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Carpenter v. Barber

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

December 7, 2018

JACK BARBER, et al, Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Lynetric J. Carpenter's Motion to Alter Judgment under Rule 59[1](the "Motion"). (ECF No. 15.) Defendants[2] responded and Carpenter replied. (ECF Nos. 17, 18.) Accordingly, the 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. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331[3]For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Procedural Background

         Carpenter originally brought this action against Defendants for: (1) failure to hire due to race discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981;[4] and, (2) violating her procedural due process rights, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[5]Defendants moved to dismiss Carpenter's Complaint (the "Original Complaint") under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)[6] (the "Motion to Dismiss"). (ECF No. 3.)

         The Court referred the Motion to Dismiss to the Honorable Roderick C. Young, United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).[7] (ECF No. 10.) On May 2, 2018, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). (ECF No. 11.) The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and dismiss Carpenter's Original Complaint with prejudice.

         By copy of the R&R, each party was advised of the right to file written objections to the findings and recommendations made in the R&R within fourteen days after being served with a copy of the decision. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). On May 16, 2018, Carpenter and Defendants timely filed objections to the R&R.[8] (ECF Nos. 12, 13.)

         On June 11, 2018, the Court adopted the findings in the R&R, but dismissed the Original Complaint without prejudice. On July 9, 2018, Carpenter filed the current Motion, asking the Court to amend its June 11, 2018 Memorandum Order to allow her to file an Amended Complaint. Carpenter attaches a Proposed First Amended Complaint (the "Amended Complaint") to the Motion. (ECF No. 15-1.) Defendants opposed the Motion, and Carpenter replied.

         B. Summary of Allegations in the Original Complaint [9]

         The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services ("VDBHDS" or the "Department") has employed Carpenter, an African-American female, since 2008. Carpenter first worked as a Program Administrative Specialist III, and then, starting in 2013, as an Information Technology Specialist I. Carpenter consistently received excellent performance evaluations throughout this time.

         In December 2015, Carpenter applied for the position of Clinical Operations Analyst ("COA") within VDBHDS. Carpenter avers that "[b]y any measure, Carpenter was the most objectively qualified applicant for the position. Despite this, the position was awarded to a white male applicant." (Original Compl. ¶ 14.) Carpenter claims the white male applicant (the "Other Applicant") "did not satisfy even the most minimum objective qualifications for the position." (Id. ¶15.)

         Carpenter alleges that Defendants "blatantly manipulated" the hiring process to favor the Other Applicant over Carpenter because of Carpenter's race. (Id. ¶ 25.) Specifically, Carpenter claims that VDBHDS originally considered the Other Applicant from a first batch of applicants[10]and decided not to offer the COA position to the Other Applicant.[11] Rather than moving on to the second batch of applicants, which included Carpenter's application, the Department violated its own hiring policies to reconsider the Other Applicant. VDBHDS ultimately offered the Other Applicant the position without ever considering Carpenter's application. The Other Applicant accepted the offer.

         Carpenter states that Defendants manipulated the hiring process to prevent Carpenter from obtaining the job offer due to racial animus against her. According to Carpenter, absent this manipulation, the Department would have considered her application, would have interviewed her for the position, and would have ultimately offered her the job.

         C. Additional Allegations in the Proposed Amended Complaint

         The Amended Complaint largely raises the same factual allegations as the Original Complaint, with necessary procedural changes[12] and some substantive elaboration, discussed below. The Amended Complaint brings a single claim under § 1981. Unlike the Original Complaint, Carpenter does not bring a § 1983 claim in the Amended Complaint.

         Carpenter adds new factual allegations in support of her § 1981 claim. Carpenter claims, upon information and belief, that Defendants "knew that Carpenter was the most qualified of the applicants in the second batch and that if they allowed the process to proceed to the second batch ... then Carpenter would have been ... awarded the position." (Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) In support, Carpenter alleges that only she, among the second batch of applicants, satisfied the minimum qualifications for the position. Carpenter concludes that "a proper review of the second batch of candidates would have inevitably led to Carpenter being the only candidate who could have, and would have, received an offer for the position." (Id.) According to Carpenter, Defendants Ball and Battaglia, motivated by racial animus towards Carpenter, "knew that they had to short-circuit the hiring process in order to prevent Carpenter from receiving the position." (Id. ¶ 26.)

         II. Applicable Legal Standards

         Carpenter's Motion presents a unique procedural question. A Rule 59 motion imposes a higher burden on the moving party than does a Rule 15 motion. When a plaintiff simultaneously files a motion to alter judgment pursuant to Rule 59 and a motion to file an amended complaint pursuant to Rule 15, the Court employs the more permissive standard under Rule 15 to determine whether ...

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