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Richardson v. Prince William County

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

January 24, 2018

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, et al., Defendants.



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Original Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         Edward Richardson ("Plaintiff") was employed as a police officer with the Prince William County Police Department until April 1, 2009, when he was fired, allegedly for lying and using excessive force on a prisoner. That same day, Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC. Two months later, on June 19, 2009, Plaintiff filed an amended charge with the EEOC alleging that he was discriminated against based on his race and was subject to retaliation.

         On December 17, 2009, the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter to Plaintiff. Plaintiff did not file suit within the required 90 day time period. On March 22, 2017 Plaintiff again filed a charge with the EEOC in what he classifies as an "appeal" of the 2009 EEOC determination. The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter for the second charge on April 5, 2017. On July 6, 2017 Plaintiff filed suit in this Court.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff presented seventeen counts. The seventeen causes of action interchangeably allege violations of Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983-1986, VA Code § 2.2-3900, VA Code § 2.2-3011, torts of defamation, libel, slander, VA Code § 8.01-46.1, VA Code § 9.1 - 500, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. There is considerable overlap and repetition between the counts. For clarity's sake, rather than address each count separately the Court will address the various laws Plaintiff alleges were violated.

         A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint. See Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept all well-pled facts as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint must provide a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and it must state a plausible claim for relief to survive a motion to dismiss, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The court should dismiss the case if the complaint does not state a plausible claim for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twornbly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Here, for claims under Title VII and the ADA (Counts 1-8), the Court finds that Plaintiff has not presented a plausible claim for relief. Under both Title VII and the ADA, only employers and not individuals can be held liable. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d 462, 472 (4th Cir. 1999) ("we have expressly held that Title VII does not provide a remedy against individual defendants who do not qualify as 'employers'" . . . "the ADA does not permit an action against individual defendants for retaliation for conduct protected by the ADA"). Plaintiff has not alleged that the individual defendants are employers in accordance with either Title VII or the ADA. Accordingly, all Title VII and ADA claims against the individual defendants are dismissed.

         As for the County, a prerequisite to bringing a claim under Title VII and the ADA is that the plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. Davis v. North Carolina Depft of Corrections, 48 F.3d 134, 140 (4th Cir. 1995). Plaintiff filed two complaints with the EEOC, one in 2009 and one in 2017, to which he received right-to-sue letters on both. However, the claims based on both of these EEOC complaints are time barred.

         The EEOC issued the right-to-sue letter for the 2009 complaint on December 17, 2009. Plaintiff failed to file a complaint within the strict ninety day timeframe and the Court does not find any waiver, estoppel, or equitable tolling is applicable here. Davis v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2649, *14 (E.D.Va. 2012) ("this ninety-day time period has been strictly construed and, absent, waiver, estoppel, or equitable tolling, a lawsuit filed in excess of the ninety-day period will be dismissed"). Thus, all of the claims related to the 2009 charge are dismissed.

         The claims contained in the 2017 EEOC complaint, and the subsequent complaint filed in this Court, relate to events that occurred after 2009. In order to state a claim under Title VII for race based harassment, the plaintiff must allege that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of plaintiff's employment and create an abusive atmosphere. Jones v. HCA (Hosp. Corp. of Am.), 16 F.Supp.3d 622, 629 (E.D. Va. Apr. 21, 2014) citing Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761 (4th Cir. Mar. 26, 2003). Here, the Plaintiff cannot sufficiently allege workplace harassment and alteration to his terms of employment, because Defendants did not employ him after 2009.

         Additionally, the retaliation claims stated in the 2017 charge were not timely filed. Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that the alleged false statements by his previous employer took place in 2010, but he did not file a complaint until 2017 - far exceeding the 180 day deadline. For these reasons, Counts 1-8 are dismissed.

         Turning to Counts 9-10, Plaintiff alleges constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As the Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit have determined, the appropriate statute of limitations period for a Section 1983 claim is borrowed from state law. Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, 544 U.S. 113, 123 n.5, 125 S.Ct. 1453, 161 L.Ed.2d 316 (2005). Based on Virginia's statute of limitations, a plaintiff must bring a Section 1983 claim within two years of when the claim accrues. A Soc' y Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 348 (4th Cir. 2011). The alleged events relating to the § 1983 claim occurred in 2009, far exceeding the two year statute of limitations. Accordingly, Counts 9-10 fail to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

         Count 11 alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and § 1986. Plaintiff alleges generally that Defendants conspired to interfere with his federal rights. Claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 are subject to a two year statute of limitations. Harris v. Obenshain, 452 F.Supp. 1172, 1176 (E.D. Va. May 12, 1978). All of the alleged events supporting the § 1985 claim occurred in 2008-2009. A claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1986 is predicated on the existence of a claim under § 1985. Trerice v. Summons, 755 F.2d 1081, 1085 (4th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, Count 11 also fails.

         Count 12 alleges a violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act ("VHRA"). The VHRA only applies to employers who have more than five, but fewer than fifteen employees. Virginia Code § 2.2-3903 (B). None of the individual defendants are employers, nor does Plaintiff allege that they are. Further, this Court takes judicial notice that Defendant Prince ...

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