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Easterbrooks v. American Red Cross

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

July 14, 2017



          Raymond A. Lackson United Stales District Judge.


         Before the Court is American Red Cross' ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Julie Easterbrooks' ("Plaintiff) complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("Rule 12(b)(6) Motion"). After reviewing the Parties' filings, the Court finds this matter is ripe for judicial determination. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.


         Plaintiff was employed as a phlebotomist with a formal title of Collection Specialist I, for Defendant since September 15, 2008. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 9. On or about April 1, 2015 at approximately 5:30 p.m., Plaintiff alleges she observed her supervisor, Trish Sorey ("Sorey"), commit a violation when drawing blood from two donors. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that "Sorey tore the tip off her index finger glove and placed her ungloved finger in the venipuncture area, contaminating the sanitized site on two donors." Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff reported the violation to a supervisor, Kandice Gabriel, at the time of the incident. Id. at ¶ 15. Instead of confronting Sorey in the presence of the donors, Plaintiff put a stop on the blood products in question. Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff then wrote a report of the contamination and immediately provided the report to Ms. Danielle Tuazon who then handed said report to Ms. Brenda Fulmer. Id. Plaintiff alleges the report was later discarded. Id. Defendant investigated Plaintiffs report and found that Sorey did not commit a violation. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges Sorey denied these violations. Id.

         On April 7, 2015, six days after the incident, Plaintiffs employment was terminated. Id. at ¶ 18. At the termination meeting, Plaintiff alleges that several supervisors lied and concealed their awareness of Sorey's habit of violating procedures. Id. Defendant's official reason for terminating Plaintiff was that she failed to gain control of the blood products at the time of the contamination. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff contends this reason was a pretext and the actual reason for her termination was that she reported Sorey's safety and health violation. Id. at ¶ 20.

         On or around May 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry ("VADOLI"). Id. at ¶ 3. On November 30, 2015, VADOLI found reasonable cause to believe Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff for engaging in a protected activity. Id. VADOLI attempted to facilitate conciliation between the parties to no avail. Despite this finding, VADOLI refused to issue a charge, but authorized Plaintiff to sue on her own accord. ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at 42.

         Plaintiff initially filed this complaint in the Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk alleging Defendant violated Virginia Code §§ 40.1-51.1 and 40.1-51.2. et. seq. (See Compl.). On February 15, 2017, Defendant removed this case to federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. ECF. No. 1. On February 22, 2017, Defendant filed the instant motion and memorandum in support. ECF. No. 4 & No. 5. On March 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed her response to Defendant's memorandum. ECF No. 6. On March 9, 2017, Defendant filed its Rebuttal Brief in Support of the instant motion. ECF. No. 7.


         A Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss alleges that a plaintiff has "fail[ed] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Essentially, a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Jordan v. Alternative Resources Corp., 458 F.3d 332, 338 (4th Cir. 2006)). Importantly, a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion does not "resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republic Party of North Carolina v. Martin, 980 F.2d, 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992).

         To state a claim for relief, a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order for a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion, it need not assert "detailed factual allegations, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007), but rather it must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1955). A court must assume the factual allegations are true and construe them "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. As a threshold matter, a court must first separate the legal conclusions which are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct at 1950. A court "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Eastern Shore Mkts. Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).

         A court "must consider the complaint in its entirety, as well as other sources courts ordinarily examine when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 127 S.Ct. 2499, 2509 (2007). In other words, a court is not limited to the four corners of the complaint, but may consider other documents such as "matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint whose authenticity is unquestioned." 5B Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (3d ed. 2004 and Supp. 2007). Thus, this is a context-specific task that requires the court to draw on its "judicial experience and common sense." Francis, 588 F.3d at 193.

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief "should not be granted unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be entitled to no relief under any state of facts which could be provided in support of his claim." Johnson v. Mueller, 415 F.2d 354, 354 (4th Cir. 1969); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832 (1989).

         IV. ...

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