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Walker v. Mary Washington Healthcare

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

September 14, 2016

JAMES G. WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY WASHINGTON HEALTHCARE, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Mary Washington Healthcare's Motion to Dismiss (the "Partial Motion to Dismiss")[1] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[2] (ECF No. 4). Plaintiff James G. Walker, proceeding pro se, [3] has responded to the Partial Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 8.) Mary Washington Healthcare has replied. (ECF No. 9.) The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[4] For the reasons that follow, the Court will: (1) grant the Partial Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 4); (2) dismiss Count I; and, (3) order Walker to file an amended complaint that sets forth the factual and legal bases for Counts II and III.

         I. Standard of Review

         "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) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         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) (omission in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must assert facts that rise above speculation and conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is "plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "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." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. At 556). Therefore, in order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         Generally, district courts have a duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally. Bracey v. Buchanan, 55 F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999). Apro se plaintiff, however, must nevertheless allege a cause of action. Id. (citing Sado v. Leland Mem 7 Hosp., 933 F.Supp. 490, 493 (D. Md. 1996)). The Court cannot act as apro se litigant's "advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims" that the litigant failed to raise on the face of the complaint. Newkirk v. Circuit Court of Hampton, No. 3:14cv372, 2014 WL 4072212, at *1 (E.D. Va. Aug. 14, 2014).

         II. Procedural and Factual Background

         A. Summary of Allegations in the Amended Complaint[5]

         Walker worked as a pharmacist for Mary Washington Healthcare from August 4, 2008, until his termination on February 25, 2015. Walker typically worked the night shift, from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. As a pharmacist, Walker supervised technicians. During the initial period of Walker's employment, [6] he had "numerous problems with two night shift technicians, " both of whom were white. (Compl. ¶ 10.) According to Walker, "Colleen Peace of human resources and the pharmacy management" supported the two white technicians. (Id.)

         On January 16, 2012, Linda Koch, Administrative Director of the Pharmacy Department, sent Walker an email threatening to terminate him if he did not complete a computer learning module. Koch sent this email while Walker was off-duty, forcing him to complete the module on his personal time. Walker alleges that no other pharmacist received a similar threat of terminated employment for failure to complete this task. On the other hand, when a white pharmacist failed to complete "something of this nature, " Mary Washington Healthcare provided him extra time to complete the assignment while on duty. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On March 5, 2012, Walker applied for the position of night shift pharmacist at Stafford Hospital. Although Walker had seniority and more experience, Koch hired a white pharmacist, Noah Bell, for the position. On February 25, 2015, Becky Womack, Director of Pharmacy; Thoa Nguyen, Operations Manager of Pharmacy; and Peace fired Walker "for errors." (Id. ¶ 13.) Mary Washington Healthcare fired Walker without first suspending him. In contrast, when Mary Washington Healthcare fired Mike Checka, a white pharmacist, he received numerous suspensions before termination. Likewise, Mary Washington Healthcare suspended Brittney Black, a white technician, numerous times before firing her.

         B. Procedural History

         On November 24, 2015, Walker filed the Complaint in this Court, alleging discrimination and violations of his constitutional rights. Walker alleges that this case "is a civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages and injunctive relief against [Mary Washington Healthcare] for committing acts, under color of law, with the intent and for the purpose of depriving [him] of rights secured under the Constitution and laws of the United States." (Compl. ¶ 1.) Walker more specifically organizes his claims as follows:

Count I: "Constitutional and Civil Rights Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988[7]: Violation of Fourteenth ...

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