United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Partial
Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike Claim for Compensatory
and Punitive Damages and Jury Demand. [Dkt. 15.] For the
following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's
partial motion to dismiss. The Court will also grant
Defendant's motion to strike.
case is brought by pro se Plaintiff Selai
Akbar-Hussain (“Plaintiff”) against ACCA, Inc.
(“Defendant” or “ACCA”). Plaintiff
alleges that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”)
in 2010. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 6.) Due to her mental
impairments, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant engaged in
unlawful discrimination and failed to make appropriate
accommodations for her at work. (Id. at 2.)
Moreover, Plaintiff claims that Defendant wrongfully
terminated her. (Id.) The following facts are taken
from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and, for the purposes
of this motion, are presumed true.
was formerly employed as a Child Development Aide at ACCA. On
November 18, 2014, Plaintiff took part in a mediation meeting
with Maria-Isabel Balivian, ACCA's Director, and Jennifer
Shaw, Plaintiff's supervisor. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 7.)
Plaintiff alleges that the topic of conversation during this
meeting was her mental health. (Id.) She alleges
that she was told that she was “too sensitive, ”
her “disability [was] affect[ing] the way [she] see[s]
and think[s] about things, ” and that she “needed
more help than ACCA could offer.” (Id.)
Plaintiff also alleges that ACCA staff recommended a mental
health facility to her that could provide medication and
following day, Plaintiff arrived at work and asked to speak
to Ms. Shaw. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff alleges that
she expressed concern about the comments made about her
mental health during the prior day's meeting.
(Id.) More specifically, she alleges that she
informed Ms. Shaw that she had ADA rights that protected her
from discrimination. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Ms.
Shaw told her to go home for the day. (Id.)
Plaintiff allegedly told Ms. Shaw that she was able to work
and that sending her home would amount to unlawful
retaliation. (Id.) Ms. Shaw then allowed Plaintiff
to go to her classroom. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.)
That afternoon, however, Plaintiff was asked to report to Ms.
Balivian's office, where she met with Ms. Balivian and
Ms. Shaw. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff was then
terminated. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that she asked
if she was being fired because she had voiced concerns over
ACCA's actions towards her the previous day.
(Id.) Plaintiff claims that Ms. Balivian responded
to Plaintiff's question by clarifying that, in Virginia,
employment is at-will, so ACCA did not need an excuse for
firing her. (Id.)
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
December 14, 2016, Defendant filed the instant partial motion
to dismiss and motion to strike. [Dkt. 15.] On December 30,
2016, Plaintiff filed her memorandum in opposition, [Dkt.
19], to which Defendant replied on January 5, 2017 [Dkt. 20].
Oral argument was held on January 12, 2017. Defendant's
motions are now ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review
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.
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). The plaintiff, however, does not have to show a
likelihood of success; rather, the complaint must merely
allege-directly or indirectly-each element of a “viable
legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63.
motion to dismiss stage, the court must construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read
the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein
as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Generally, a
district court does not consider extrinsic materials when
evaluating a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). It may, however,
consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues &
Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); see also
Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526 n.1 (4th Cir.
2006). In addition, the court may consider documents attached
to the defendant's motion to dismiss if those documents
are central to the plaintiff's claim or are
“sufficiently referred to in the complaint, ” so
long as the plaintiff does not challenge their authenticity.
Witthohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F. App'x 395,
396-97 (4th Cir. 2006).
Court construes the pro se Complaint in this case
more liberally than those drafted by an attorney. See
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Further, the
Court is aware that “[h]owever inartfully pleaded by a
pro se plaintiff, allegations are sufficient to call for an
opportunity to offer supporting evidence unless it is beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling
him to relief.” Thompson v. Echols, No.
99-6304, 1999 WL 717280, at *1 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing
Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972)). Nevertheless,
while pro se litigants cannot “be expected to
frame legal issues with the clarity and precision ideally
evident in the work of those trained in law, neither can
district courts be required to conjure up and decide issues
never fairly presented to them.” Beaudett v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th Cir. 1985). Thus,
even in cases involving pro se litigants, the Court
“cannot be expected to construct full blown claims from
sentence fragments.” Id. at 1278. Further, the
Court may not construct a plaintiff's legal arguments for
him or her. See, e.g., Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d
411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993).
Partial Motion to Dismiss ...