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Turner v. Richmond Public Schools

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

March 28, 2017

RICHMOND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al., Defendants.


          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)[1] filed by Defendants Richmond Public Schools ("RPS"), Kimberly Gray, Kristen Larson, Donald Coleman, Jeffrey Bourne, Derik Jones, Glen Sturtevant, and Dana T. Bedden (collectively, "Defendants").[2] (ECF No. 13.) Plaintiff Regina Turner responded, and Defendants replied. (ECF Nos. 16, 17.) The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[3] This matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         L Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Standard

         "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) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         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) (omission in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must assert facts that rise above speculation and conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is "plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Therefore, in order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         II. Procedural and Factual Background

         A. Summary of Allegations in the Amended Complaint [[4]]

         Turner, an African-American woman, applied for a position as an Instructional Data Specialist with RPS. On November 25, 2014, she received a letter confirming that RPS offered her the position with a start date of January 19, 2015.[5] Turner accepted the offer and "began carrying out her duties in that position" on December 3, 2014.[6] (Am. Compl. ¶ 16.) Around the middle of December, Turner signed a form acknowledging that she had read "RPS Policy 7.54, " which set forth RPS's drug and alcohol policy. (Am. Compl. ¶ 17.)

         On January 7, 2015, as a "condition of her employment and RPS [sic], " Turner submitted a urine sample for drug and alcohol screening at Chippenham Hospital. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.) RPS authorized a "'Pre-Placement' substance abuse test... identified as a 'Non-DOT' drug screen and breath alcohol test with a 'Company' chain of custody."[7] (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.) Twelve days later, on January 19, 2015, Dr. Andriano notified Turner that her drug test returned positive for cocaine. Turner, "incredulous because she has never ingested cocaine in her entire life, " requested another test. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-29.) Dr. Andriano denied that request.

         Distressed about the results of the January 7, 2015 drug test, Turner spoke with Janice Garland, her supervisor, and D. Timothy Billups, Executive Director of Human Resources. Garland advised Turner to "go to her personal physician and obtain another drug test" and then report to work on January 20, 2015. Billups informed Turner that Dr. Andriano must resolve "any decision with regard to [Turner's] positive drug test, " and that Turner could continue to work until a final decision had been made. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33.) On January 20, 2015, Turner submitted to her personal physician a "urine sample for drug testing." (Am. Compl. ¶ 32.) The results for this test came back on January 22, 2015, and "showed that Turner all drug screening including cocaine was negative [sic]." (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.)

         On January 21, 2015, Turner spoke again with Dr. Andriano, who informed Turner that she could not submit an entirely new urine sample, but that she could obtain a "split test, " in which a different drug testing laboratory would test her original urine sample. Turner chose to pay $175 for a split test, which "Quest from LabCorp" would perform. (Am. Compl. ¶ 36.) The split test came back positive for cocaine on February 11, 2015. On February 27, 2015, Billups informed Turner by letter that RPS decided to rescind her offer of employment because she had tested positive for cocaine.

         Before the rescission could be finalized, Dana Bedden, Superintendent for RPS, had to ratify it. On an unspecified day, Shonda Harris-Muhammed, a member of the School Board, raised "Turner's issues and concerns" with the Board's three-member Human Resources ("HR") Committee. (Am. Compl. ¶ 40.) The HR Committee reviewed "the facts of the case" and "concluded that there were serious questions as to whether RPS Policy 7-3.1 was violated." (Am. Compl. ¶ 41.) The Committee recommended that the matter "be investigated before a decision was made regarding Billups'[s] recommendation" to rescind Turner's offer of employment. (Id.) However, "[t]he Board's attorney questioned whether the HR Committee had authority to look into matters of discipline." (Am. Compl. ¶ 42.)

         The Board was scheduled to review Turner's case on March 2, 2015. Billups scheduled a meeting with Bedden and Garland immediately before the scheduled Board meeting to discuss Turner's case. Billups denied Turner's request to attend the meeting with Billups, Bedden, and Garland, telling Turner that "Garland would be [Turner's] representative at that meeting." (Am. Compl. ¶ 44.) Turner prepared a "time line [sic] of events" for Garland to share with Bedden at the meeting, but Garland otherwise came "[un]prepared to present to Bedden Turner's issues and concerns" regarding the rescission of her employment offer. (Am. Compl. ¶ 45.) At the meeting with Billups and Garland, Bedden "did not question or look into why Turner was not given a drug test pursuant to Policy 7-1.3, " nor did he investigate the type of drug test administered to Turner, specifically "why [Turner was given] a 'Pre-Placement' substance abuse test... identified as a 'Non-DOT' drug screen and breath alcohol test with a 'Company' chain of custody." (Am. Compl. ¶ 46.) Bedden simply stated that "he was not going to reverse HR's decision to rescind Turner's employment offer because he was trying to leave RPS and a decision in favor of Turner 'would not look good' for him." (Am. Compl. ¶ 47.)

         At the March 2, 2015 Board Meeting, without advising the Board of the type of drug test Turner was given, Bedden recommended rescission of Turner's employment offer. "Without any discussion, " and contrary to the HR Committee's recommendation, "the Board simply rubber-stamped Bedden's recommendation." (Am. Compl. ¶ 49.)

         On June 15, 2015, Turner submitted[8] a letter to the Board requesting reconsideration of its decision to rescind her employment offer. In support of her request for reconsideration, Turner stated:

(1) There are problems with the policy and procedure that were used in Ms. Turner's case including deficits in the chain of custody of the urine sample collected from Ms. Turner and the results reached with regard to that sample;
(2) there are serious questions with regard to the uniformity in the treatment of RPS employees who have tested positive for drugs or alcohol which include but are not limited to race and gender disparity; and (3) Ms. Turner was denied due process, [sic]

(Am. Compl. ¶ 51 (quoting June 15, 2015 Letter to RPS Board).)

