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Taguinod v. Amazon.Com, Inc.

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

December 15, 2016

KRISTIAN TAGUINOD, Plaintiff,
v.
AMAZON.COM, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANTS* MOTION TO DISMISS IN PART AND REMANDING THE CASE)

          Henry E. Hudson, United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Amazon.com, Inc. ("Amazon"), Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. ("ISS"), and Mahmoud Omari's (collectively, the "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 6), and Defendant Mahmoud Omari's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (ECF No. 8).[1]

         The Defendants included an appropriate Roseboro Notice in both motions, as required by Local Civil Rule 7(K) and the Fourth Circuit's decision in Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975).

         All parties have filed memoranda supporting their respective positions.[2] 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. E.D. Va. Local Civ. R. 7(J).

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court will dismiss Counts IX, X, and XI of Plaintiffs Complaint, which allege claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq. ("Title VH"). As the parties are not diverse and those Counts are the only ones arising under federal law, the Court finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the rest of Plaintiff s claims. Therefore, the Court will REMAND this case to the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond, Virginia, where Plaintiff initially brought suit.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations to be true and views all facts in the light most favorable to him. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). At this stage, the Court's analysis is both informed and constrained by the four corners of Plaintiff s Complaint.[3] Viewed through this lens, the facts are as follows.

         In or around September 2014, Plaintiff, a Virginia citizen of Filipino descent, began working as a "Stow Associate" through ISS in the packaging department at Amazon Fulfillment Center RIC2 in Chesterfield, Virginia. (Compl. ¶ 1; ECF No. 1-1.) On January 29, 2015, Amazon hired Plaintiff as a permanent employee in its receiving department. (Id. ¶ 3.)

         Between October 1, 2015, and December 22, 2015, Defendants Mahmoud Omari and Malik Omari (collectively, the "Omaris")-both citizens of Virginia-were Amazon employees and worked alongside Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) During that time, Plaintiff summarily contends that Mahmoud Omari harassed him by making derogatory statements about his race and national origin. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9, 13.) The only racially tinged statement that Plaintiff alleges Mahmoud Omari made was, "[Y]ou philippinos [sic] are all alike and [too]... slow for me." (Id. ¶ 13.) Also during that period, Mahmoud Omari repeatedly went to Plaintiffs work station asking for work and became angry when Plaintiff told him that the work was not yet ready. (Id. ¶¶ 11-14.) Plaintiff filed verbal complaints with his department supervisor, Kayla Laughlin, on a weekly basis in response to this conduct. (Id. ¶ 179.)

         On December 22, 2015, Mahmoud Omari went to Plaintiffs work station and demanded unfinished assembly line work. (Id. ¶ 15.) After being told that it was not ready, Mahmoud Omari began to argue with Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff asserts that Mahmoud Omari threatened to kill him and told Plaintiff that he would be waiting outside to carry out his threat. (Id. ¶ 17.) Following the argument, Plaintiff again filed a verbal complaint with his supervisor. (Id. ¶ 35.) Laughlin told Plaintiff to go on a break, without taking any action to reprimand Mahmoud Omari or protect Plaintiff. (Id.)

         During his break, Plaintiff decided to go to his car in the Amazon parking lot. (Id. ¶ 38.) The Omaris followed him as he left the building and walked to his vehicle. (Id. ¶ 45.) Plaintiff asserts that upon reaching his car, the Omaris grabbed him, jumped on him, punched him, and choked him. (Id. ¶ 50.) At some point during the altercation, Plaintiff was able to escape to his vehicle. (Id. ¶ 79.) While there, Plaintiff grabbed a toy gun- which he admits "appear[ed] to be a firearm"-pointed it at his assailants, and put it in his pocket. (Id. ¶¶ 84, 87.) In spite of this perceived threat, the Omaris continued to beat him. (Id. ¶ 86.)

         After the altercation, the Omaris told a Chesterfield Police Officer that Plaintiff had pointed a firearm at them. (Id. ¶ 73.) Plaintiff was subsequently arrested and charged pursuant to Va. Code § 18.2-282. (Id. ¶ 99.) After reviewing video footage from the Amazon parking lot, the Chesterfield General District Court dismissed the charge. (Id.)

         Amazon fired Plaintiff because of his involvement in the December 22, 2015, altercation. (Id. ¶ 187 ("[P]laintiff['s] job was terminated on the basis of misconduct for being in an altercation.").) Amazon did not take any adverse employment action against the Omaris or charge them with misconduct for the incident. (Id. ¶ 188, 190.)

         Plaintiff filed an eleven-count Complaint against the Defendants and Malik Omari in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, Virginia, on September 29, 2016. The Defendants timely removed the case to this Court on October 27, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) The Court finds that it has original subject-matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367(a).

         Of the eleven counts, the Court will only address those that concern matters of federal law: race and national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII (Count IX); harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII (Count X); and retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count XI).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS a. 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenges the court's jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint. In resolving motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court may consider affidavits, depositions, or live testimony without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995); Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). Furthermore, within the context of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, a court may resolve factual questions to determine whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction. Thigpen v. United States, 800 F.2d 393, 396 (4th Cir. 1986), overruled on other grounds, Sheridan v. United States, 487 U.S. 392 (1988).

         Because subject-matter jurisdiction implicates a federal court's constitutional power to act, it may be raised at any time either by the court sua sponte or by one of the parties. Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728, 731 n.6 (4th Cir. 1997). The burden of demonstrating subject-matter jurisdiction resides with the Plaintiff. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d, 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

         b. 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 ...


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