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Liggins v. G.A. & F.C. Wagman, Inc.

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

August 27, 2019

G.A. & F.C. WAGMAN, INC., et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Kenneth Liggins, proceeding pro se, filed this action against his former employer, G.A. & F.C. Wagman, Inc. (Wagman), [1] to recover money damages for various violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Second Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 62.) Wagman moved to dismiss the second amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 63.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the court referred the motion to Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe for a report and recommendation (R&R). (Order 1, Dkt. No. 83.) On May 22, 2019, Judge Hoppe issued his R&R recommending that the court dismiss the second amended complaint with prejudice. (R&R 14, Dkt No. 101.) Liggins objects to the recommendation and asks the court to proceed with the case.[2] (Pl. Mot. Deny R&R, Dkt. No. 105.) For the following reasons, the court will overrule Liggins's objection, adopt the R&R, and dismiss the case with prejudice.[3]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The court adopts the recitation of facts and procedural background as set forth in the R&R. (R&R 3-6.) Because the court is ruling on a motion to dismiss, it accepts as true the well-pleaded facts set forth in the second amended complaint. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 572 (2007.)


         A. Standard of Review

         The Federal Magistrates Act requires a party objecting to a magistrate judge's R&R to file their objections with the district court within fourteen days. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). A party must object “with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection.” United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007). “General objections that merely reiterate arguments presented to the magistrate judge lack the specificity required under Rule 72, and have the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of such objection.” Moon v. BWX Techs., Inc., 742 F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010), aff'd, 498 Fed.Appx. 268 (4th Cir. 2012). Where a party fails to object, or objects generally, the court reviews the R&R for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Moon, 742 F.Supp.2d at 829.

         B. Liggins Has Failed to State a Plausible Claim to Relief Under Title VII

         The second amended complaint asserts several violations of Title VII, including status-based discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1), 2000e-3(a). Liggins also asserts a common law claim of conspiracy. (Second Am. Compl. 19- 21.) In his R&R, the magistrate judge recommends dismissal of the second amended complaint for failure to allege facts that state a plausible claim showing Liggins is entitled to relief.

         Although Liggins has objected to the R&R, his objection merely rehashes the facts and arguments included in his second amended complaint, which the magistrate judge addressed in detail in the R&R. Because Liggins merely reiterates arguments already presented to the magistrate judge, he states a general objection that fails to meet the standard of Rule 72(b), and the court need review the R&R only for clear error.

         1. Discrimination

         To state a claim for discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege “(1) membership in a protected class; (2) satisfactory job performance; (3) adverse employment action; and (4) different treatment from similarly situated employees outside the protected class.” Scott v. Health Net Fed. Servs., 463 Fed.Appx. 206, 208 (4th Cir. 2012). Although Liggins is a member of a protected class and suffered an adverse employment action when Wagman terminated his employment, his complaint falls short of alleging satisfactory job performance or different treatment.

         In support of his satisfactory job performance, Liggins emphasizes his promotions from a labor position to “finisher” and later “labor foreman, ” (Second Am. Compl. 4); however, the fact that his drug screen tested positive for cocaine belies Liggins's assertion that he performed satisfactorily. (Id. at 17.) As the magistrate judge noted, the racial motivation Liggins suggests for his termination “‘is not plausible in light of the obvious alternative explanation' that the decision makers simply judged him unfit to work in heavy construction after he tested positive for cocaine.” (R&R 9 (quoting McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep't of Transp., St. Hwy. Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 588 (4th Cir. 2015)).)

         Additionally, Liggins has not alleged sufficient facts showing that Wagman treated similarly situated employees differently based on their race. Specifically, he has not identified any Wagman employees who also tested positive for drug use but were not terminated.[4] Thus, Liggins has not alleged facts from which the court can infer race was Wagman's motivation for its employment decisions, and the ...

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