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Majure v. Primland, Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division

November 2, 2017

CARLA COOK MAJURE, Plaintiff,
v.
PRIMLAND, LTD., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JACKSON L. KISER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Primland, Ltd.'s Motion to Dismiss. [ECF No. 9.] Plaintiff Carla Cook Majure filed a response, and Primland filed its reply. Since that time, Plaintiff has secured counsel and is no longer proceeding pro se. All of her briefing, however, was completed without the assistance of counsel, and her Complaint is properly considered a pro se pleading. After considering the pleadings and arguments of the parties, Primland's motion to dismiss will be denied.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Carla Majure (“Plaintiff”) applied for the position of Spa Manager with Defendant Primland, LTD (“Primland”). During the interview process, Plaintiff was advised that the general manager of Primland, Mara Bouvier, [2] had assigned the position of interim spa manager to a young male with no prior management experience. Bouvier stated to Plaintiff that she desired a male for the position, “because she [Bouvier] felt a male could better control the mostly female staff.”

         After five interviews, Plaintiff received an offer of employment from Bouvier “with a salary lower than the stated salary range.” Plaintiff was also advised that the offer “included greater demands on [her] than on others with more supervision planned for [her] than others.” The Director of Human Resources, Penny Morgan, told Plaintiff that Bouvier did not want to hire Plaintiff, but that Bouvier was being pressured by Primland's owners to fill the position. Morgan also advised Plaintiff that, if she accepted the position, Bouvier “would apply unreasonable demands so that [Plaintiff] would leave.” Morgan asserted that Bouvier had done this to the previous female spa manager.

         Ultimately, Plaintiff declined the job offer. The position was filled by a male with less experience. He was hired at a higher salary and “without the unequal terms and conditions of employment” that Plaintiff maintains were contained in her job offer.

         Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received her Dismissal and Notice of Rights on February 14, 2017. She filed her Complaint in this court on May 16, 2017. On August 29, 2017, Primland filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint 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 plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In determining facial plausibility, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Id. The Complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and sufficient “[f]actual allegations . . . to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Complaint must “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim.” Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). Although “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” a pleading that merely offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, her Complaint, “‘however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). “Courts must allow a pro se complaint to go forward where the complaint is broad and contains a ‘potentially cognizable claim' that the plaintiff can later particularize, ” Peck v. Merletti, 64 F.Supp.2d 599, 602 (E.D. Va. 1999).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Before discussing the specifics of my ruling, I note that both parties have improperly injected additional facts into consideration of this motion. Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, was likely unaware that her factual enhancements were improper; Primland should have known better. The error is compounded by Primland's statement (in its reply) that Plaintiff's factual assertions were improper after including its own in its opening brief. The rules are quite clear: a motion to dismiss, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), is limited to the facts alleged in the Complaint. I would be within my rights to refuse to rule on Primland's motion at this point, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), but I will exclude both sides' improper factual matters and rule on the motion.

         Plaintiff's form Complaint[3] appears to assert two claims: “[F]ailure to hire me” and “[u]nequal terms and conditions of my employment.” At oral argument, Plaintiff stated that her allegations are not two separate claims, but rather are both elements of a single failure-to-hire claim. As a result, her Complaint will be construed as asserting a single claim of discriminatory failure-to-hire against Primland.

         At this early stage, in order to state a claim for discriminatory failure-to-hire, Plaintiff “is required to allege sufficient facts to establish a plausible basis for believing that she was [not hired] ‘because of [her] gender.'” Bradley v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., No. 3:15-cv-4734, 2016 WL 1521559, at *8 (D.S.C. Mar. 10, 2016) (citing McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dept. of Transp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015)) (Report and Recommendation), adopted by 2016 WL 1448484 (Apr. 13, 2016). She is not required to plead every element of the cause of action. “‘[A]n employment discrimination plaintiff need not plead a prima facie case of discrimination . . . to survive a motion to dismiss, ' because ‘[t]he prima facie case . . . is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement, ...


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