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Perdue v. Rockydale Quarries Corp.

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

May 22, 2019

ALICE PERDUE, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCKYDALE QUARRIES CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge.

         Alice Perdue filed this action against her former employer, Rockydale Quarries Corporation ("Rockydale"), asserting claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Equal Pay Act of 1963- ("Equal Pay Act" or "EPA"), and Virginia law. The case is presently before the court on the defendant's motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         The following facts are taken from the complaint and employment documents referenced therein. See Phillips v. LCI Int'l. Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999) (noting that the court could properly consider a document submitted by the defendant in determining whether to dismiss the complaint "because it was integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint").

         On June 27, 2014, Perdue accepted a supervisory position with Rockydale. Offer Letter, Dkt. No. 10-2, at l.[1] Perdue initially requested an annual salary of $65, 000. Compl. ¶ 9, Dkt. No. 1. However, the plaintiff ultimately agreed to accept a lower salary. See Offer Letter at 1 ("For this position, your starting compensation will be $923.08 per week, which is equivalent to an annual amount of $48, 000."); Id. at 2 ("I agree to the terms of the employment set forth above."). Perdue alleges that she only did so because Gary Hubbard, who signed the offer letter on behalf of Rockydale, "promise[d] that if she proved herself, her salary would increase to $65, 000 within six months." Compl. ¶9.

         Perdue's benefits package also included use of a company vehicle. Specifically, Rockydale agreed to provide a company vehicle for Perdue to use for "business travel only." Offer Letter at 1. The defendant also agreed to cover the company vehicle's gas, maintenance, and insurance. Id.

         Perdue's first day of work was July 2, 2014. Compl. ¶ 7. That same day, Perdue acknowledged receiving a copy of Rockydale's employee handbook. Receipt for Employee Handbook, Dkt. No. 14-1. The handbook provided that "[a]ll pay increases for employees shall be in writing." Employee Handbook, Dkt. No. 14-1, at 14.

         Perdue subsequently learned that her predecessor, Cooper Maxey, "had use of a company truck for business travel and his work commute. Compl. ¶ 8 (emphasis added). The same was true for other male supervisors. Id. ¶ 10. However, "Rockydale never provided [Perdue] with the full use of a company truck." Id.

         In addition to this alleged disparity, Perdue claims that she was subjected to "continuous sexual harassment" while working for Rockydale, and that such harassment included "name .calling, swearing, angry outbursts, yelling, belittlement, crude statements, and gestures." Id.¶ 11. For instance, Blue Hill, a scale operator at Rockydale's Jacks Mountain location, "regularly called Perdue an asshole, idiot, and bitch," and "informed Perdue that Rockydale should never have hired a 'girl' to do 'a man's job.'" Id. ¶ 13. When Perdue reported her coworker's behavior to Hubbard, he simply "laughed and said, 'Well, Blue is Blue." Id. According to the complaint, Hill was not the only employee who engaged in rude or offensive behavior. "Male truck drivers swore at Perdue and threw tickets at her." Id. ¶ 14.

         Additionally, Charlie Underwood, a loader driver, "regularly called Perdue names and taunted other male drivers who were professional with her." Id. ¶ 15. "His taunts were crude and sexual in nature and made over radio channels that were audible to numerous employees and drivers." Id. After learning that Perdue had complained about his behavior to the general manager, Mike Chopski, Underwood confronted Perdue and swore at her for reporting him. Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

         In early June 2016, Hill attempted to have Perdue fired by arranging for a Rockydale driver to falsely claim that Perdue was sexually harassing the driver. Id. ¶ 17. Although Rockydale learned during a subsequent investigation that the allegation of harassment was "Hill's fabrication," Hill retained his position and continued to harass the plaintiff, "calling her names such as 'bitch,' 'stupid,' and 'idiot' whenever he spoke to her." Id. Although Perdue reported Hill's conduct to her supervisor, Rockydale did not take "sufficient action" to stop it. Id.

         In August of 2016, "Perdue asked her supervisor, Chris Willis, about the raise she still had not received and about the company truck." Id. ¶ 18. Perdue alleges that "Willis promised the raise and the truck, but neither ever happened, despite Perdue following up with Willis several times." Id.

         In May of 2017, Perdue complained to Chopski about comments made by a male driver. Id. ¶ 20. Chopski shared Perdue's complaint with the offending employee, which caused further problems. Id. Perdue alleges that employees and contract drivers began referring to her as a '"rat bitch, "' and that Hill threatened to "get her." Id. ¶¶ 20, 21. Efforts to report the behavior proved ineffective. John Basham, another supervisor, called her "stupid and dumb" when she complained about the male drivers, and "harassed Perdue for reporting improper practices to management." Id. ¶ 23.

         Perdue received positive performance reviews during her employment. Her June 27, 2017 evaluation included a score of 4.15 on a scale of 5, which signified that her work "almost always exceeds expectations." Id. ¶ 25. The evaluation also listed multiple "Employee Strengths." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In September of 2017, the plaintiffs husband, G.R. Perdue ("G.R."), began working for Kenneth Foley, a company that picked up loads of materials from Rockydale. Id. ¶ 27. G.R. had previously worked for another hauler in the same capacity. Id. ¶ 26. Management officials at Rockydale were aware of both of these jobs held by G.R., and they "never expressed any concern, or indicated that it was a 'potential conflict of interest' for Perdue's husband to work for a company that was picking up loads from Rockydale." Id. ¶ 26. Nonetheless, on October 3, 2017, Willis advised Perdue that G.R.'s employment with Foley was a potential conflict of interest that should have been reported to management. Id. ¶ 32.

         When Perdue returned to work on October 11, 2017, Rockydale terminated her employment for failing to report the potential conflict of interest. Id. ¶ 37. Perdue alleges that Rockydale failed to provide her with any of the procedural safeguards outlined in the company's employee handbook prior to her termination, and that the company treated her differently than "[m]ale employees who acted in direct conflict with the company's interests and who violated other company policies." Id. ¶ 68. For instance, although Perdue witnessed and reported conduct by the scale house employees that caused Rockydale to lose revenue, "no employee was terminated or disciplined for this actual conflict of interest." Id. ¶ 39.

         At the time of Perdue's termination, "Rockydale informed her that her health insurance would end at midnight that night, and that she could not receive her 401(k) for which she [was] fully vested, until one year after her termination." Id. ¶ 37. Perdue subsequently requested a hardship distribution from her 401(k) plan. Id. ¶ 51. Rockydale denied the plaintiffs request and once again advised her that she would need to wait a year before withdrawing funds from the account. Id. ¶¶ 50-51.

         Perdue was previously diagnosed with lupus, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Id. ¶ 53. She alleges that "[t]hese conditions were exacerbated by the harassment and mistreatment she suffered during her tenure at Rockydale," and that she experienced "elevated stress, nausea, insomnia, and an upset stomach from the harassment." Id. On multiple occasions, Perdue sobbed in her office and experienced physical shaking that was so intense that she could not type at her desk. Id. Her doctor prescribed Cymbalta for depression and anxiety, and a muscle relaxant to help her sleep at night. Id. ¶ 54. Perdue also had to get knee injections every time she experienced stress-related lupus "flares." Id. Perdue alleges that she continues ...


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