United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
JEAN M. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
HILLDRUP MOVING & STORAGE, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Anthony J. Trenga United States Judge
se Plaintiff Jean Wright ("Plaintiff" or
"Ms. Wright") filed this action on October 27,
2016, asserting claims against her former employer, Defendant
Hilldrup Moving and Storage ("Defendant" or
"Hilldrup") for discrimination and hostile work
environment on the basis of her race and gender in violation
in Title VII, retaliation in violation of Title VII, and
wrongful discharge in violation of Virginia state law.
Construing her complaint liberally given her j3ro se
status, Plaintiff also asserts claims for discrimination and
hostile work environment on the basis of her age, as well as
retaliation, in violation of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act ("ADEA").
before the Court are (1) Cross Motions for Summary Judgment
by Defendant [Doc. No. 21] ("Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment") and Plaintiff [Doc. No. 32]
("Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment"), and (2)
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Lack of
Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim upon
Which Relief Can Be Granted [Doc. No. 9] (the "Motion to
Dismiss") (collectively, the "Motions"). On
Friday, May 19, 2016, the Court held a hearing on the Cross
Motions for Summary Judgment, following which the Court took
the Motions under advisement.
considerations of the Motions, the filings of the parties in
support thereof and in opposition thereto, the arguments of
counsel and Ms. Wright at the May 19, 2017 hearing, and for
the following reasons, Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment
is DENIED and Defendant's Motions are GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part. The Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED on the
grounds that the Court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction over any of Plaintiffs Title VII claims and is
otherwise DENIED as moot; Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED as to those remaining ADEA and Virginia
law claims over which the Court has subject matter
jurisdiction; and this case is DISMISSED.
following facts are undisputed or, when disputed, taken in
the light most favorable to Plaintiff:
hired Ms. Wright as an administrative assistant in its
Information Services Department in July 2015. She was an
at-will employee. In December 2015, Ms. Wright raised an
issue with her direct supervisor, Scott Fitzgerald, regarding
certain flex time. On April 14, 2016, Mr. Fitzgerald and
Roger Carroll, Senior Vice President of Information Services
and Chief Information Officer, to whom all of the Information
Service Department reported, conducted a six-month
performance review with her. The review identified
shortcomings in Plaintiffs performance (she was given a
rating of 1.25 out of 4), to which Ms. Wright took exception.
early June 2016, Ms. Wright approached Beth Williams, Vice
President of Human Resources, to discuss filing a complaint
against Mr. Carroll for harassment. Ms. Williams told Ms.
Wright that she would need to file a formal complaint and
that she would provide Ms. Wright with the form to do so. On
Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Ms. Williams emailed Ms. Wright the
form, apologizing for the delay in providing it to her and
explaining that she had a family emergency the prior week.
Ms. Williams received no response to this email. She followed
up on Monday, June 13, 2016. On June 14, 2016, Ms. Wright
responded, telling Ms. Williams that she decided not to file
a formal complaint with Hilldrup "due to the lack of
concern and seriousness displayed from all parties involved
here at Hilldrup." She informed Ms. Williams that she
had "been advised to seek counseling elsewhere." On
June 21, 2016, Ms. Williams notified Ms. Wright that she was
still available to meet and discuss her concerns further, if
Ms. Wright would like, and that she would move forward to
investigate the complaint in any event. On Tuesday, June 28,
2016, Ms. Williams emailed Ms. Wright to tell her that she
would like to meet with her to discuss the results of her
investigation. Ms. Wright responded that she did not have any
time that afternoon, and that she was unable to meet the
following morning because she was going on vacation on Friday
and would be busy until then. In the same email, Ms. Wright
informed Ms. Williams that she had filed a complaint with the
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the
"EEOC") instead of filing the complaint with
Hilldrup's Human Resources. Also on June 28, 2016, Ms.
Wright emailed Mr. Carroll, informing him that the matter was
under investigation by the EEOC and that he should only
communicate with her through email. The next morning, June 29,
2016, Ms. Williams responded to Ms. Wright, telling her that
Hilldrup was aware of the EEOC Complaint and asking her to
meet with her, which Ms. Wright did. In that email, Ms.
Williams advised Ms. Wright that she could not prohibit her
boss, Mr. Carroll, from speaking with her.
August 3, 2016, Mr. Fitzgerald and Ms. Williams conducted a
12-month performance review with Ms. Wright, which again
discussed Hilldrup's concerns with Ms. Wright's
interpersonal issues. Mr. Fitzgerald also drafted a
performance improvement plan, which included weekly meetings
between Ms. Wright, Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Fitzgerald between
August 12, 2016 and October 7, 2016 to provide Ms. Wright
with feedback. Ms. Wright again took exception to her review
and drafted a rebuttal to the criticisms. Mr. Carroll then
drafted an addendum to her performance review further
detailing her performance issues.
August 5, 2016, Ms. Wright sent Ms. Williams an email
asserting that she had been subject to a hostile workplace
environment. On August 15, 2016, Ms. Wright and Ms. Williams
met to discuss Ms. Wright's concerns and her request to
be transferred to another department at Hilldrup. In a
follow-up email, Ms. Williams, noting that Hilldrup had found
no evidence of wrongdoing, informed Ms. Wright that Hilldrup
was nonetheless instituting provisions to keep verbal
communications between Ms. Wright and Mr. Carroll to a
minimum and to have a third- party present whenever
interaction between Ms. Wright and Mr. Carroll was required.
On September 6, 2016, Ms. Wright sent Mr. Carroll an email
informing him that he violated this policy when he spoke with
her without anyone else present in her section of the office.
By this time, Ms. Wright was openly recording her
interactions and meetings with certain Hilldrup employees,
including her weekly meetings with Mr. Carroll and Mr.
September 2016, Ms. Wright interviewed with Thomas Hinkley,
Hilldrup's Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales, for
another position in Hilldrup but was not selected. According
to Mr. Hinkley, he did not select Ms. Wright because he
selected a more qualified candidate. On October 6, 2016,
Hilldrup terminated Ms. Wright. Hilldrup hired Steven Curtis
to replace Ms. Wright. Mr. Curtis had retired from Hilldrup
in November 2015 and is 65 years old.
R. Civ. P. l2(b) (1)
contends that the Court is without subject matter
jurisdiction with respect to Plaintiffs sex and race
discrimination and hostile work environment claims and all
retaliation claims based on her filing of the EEOC Charge. A
Rule l2(b)(1) motion is the appropriate vehicle to contest
subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff bears the burden
of establishing the court's subject matter jurisdiction
when contested under Rule 12(b)(1). Trinity Outdoor,
L.L.C. v. City of Rockville, 123 F.App'x 101, 105
(4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). In analyzing motions to dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court is
entitled to review materials outside the pleadings without
converting the proceedings to one for summary judgment.
See White Tail Park, Inc. v. Stroube, 413
F.3d 451, 459 (4th Cir. 2005); Velasco v. Government of
Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004).
Additionally, the district court analyzing the motions
"should apply the standard applicable to a motion for
summary judgment, under which the nonmoving party must set
forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a
genuine issue of material fact exists." Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. U.S., 945 F.2d
765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). If a district
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an action, the
action must be dismissed. U.S. ex rel. Vuyyuru v.
Jadhav, 555 F.3d 337, 347 (4th Cir. 2009).