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Ross v. Franklin County Department of Social Services

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

May 11, 2016

SUBRENNA ROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANKLIN COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Hon. Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Subrenna Ross filed this employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq., against defendants Franklin County Department of Social Services (the "Department") and Franklin County Board of Public Welfare (the "Board"). The case is presently before the court on defendants' motions to dismiss. For the following reasons, the court will grant in part and deny in part the Board's motion to dismiss and will grant the Department's motion to disfaiss.

Factual Background

The following facts, taken from Ross' complaint, are accepted as true for purposes of the motions to dismiss. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

Ross is a 50-year-old African-American woman. In July of 1994, she began working for the Department as a "Fraud/Eligibility Worker." Am. Compl. ΒΆ 8. Ross Was eventually promoted to the position of "Interim Self-Sufficiency Supervisor, " a position she held until December 3, 2013, when the events giving rise to this action occurred. Id. At the time Ross held this position, she was the only African-American supervisor out of eight supervisors, and the only African-American supervisor in the history of the Department.

On October 5, 2013, Ross married her husband, who is white. When Ross returned from her honeymoon in November of 2013, Deborah Powell, the director of the Department, told Ross that she was going to be demoted and asked her to accept this demotion. Ross refused to accept the demotion. Powell then informed Ross that she would either be demoted or must resign. Ross told Powell that she would not resign. Subsequently, Powell suspended Ross for a period of time.

On December 3, 2013, Ross was demoted after receiving a Group II disciplinary notice. The position was then filled by a white female with less experience. Ross claims that she was a dedicated employee for over 20 years, was qualified for the position, and performed her job satisfactorily. In addition, Ross alleges that, since Powell began working at the Department in 2011, either Powell has fired older workers or those workers have quit. Ross also asserts that the Department now consists of younger workers with little experience.

Ross currently is a self-sufficiency worker at the Department. She states that funding is not secure for this position, thereby putting her continued employment at risk, and that she receives lower pay in this role.

On April 7, 2014, Ross filed a charge of discrimination against the Department, the County of Franklin, Virginia (the "County"), and the Virginia Department of Social Services with the Virginia Council on Human Rights ("VCHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On June 26, 2014, Ross received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.

Procedural History

Ross filed her initial complaint against the County on September 19, 2014. In that complaint, Ross alleged that the County discriminated against her on the basis of race and age, in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the ADEA. She sought equitable relief, reinstatement to her supervisor position, damages for loss income and employment, damages for pain and suffering, punitive and liquidated damages, and attorney's fees and costs. The County failed to respond to the complaint, and the clerk entered default against it on December 19, 2014. On December 22, 2014, Ross moved for default judgment against the County. However, before the court ruled on the motion, the County moved to set aside the clerk's entry of default on January 20, 2015, arguing that it had a meritorious defense to Ross' claims. On June 12, 2015, the court granted the County's motion and denied the motion for default judgment.

On June 25, 2015, the County moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that it was not Ross' employer for purposes of Title VII and the ADEA, and that she failed to state a claim under § 1981. Ross filed a motion to amend her complaint on July 13, 2015. On September 14, 2015, the court held a hearing on both motions. After the hearing, the court granted Ross' motion to amend and took the County's motion under advisement. On September 17, 2015, Ross filed her amended complaint, which added the Department and the Board as defendants. On November 19, 2015, the court granted the County's motion to dismiss and struck the County as a defendant in the instant action.

On November 30, 2015, both the Department and the Board filed separate motions to dismiss Ross' complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court held a hearing on the motion on March 2, 2016. The ...


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