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Hussain v. ACCA, Inc.

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

November 29, 2016

SELAI AKBAR HUSSAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
ACCA, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Service of Process and Failure to State a Claim. [Dkt. 4.] For the following reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's motion. Additionally, the Court will order Plaintiff to file a more particularized Complaint.

         I. Background

         This case is brought by pro se Plaintiff Selai Akbar-Hussain (“Plaintiff”) against ACCA, Inc. (“Defendant” or “ACCA”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant engaged in unlawful discrimination and failed to make appropriate accommodations. (Compl. [Dkt. 1-1] at 4.) Plaintiff also alleges that she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation. (Id.)

         Plaintiff was formerly employed by Defendant as a Child Development Aide at ACCA. On November 18, 2014, Plaintiff requested a mediation meeting with Maria-Isabel Balivian, ACCA's Director, and Jennifer Shaw, Plaintiff's supervisor, to discuss communication issues between Plaintiff and her co-teacher, Selam Guya. (Def. Mem. in Supp. at 2-3; Compl. at 4, ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that the topic of conversation focused instead on her mental health. (Compl. at 4, ¶ 1.) She alleges that she was told that she was “too sensitive, ” her “perspective was askew, ” and that she was “unable to do [her] job.” (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that ACCA staff recommended a mental health facility to her that could provide medication and therapy for those without health insurance. (Id.)

         On November 19, 2014, Plaintiff arrived at work and asked to speak to Ms. Shaw. (Compl. at 4, ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges that she expressed concern about the comments made during the prior day's meeting about her mental health. (Id.) She believed that the topic was a distraction from “the real issue.” (Id.) She also alleges that she informed Ms. Shaw that she had “done [her] research the night before” regarding her ADA rights. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Ms. Shaw immediately asked her to go home on administrative leave. (Id.) Plaintiff allegedly told Ms. Shaw that she was able to work and that she was worried that “[sending her home] was a form of retaliation for speaking up for [her] rights.” (Id.) Ms. Shaw allowed Plaintiff to go to her classroom, where Plaintiff taught for most of the day. (Id.) Around 2 pm that afternoon, however, Plaintiff was asked to go to Ms. Balivian's office, where she met with Ms. Balivian and Ms. Shaw. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was then terminated. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that she asked if she was being fired because she voiced concerns over ACCA's actions towards her the prior day. (Id.) Plaintiff also allegedly asserted that it was illegal to fire her for speaking up for her rights. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Ms. Balivian responded to Plaintiff by clarifying that, in Virginia, employment is at-will, so ACCA did not need an excuse for firing her. (Id.) Plaintiff was then escorted out of the building. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) in 2010. (Compl. at 3.) She claims that she takes three medications to manage her mental health, as well as attends regular appointments with a therapist and a psychiatrist. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed suit in state court on September 28, 2015. [See Dkt. 1-1 at 2.] On October 19, 2016, Defendant filed a notice of removal to federal court. [Dkt. 1.] On October 26, 2016, Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss. [Dkt. 4.] On November 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed her memorandum in opposition, [Dkt. 6.], to which Defendant replied on November 21, 2016, [Dkt. 8.]. Defendant's motion is now ripe for disposition.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(5) for Improper Service of Process

         “[W]hen a defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(5), the plaintiff bears the burden of proving adequate service.” Dickerson v. Napolitano, 604 F.3d 732, 752 (4th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted). “Absent waiver or consent, a failure to obtain proper service on the defendant deprives the court of personal jurisdiction over the defendant.” Koehler v. Dodwell, 152 F.3d 304 (4th Cir. 1998) (internal citation omitted). However, when “the defendant [has] actual notice of the pendency of the action, the rules, in general, are entitled to a liberal construction. . . . [E]very technical violation of the rule or failure of strict compliance may not invalidate the service of process.” Armco, Inc. v. Penrod-Staufer Bldg. Sys., Inc., 733 F.2d 1087, 1089 (4th Cir. 1984).

         B. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for Failure to State a Claim

         “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 Supreme Court has stated that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a [c]omplaint 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 pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted). While legal conclusions can provide the framework for a complaint, all claims must be supported by factual allegations. Id. Based upon these allegations, the court must determine whether the plaintiff's pleadings plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief. Id. Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not sufficient, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, nor are “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments, ” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). ...


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