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Coleman v. Pentagon Federal Credit Union

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

March 17, 2017



          Leonie M. Brinkema United States District Judge

         Before the Court is defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Celia Coleman ("plaintiff' or "Coleman") has sued her former employer, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union ("defendant" or "PenFed"), alleging sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et sea.; a hostile work environment, retaliation, and discriminatory discharge under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; as well as raising a common law wrongful discharge claim.[1] Plaintiff has also named four individual PenFed employees as defendants: Muna Hall ("Hall"), Shelia Boykin ("Boykin"), Veronica Dewald ("Dewald"), and Marilynn Wells ("Wells").

         Plaintiff, who has been represented by counsel throughout these proceedings, has filed a total of four complaints in this case. On January 4, 2017, plaintiff filed her original complaint [Dkt. 1], which was closely followed by an amended complaint [Dkt. 4] on January 13, 2017. On February 9, 2017, defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss. The next day, February 10, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint [Dkt. 18], which corrected the numbering of the counts alleged. Finally, on February 21, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to amend her complaint along with her opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. Finding that the proposed revisions did not materially change the complaint, the Court granted the motion to amend on March 7, 2017. Accordingly, plaintiff filed her fourth complaint [Dkt. 26] on March 10, 2017, which is the operative complaint for purposes of this Motion to Dismiss. In this fourth iteration of the complaint, plaintiff failed to correct glaring legal errors despite having amended it not once but twice since the Motion to Dismiss identifying those errors was filed. Accordingly, for the reasons stated in open court and further detailed in this Memorandum Opinion, defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Coleman is a 55 year old woman who worked at PenFed for 31 years, which entitled her to a pension. Second Am. Compl. ("Compl."), [Dkt. 26] ¶¶ 13.[2] The complaint does not contain any allegations detailing her job title or duties, and does not make it clear whether she is currently drawing a pension; however, plaintiffs first Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge states that she was a "Mailroom Specialist" and her second EEOC charge states she was a "Card Fraud Specialist." [Dkt. 19-2] at 1; [Dkt. 19-3] at 1.

         Coleman alleges that sometime in 2009, Hall, whom plaintiff was "assigned to work with, " "physically assaulted plaintiff' on PenFed's premises by touching her, rubbing her shoulders, and hitting her hard enough to cause bruising. Compl. ¶¶ 25-27. The complaint alleges that Coleman reported the incident to her supervisors, who separated Coleman and Hall by transferring Coleman to the credit card fraud department. Id. at ¶ 29. According to plaintiffs EEOC charges, "the harassment continued to occur on a consistent basis" after her transfer, despite repeated reports to supervisors. [Dkt. 19-2] at 1; [Dkt. 19-3] at 1.

         The complaint alleges that between 2009 and 2016, "numerous inappropriate and discriminatory comments were made by Defendants regarding [Coleman's] age;" however, the only specific incident she describes occurred on an unspecified date, when Debbie Ames Naylor ("Naylor"), whom plaintiff refers to as a supervisor, "referred to [Coleman's] hair as gray and stated that she was too old to work at" PenFed. Compl. ¶ 55.[3]

         In July 2016, Coleman and Hall were once again assigned to work together. According to plaintiff, "[t]his was a sinister tactic implored [s]c] by the management at [PenFed] to target and force [plaintiff] out of her job into a forced retirement that had substantial [sic] less cash value than had she been permitted to continue to work another 15 years until age 70, which was mandatory retirement." Compl. ¶ 30. Specifically, plaintiff claims that she told Boykin (who appears to be a supervisor or human resources officer) "that she was being discriminated against and targeted by [Hall] and could not be subjected to any offensive touching, physical or mental abuse from [Hall] or become confronted by [Hall]." Id. ¶ 33. According to plaintiff, she specifically told human resources that this activity was motivated by her age and sex. Id. at ¶ 47. Boykin allegedly verbally reprimanded Coleman at the July meeting. Id. at ¶ 16.

         The complaint goes on to allege that after that report, "[i]nstead of accommodating [Coleman] by investigating the allegations, " the defendants "decided to institute a fraudulent and retaliatory plan of action and hostile work environment in an attempt to try and force [Coleman], a 31-year, dedicated, loyal employee out of the credit union." Id. at ¶ 36. This plan was allegedly executed by "falsely accusing [Coleman] of improper conduct, and falsely creating a fraudulent reprimand to force and pressure [Coleman] to sign it." Id. at ¶ 37. Coleman claims that on September 9, 2016, she "was escorted into a room with [Boykin, Dewald, [4] and Wells], who "mobbed her" and used threatening and coercive language in an attempt to make [Coleman] sign a written reprimand without affording [Coleman] the opportunity to have counsel review the document." Id. at ¶¶ 17, 39. According to plaintiff, forcing her to sign the reprimand was retaliation against her for complaining about Hall meant to "forcibly drive her out of the company" in an "attempt[] to disguise the termination as a 'voluntary acceptance of retirement, ' when in reality, it was a cold and calculating termination." Id. at ¶ 40. Coleman refused to sign the reprimand, and "quietly walked out of the meeting." Id. Shortly thereafter, she was asked to leave and was prevented from accessing her computer and her office. Id.[5]

         Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on October 5, 2016, alleging age discrimination and a second charge on October 27, 2016, alleging sex discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation.

         Plaintiff is seeking $5, 000, 000 in damages, which includes back pay, front pay, and punitive damages, along with reinstatement, removal of the written reprimand, and attorney fees and costs. Id. at 13.


         A. Standard of Review

         According to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint should be dismissed if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must set forth sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iabal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Com, v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). The Court must "assume that the facts alleged in the complaint are true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor, " Burbach Broad. Co. of Del, v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 406 (4th Cir. 2002), but only to the extent that those allegations pertain to facts rather than to legal conclusions. Iqbal 555 U.S. at 678. Crucially, statements that amount to legal conclusions without alleging any facts will not survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id.

         B. Individual Defendants

         Individual employees (including supervisors) are not appropriate defendants under federal discrimination laws, including Title VII and the ADEA. Lissau v. So. Food Serv.. Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180-81 (4th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, Counts 1 ...

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