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Shuler v. Partner JD

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

August 20, 2015

PARTNER JD, et al., Defendants.


Henry E. Hudson, United States District Judge

Melodie V. Shuler ("Plaintiff), an attorney proceeding pro se, filed this suit alleging discrimination on the basis of her race against Defendant BrownGreer PLC ("BrownGreer"), as well as Breach of Contract and Fraud against both Defendant Partner JD ("PartnerJD") and BrownGreer. Specifically, Shuler alleges that BrownGreer created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her by terminating her employment after she reported purported discrimination to Partner JD and individuals at BrownGreer, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e through 2000e-17 ("Title VII"). Shuler contends that both parties committed breach of contract and fraud by not permitting her to work 1, 000 hours before terminating her employment.

The matter is before the Court on Defendant Partner JD's Motion to Dismiss Counts Two and Three for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 6) and BrownGreer's Motions to Dismiss Count One for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (ECF No. 9).[1] Shuler has responded, and this matter is ripe for disposition. The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the Court, and oral argument would not aid in the decisional process.

For the reasons stated herein, the defendants' motions will be granted.


Plaintiff, an African-American female, worked for BrownGreer from October 2012 to May 2013.[2] (Compl. ¶ 35, ECF No. 3.) Partner JD, an agency which places individuals with legal entities on a temporary basis, entered into an Employment Agreement (the "Agreement") with Plaintiff in October 2012. (Def. Partner JD's Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A thereto.) ("Empl. Agr."). That Agreement lists BrownGreer as the client who would employ Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff documents that in February of 2013, she complained about statements made by two co-workers that she deemed insensitive and which, she avers, caused her to become stressed and ill from the discriminatory work environment at BrownGreer. (Compl. ¶ 43-44.) Plaintiff explains that after disclosing the statements, she was moved to an undesirable location in the office and told by a supervisor to just ignore the women. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Plaintiff contends that she was continuously harassed by co-workers, particularly Chad Gardner. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-19.) Plaintiff explains that even after she complained of Gardner's racist, nasty conduct, BrownGreer promoted him to be her supervisor. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff believed that Gardner's behavior was motivated by his hope of getting her to voluntarily quit. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

In addition to her Title VII claims for hostile work environment and retaliation, Plaintiff contends that BrownGreer and PartnerJD committed breach of contract and fraud related to her employment by not permitting her to complete 1, 000 hours of work prior to her termination. (Id. at ¶¶ 64-66, 79-83.)

BrownGreer argues that Plaintiffs hostile work environment and retaliation claims are procedurally barred. BrownGreer and PartnerJD move to dismiss Counts Two and Three pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).


"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 of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. 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 of the 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 such a motion, Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. T.G. Slater, 385 F.3d at 841 (citation omitted). Legal conclusions enjoy no such deference. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

As a general proposition, "[p]leadings must be construed to do justice." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d). At the same time, courts recognize that a plaintiff "can plead himself out of court by pleading facts that show that he has no legal claim." Atkins v. City of Chicago, 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011) (Posner, J.) (citing Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 588 (7th Cir. 2009); Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1086 (7th Cir. 2008); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 777 (7th Cir. 2007); Orthmann v. Apple River Campground, 757 F.2d 909, 915 (7th Cir. 1985); and Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006)).


The defendants seek dismissal on two fronts. First, BrownGreer argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Shuler's Title VII claim as she has not filed an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Second, PartnerJD and BrownGreer challenge ...

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