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Matherly v. Telvista

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division

March 28, 2016

TELVISTA, Defendant.



Before the Court is Defendant Telvista’s Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 8]. Despite failings that typically would have been fatal to both parties’ positions, I heard oral argument on the Motion on March 1, 2016, and submitted the matter for decision. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant’s Motion will be granted, and I will permit Plaintiff to amend her Complaint if she wishes.


Plaintiff Nicole Matherly (“Plaintiff”) was formerly employed by Defendant Telvista. According to her Complaint, she was terminated on August 15, 2015. Plaintiff claims that her supervisor, Tiffany Gerhard, fired her “for being with [Gerhard’s] boyfriend (sexual), ” Keith Chaney. Plaintiff asserts that Chaney “wouldn’t leave [her] alone and [she] kept complaining about him.” Chaney “harassed [her] for over a year. [Plaintiff] kept going to Human Resources and nothing was done.” Before her termination, Plaintiff filed “severl [sic] complaints with HR but nothing was done.” Although Plaintiff claims she was fired because Gerhard believed Plaintiff was having a sexual relationship with Chaney, Plaintiff asserts that she was never involved with him.

On October 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.[2] In her charge, Plaintiff alleged discrimination based on Sex, Religion, and Retaliation. She received a Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter on December 8, 2015, and filed a pro se Complaint in this Court on December 14, 2015. Defendant filed a one-and-a-half page Motion to Dismiss on January 19, 2016. A Roseboro notice was sent to Plaintiff on January 20, advising her that, if she did not respond to Telvista’s Motion, “the Court will assume that [she] has lost interest in the case, and/or that [she] agrees with what [Telvista] states in [its] responsive pleading(s).” [ECF No. 10.] That same day, I entered a standard Pretrial Order which stated, in relevant part: “All motions must be accompanied by a supporting brief. In the event that a motion has been filed prior to the entry of this Order and it was not supported by a brief, movant must file a brief within 14 days of the date of this order.” (Pretrial Order ¶ 4, Jan. 20, 2016 [ECF No. 13].) Despite a court order requiring a brief in support of its Motion, Telvista failed to file a supporting brief. Despite being instructed to respond to Telvista’s Motion, Plaintiff failed to file any pleading in opposition.[3] Despite these failures by both parties-either of which would warrant refusing to hear the parties’ positions on the present motion-I permitted the parties to argue their positions. The matter is now ripe for decision.


To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In determining facial plausibility, the court must accept all factual allegations in the Complaint as true. Id. The Complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and sufficient “[f]actual allegations . . . to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Complaint must “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim.” Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). Although “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” a pleading that merely offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.


As an initial matter, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, her Complaint, “‘however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). “Courts must allow a pro se complaint to go forward where the complaint is broad and contains a ‘potentially cognizable claim’ that the plaintiff can later particularize, ” Peck v. Merletti, 64 F.Supp.2d 599, 602 (E.D. Va. 1999). Here, Plaintiff has failed to allege a claim with the specificity necessary to go forward, but I will allow her the opportunity to enhance her allegations to meet the applicable pleadings standard.

Giving Plaintiff’s Complaint the liberal reading to which it is entitled, it appears she is attempting three claims: sex-based discrimination (specifically, sexual harassment), religious discrimination, and retaliation. Each of these claims fails for different reasons.

The easiest to address is Plaintiff’s claim of religious discrimination. To state a claim for religious discrimination under Title VII, Plaintiff may offer direct evidence that her employer discriminated against her because of her religion, see Price v. Thompson, 380 F.3d 209, 212 (4th Cir. 2004), or she may establish a prima facie case of discrimination by alleging that (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) that she was meeting Telvista’s reasonable employment expectations, and (3) that she was treated differently from similarly situated employees outside her protected class, see Coleman v. Md. Ct. of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010), aff’d sub nom. Coleman v. Ct. of Appeals of Md., 132 S.Ct. 1327 (2012).

In Plaintiff’s Complaint, there are no allegations sufficient to plead a claim of religious discrimination. Plaintiff has not alleged anything regarding her religious affiliation and, in fact, expressly disavows that she is a Muslim. Without further factual support, this claim is untenable and must be dismissed.

Plaintiff also attempts to assert a claim of sexual harassment. “Sexual harassment claims fall into two general types:” quid pro quo discrimination and hostile work environment. Craft v. Lear Corp., No. 1:04cv00084, 2005 WL 1677903, at *1 (W.D. Va. July 19, 2005).

“Quid pro quo sexual harassment refers to a situation where a supervisor explicitly makes submission to his or her unwelcome sexual advances a condition of employment, and also encompasses situations where submission to unwelcome sexual advances is not explicitly made a condition of employment, but the rejection of such advances is nevertheless the motivation underlying an employer’s decision to take an adverse employment action against an employee.” Briggs v. Waters, 484 F.Supp.2d 466, 476 (E.D. Va. 2007). Nothing in Plaintiff’s Complaint suggests that she was subjected to a supervisor’s unwelcome sexual advances or that she was ...

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