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Stevens v. Virginia Department of Corrections

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

December 13, 2018

CARLA C. STEVENS, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”), Captain Gary Bowker (“Bowker”), and Captain Patrick Ridge's (“Ridge”) Motion to Dismiss. [ECF No. 4.] The matter was fully briefed by the parties, and I heard oral arguments on October 30, 2018. I have fully reviewed the applicable facts, arguments of the parties, and relevant law; the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, I will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff will be granted fourteen (14) days to file an Amended Complaint, if she so chooses.


         Plaintiff Carla C. Stevens, who is proceeding pro se, is employed by VDOC as a correctional officer at Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, Virginia. (Compl. ¶ I.C.) In that position, she was supervised by Bowker and Ridge. (Id. ¶ III.E.) On March 8, 2018, the facility was placed into “lockdown, ” which required all movement by correctional officers to be approved by the shift commander. (Id.) On that day, Bowker (was was Acting Major) and Ridge (who was the shift commander) permitted two white employees to have inmate assistance to help them pull laundry carts. (Id.) When Plaintiff requested the same accommodation, she was denied. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that, on that day, the white staff members were treated more favorably and afforded assistance to complete their job tasks, while she, a black employee, was not. As a result, Plaintiff was physically injured when she pulled the laundry carts alone.

         On August 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[2] [ECF No. 1.] On September 25, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 4.] The parties fully briefed the matter [ECF Nos. 5, 15, 16], and I heard oral argument on the Motion on October 30. I have reviewed the allegations set forth by Plaintiff, the arguments of the parties, and the relevant law. The matter is now ripe for disposition.


         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.


         A. Title VII does not impose liability on individuals

         Plaintiff names three defendants in her discrimination action: VDOC, Bowker, and Ridge. Both Bowker and Ridge are sued in their individual capacities.[3] Title VII liability applies only to employers. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b) (2018); see also Baird ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d 462, 472 (4th Cir. 1998). Individual employees are not “employers” for purposes of Title VII. See Baird, 192 F.3d at 472; Lissau v. So. Food. Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180-81 (4th Cir. 1998). It follows, then, that neither Bowker nor Ridge were Plaintiff's “employer” for purposes of Title VII. For this reason, the claims against Bowker and Ridge will be dismissed with prejudice.[4]

         B. Plaintiff fails to state a claim for discrimination against VDOC

         Generally speaking, Title VII prohibits discrimination in the “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (2018). Title VII suits generally take one of five forms:

A charge that an employer deliberately discriminated against the plaintiff because of race . . . (known as a disparate treatment claim); a charge that the employer used a facially neutral test or other employment practice that unjustifiably resulted in discrimination against members of a protected group (a disparate impact claim); a charge that an employer retaliated against an employee for filing a discrimination claim; or a charge that the employer constructively discharged an employee because of his or her race . . . .

Brown v. Prince George's Cnty. Health Dept., Civ. A. No. HAR 90-51, 1992 WL 142694, at *2 (D. Md. June 15, 1992). Alternatively, a plaintiff can assert a hostile work environment claim, wherein she alleges that harassment on the basis of her race was so “severe or pervasive” as to alter the terms or conditions of her employment. See Hartsell v. Duplex Prods., Inc., 123 F.3d 766, ...

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