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Hazlegrove v. Colonial Pipeline Co.

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

December 18, 2018

GUY VARNER HAZLEGROVE, Plaintiff,
v.
COLONIAL PIPELINE CO., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne, Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT <ECF No. 11). For the following reasons, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 11) will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural Context

         Plaintiff Guy Varner Hazlegrove, proceeding pro se, sues Defendant Colonial Pipeline Co. ("Colonial") for "Harassment," "Sexual Discrimination," and "Wrongful Termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act." Am. Compl. 2 (ECF No. 10)-[1]

         The Court previously dismissed Hazlegrove's original Complaint because he had failed to bring the federal Title VII or ADA claims asserted therein within 90 days of his presumed receipt of the right-to-sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") as required by statute. Mem. Op. 8-14 (ECF No. 8). The Court considered the EEOC right-to-sue notice that Hazlegrove attached to his original Complaint, which reflected that it was mailed to Hazlegrove's current address on March 30, 2016. Id. at 11-13. Applying the presumption of mail receipt, the Court found that Hazlegrove had received the notice in early April 2016, but did not file his lawsuit until April 2018, well outside the 90-day window. Id. at 13. Nothing in the Complaint suggested that equitable tolling applied, so the Court found Hazlegrove's federal claims to be time-barred and dismissed them.[2] Id. at 13-14.

         Because Hazlegrove was proceeding pro se and because in his briefing Hazlegrove suggested that he did not receive the right-to-sue notice, the Court dismissed the claims without prejudice. Mem. Op. 14 (ECF No. 8) . The Court then ordered Hazlegrove to "file an Amended Complaint, in perspective of the. . . Memorandum Opinion" by September 14, 2018. ECF No. 9. Hazlegrove filed an Amended Complaint on September 13, 2018. ECF No. 10. As it did with the original Complaint, Colonial moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF No. 11.

         II. Factual Context and the Amended Complaint

         Hazlegrove's Amended Complaint once again alleges that a series of events between May 2014 and September 1, 2015 at Colonial-Hazlegrove's place of employment-gave rise to his claims. See Am. Compl. 2-3 (ECF No. 10). The substance of those events is not relevant to the present motion.

         The Amended Complaint then lays out the alleged timeline of Hazlegrove's dealings with the EEOC in a section titled "Factual Background." Am. Compl. 4. Hazlegrove alleges that he started the process with the EEOC in January 2016, and was told that his case could take two years to resolve. Id. Hazlegrove alleges no facts indicating that he contacted the EEOC between January 2016 and March 2017. See Am. Compl. 2-5. Hazlegrove alleges that, in March 2017, he was told by the EEOC that his case was still open. Id. at 4. Then, in June 2017, he alleges that he was told by the EEOC that his case had been closed in March 2016 and that EEOC would mail him a letter to that effect.[3] Id. Hazlegrove goes on to allege that the EEOC could not provide him proof of mailing of the right-to-sue notice. Id. Hazlegrove concludes the "Factual Background" of the Amended Complaint with: "Hazlegrove testifies that NO LETTER HAS EVER BEEN RECEIVED VIA MAIL from the eeoc." Id. (emphasis and capitalization in original).

         The Amended Complaint continues with an "Argument" section. Am. Compl. 4-5. The crux of that argument is that Hazlegrove never received the right-to-sue notice and therefore cannot be blamed for not filing his lawsuit in time. Id. He quotes language from the EEOC website: "Once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue, you must file your lawsuit within 90 days. This deadline is set by law." Id. at 4. He then reiterates that he never received the notice, that EEOC cannot provide evidence it was ever mailed, that he made repeated requests for the notice, that "the clerk of court" asked him if he had his right to sue notice when he filed his lawsuit, and that he was told conflicting information by the EEOC in 2017 about whether his case was still open. Id. at 5. He then discusses how both the assault and wrongful termination complaints were presented to the EEOC. Id.

         Hazlegrove concludes the Amended Complaint by asking the Court to "recognize the due diligence expended by a layman who has followed all instructions to the letter as given by government officials in filing his complaint." Am. Compl. 5. He also asks the Court to "recognize the egregious nature" of his termination.[4] Id.

         THE STANDARDS GOVERNING FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6)

         Motions to dismiss based upon Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) are evaluated under the following standards:

In [considering a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss], we must accept the factual allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" A claim is "plausible on its face," if a plaintiff can demonstrate more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." While considering a 12(b)(6) motion, we "may consider documents attached to the complaint or the motion to dismiss 'so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic.'"

Rockville Cars, LLC v. City of Rockville, 891 F.3d 141, 145 (4th Cir. 2018) (citations omitted).

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Courts construe pro se complaints liberally. As the Supreme Court has instructed, "[a] document filed pro se is &#39;to be liberally construed,&#39; and &#39;a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."&#39; Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citations omitted). That said, &ldquo;[p]rinciples requiring generous construction of pro ...


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