         That same day, the Board notified Turner that it would evaluate her request for reconsideration at its Board meeting later that day "to determine whether there were sufficient facts in her case to justify a reconsideration of its earlier decision." (Compl ¶ 52.) Turner attended the meeting prepared to provide additional information as needed. However, someone made a bomb threat near the end of the meeting and the Board had to evacuate the building, so it did not consider Turner's request for reconsideration. Two days later, the Board contacted Turner and asked her to "provide[, by July 9, 2015, ] a two-page letter with any additional information [Turner] would like to share with [the Board]." (Am. Compl. ¶ 55.) Turner submitted "a revised request for reconsideration" on June 26, 2015. For unexplained reasons, "[t]he Board never met in a formal session either in open or executive session to address Turner's request for reconsideration." (Am. Compl. ¶ 57.)

         Turner points to two sources for RPS policies regarding drug and alcohol use and testing: RPS Policy 7-3.1 and RPS Policy 7.54. Turner relied on these policies in asserting her claims, but failed to attach them to her Amended Complaint.[9] Both parties quote from Policy 7-3.1 and do not dispute that it applies to RPS and its drug testing procedures. Neither party, however, attaches the full policy to their pleadings.[10] Thus, the Court has before it the following policy language:

RPS 7.3-1 contains the language:
This policy and subsequent procedures applies to all applicants and all School Board and Richmond Public schools employees regardless of service, position[J or appointment status. [(Am. Compl. ¶ 23.)]
All drug and alcohol testing procedures (including, but not limited to, sample collection procedures, laboratory analysis of samples, and reporting in review of test results) shall also be developed in accordance with Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug Testing Programs, 49 C.F.R. Part 40.[11] [(Am. Compl. ¶ 61; Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 8-9, n.7.)]
Any employee found to have a detectable trace of . . . any other controlled substance as defined in ... Title 54.1, Code of Virginia, as amended . . . shall be recommended for termination. [(Am. Compl. ¶ 89.)]
Richmond Public School reserves the right to conduct drug and alcohol tests on employees and job applicants under the circumstances described below and to require employees and applicants to release to the division superintendent, the Director of Human Resources, or their designee(s), and to Medical Review Officer the test results performed by any laboratory or health care provider performing drug and alcohol testing. [(Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 8-9, n.7.)]

         No pleading quotes from RPS Policy 7.54, but Turner summarizes it as: "among other things, prohibit[ing] the unlawful manufacturing, distribution, dispensing or possession or being under the influence in the workplace any [sic] narcotic drug, hallucinogenic drug, amphetamine, barbiturate, marijuana, prohibited under State law or to possess [sic] drug paraphernalia." (Am. Compl. ¶ 17.)

         Turner's Amended Complaint asserts claims against RPS; Joseph Andriano, M.D., who was "responsible, among other things, for overseeing the testing of RPS employees and applicants for RPS employment was [sic] regard to drugs and alcohol, " (Am. Compl. ¶ 10); Kimberly Gray, Kristen Larson, Donald Coleman, Jeffrey Bourne, and Derik Jones, all "duly elected members of the Board [of RPS], " (Am. Compl. ¶ 11); Glen Sturtevant, a "former elected member of the RPS Board, " (Am. Compl. ¶ 11); and, Dana Bedden, "the duly appointed Superintendent of RPS, " (Am. Compl. ¶ 13). Turner sued all individual defendants in both their personal and their official capacities. However, Turner did not sue Mamie Taylor, Shonda Harris-Muhammed, or Tichi Pinkney Eppes, who are also "duly elected members of the [RPS] Board... because they have by their statements and actions indicated their support of [Turner] with regard to the claims set forth herein." (Am. Compl. ¶ 12.)

         As relief, Turner seeks injunctive relief, including "[reinstatement to her former position, " and a name clearing hearing for herself and all RPS employees, as well as monetary damages in the form of front and back pay, five million dollars in compensatory damages, $750, 000 in punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorneys' fees.

         B. Procedural History

         At the end of June 2015, Turner filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC").[12] Turner alleged "race and color discrimination; sex (gender) discrimination[;] and[J retaliation against RPS." (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on or about February 10, 2016. Turner filed her Complaint on April 29, 2016, within 90 days of her receipt of the Notice of Right to Sue.

         On April 29, 2016, Turner filed her initial Complaint, which contained no exhibits.[13] All defendants except for Dr. Andriano waived service, [14] and their responsive pleadings to Turner's Complaint were due on July 18, 2016. Defendants timely filed a Motion to Dismiss Turner's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and Turner filed an Amended Complaint within twenty-one days, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B).[15]Turner attached no exhibits to her Amended Complaint. The Court denied the first Motion to Dismiss as moot and ordered Defendants to file responsive pleadings to the Amended Complaint. Dr. Andriano never appeared in response to Turner's Complaint, so Turner served him with the Amended Complaint on August 18, 2016.

         Turner's Amended Complaint contains three counts:

Count One: "The 'Non-DOT' Test Administered to Turner Denied Her Due Process of Law, " (the "Due Process Claim") against all Defendants;
Count Two: "Denial of Name Clearing Hearing, " (the "Procedural Due Process Claim") against the Board members; and,
Count Three: "Race and Gender Discrimination, " (the "Title VII Claim") against RPS.

         The Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, Turner responded, and Defendants replied.

         III. Analysis: Counts I and II, Turner's ...

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