 43.) Further, Anderson sabotaged Kincaid's job performance by berating her in front of work colleagues, denying her resources needed to do her job, and contravening her authority over subordinates. Although Kincaid complained repeatedly to Anderson, his behavior continued.
The conflict culminated in May 2012, when Anderson requested that the Board fire Kincaid, claiming that several co-workers and local attorneys had complained about her unprofessional conduct. At the time, Kincaid was on medical leave due to a serious medical condition, and she was not given notice of the hearing or an opportunity to be heard. Based on Anderson's accusations, the Board demoted Kincaid from supervisor to social worker. After Kincaid demonstrated that the complaints against her were false, the Board reinstated her, but allowed Anderson to remain her 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. After timely filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and having received an issuance of the right to sue, Kincaid filed suit in this court on January 22, 2015, against numerous defendants, including the Department, the Board, and the Board Members. These defendants now move for dismissal of the claims against them.
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. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Further, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 679.
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 NA., 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 defendants move to dismiss the plaintiff's claims against them on a variety of grounds. Because I find that the Department and the Board, as well as the Board Members in their official capacities, are entitled to sovereign immunity, I will dismiss the state law claims, due process claims, and the FMLA claim on that basis. Further, I will dismiss the state law claims and the due process claims against the Board Members for failure to state a claim. However, I find that ...