United States District Court, W.D. Virginia
Helen L. Cobbs, Plaintiff,
First Transit Company, ET AL., Defendants.
K. MOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
K. Moon On April 1, 2016, Helen L. Cobbs
(“Plaintiff”) filed an amended complaint against
First Transit, Inc., Central Virginia Transit Management Co.,
Inc. (“CVT”), Greater Lynchburg Transit Co.
(“GLTC”), Dennis Dorsey, Kevin Lacy, Alan Robey,
Gloria Berkley, and Karen Walton alleging hostile work
environment sexual harassment (“Count I”),
quid pro quo discrimination (“Count
II”), and retaliation (“Count III”) by all
defendants-as well as intentional infliction of emotional
distress (“Count IV”) and assault (“Count
V”) by Dorsey. (Dkt. 5). Lacy, Robey, Berkley, and
Walton were dismissed from the suit on the ground that
supervisors are not liable in their individual capacities for
Title VII violations, (dkt. 21), leaving First Transit, CVT,
GLTC, and Dorsey (“Defendants”) as parties to the
matter is before the Court on Defendants' motions to
dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
and 12(b)(6), for lack of jurisdiction and/or failure to
state a claim. (Dkts. 15, 18, 31). The motions by First
Transit, CVT, and GLTC will be denied because Plaintiff has
adequately pled Title VII violations, while Dorsey's
motion will be granted, and the claims against him will be
dismissed because he cannot be sued under Title VII, the
assault claim is time barred, and the intentional infliction
of emotion distress claim lacks sufficient allegations.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the
legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the
plaintiff has properly stated a claim; “it does not
resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a
claim, or the applicability of defenses.”
Republican Party of North Carolina v. Martin, 980
F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). Although a complaint
“does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
need not “accept the legal conclusions drawn from the
facts” or “accept as true unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Eastern
Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213
F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). “Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
with all allegations in the complaint taken as true and all
reasonable inferences drawn in the plaintiff's favor.
Chao v. Rivendell Woods, Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 346
(4th Cir. 2005). Rule 12(b)(6) does “not require
heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Consequently,
“only a complaint that states a plausible claim for
relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
Facts as Alleged
about November 28, 2011, Helen Cobbs was hired by CVT or GLTC
as a bus operator. (Dkt 5 ¶ 13). In December 2013, Cobbs
was injured in a work-related accident and restricted to
light duty employment. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15).
During this light duty employment, Dennis Dorsey, who was
employed by either First Transit or CVT, was her supervisor.
(Id. ¶¶ 8, 16).
the next few months, Dorsey began commenting on Cobbs
appearance, sending her cards, sending her text messages, and
making other unwelcome advances. (Id. ¶¶
18-25). Cobbs told Dorsey that these unwelcome advances and
comments were “putting her in a bad position” as
she was often secluded in his office alone with him.
(Id. ¶ 26). Dorsey would also require Cobbs to
accompany him when he left the office to run errands.
(Id. ¶ 28). During one these trips, Dorsey
placed his hand on her knee and smiled. (Id.
¶¶ 29-30). Again, Cobbs continued to plead
with Dorsey to stop these advances, but to no avail.
(Id. ¶¶ 33-34).
told Cobbs “she could ‘have it anyway
[sic] she wanted, ' and threatened that he could
‘fix it where there wouldn't be any light duty work
available for her' and she could just ‘stay home
and get partial pay.'” (Id. ¶ 32).
The unwanted sexual advances continued, and when Cobbs would
not respond, Dorsey told her there was no more light duty
work and she had to take time off. (Id. ¶¶
37-38). However, the text messages from Dorsey continued, in
which he asked her to “come on over” and
“ride to MD” with him. (Id. ¶¶
returned to work with the assignment of answering phone
calls. (Id. ¶ 42). The advances and text
messages continued. (Id. ¶¶ 43-56). Once
again, Cobbs told Dorsey she was uncomfortable with his
communication and requested that she be assigned to work
elsewhere within the company. (Id. ¶ 56.) After
this meeting, Cobbs spoke with union steward, Chuck Hudson,
about the unwanted advances from Dorsey. (Id. ¶
58). She also reported the incident to Karen Walton, the
general manager, and Gloria Berkley, who works in human
resources at First Transit or CVT. (Id. ¶¶
about May 2, 2014, Cobbs met with Walton and showed her some
of the text messages. (Id. ¶ 60). Walton stated
that the text messages were not “that bad.”
(Id. ¶ 61). Berkley also failed to correct the
problem, stating that she had no control over who likes whom.
(Id. ¶ 62). After the meetings with Walton and
Berkley, Cobbs submitted a written complaint to Berkley.
(Id. ¶ 63). On or about May 5, 2014, Berkley
informed Cobbs that she would conduct an investigation.
(Id. ¶ 65). When Cobbs returned to her mailbox,
she had received a letter that she, along with other
employees, was being placed on furlough starting May 10,
2014. (Id. ¶ 66).
few weeks on furlough, Gloria Berkley called Thomas Coles to
inform him that a position had opened up, but he declined.
(Id. ¶ 67). According to company policy, Cobbs
should have been the next person contacted about the open
position, considering her seniority, but she was not called.
(Id. ¶ 68). In August 2014, Cobbs finally
returned from furlough. (Id. ¶ 69).
orientation for her return, Kevin Lacy, who was employed by
First Transit or CVT, stated that the company was not going
to deal with “some of the mess that people were saying
before the furlough.” (Id. ¶¶ 9,
70). Cobbs began to recognize that her co-workers would make
negative comments when she passed and she was constantly
disciplined and given written disciplinary letters.
(Id. ¶¶ 71-78).
about September 30, 2014, Cobbs filed a Greivance Form, in
which she requested a hearing related to a disciplinary
letter she had received and alleged that she was being
targeted by Dorsey. (Id. ¶ 81). Cobbs then
filed an EEOC Discrimination charge against CVT.
(Id. ¶ 83). On or about December 31, 2015,
Cobbs received a Notice of Right to sue from the EEOC.
(Id. ¶ 89).
sought mental health treatment due to these events beginning
in October 2014. (Id. ¶ 82). Dr. George W.
Luedke, a psychiatrist, diagnosed Cobbs with single incident
major depression and felt that she could not return to work.
(Id. ¶ 87). Dr. Luedke believed that Cobbs
would be incapacitated through February 30, 2017.
(Id. ¶ 92). Another doctor, Dr. Matthew Tatom,
has also treated Cobbs and diagnosed her with PTSD, anxiety,
and depression. (Id. ¶ 85).
Analysis of Claims Against First Transit, GLTC, and
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Transit and GLTC argue that they should be dismissed because
Cobbs failed to name these entities in her EEOC complaint.
(Dkt. 15-1 at 4; dkt. 19 at 18-19). Specifically, Cobbs only