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Edley-Worford v. Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church

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

December 30, 2019

CHERYL EDLEY-WORFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
VIRGINIA CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          David J. Novak United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Cheryl Edley-Worford ("Plaintiff) brings this action against The Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church ("Defendant" or the "Conference"), alleging race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq ("Title VII") and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"). This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Second Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13), moving to dismiss Plaintiffs claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), or in the alternative, for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant's Second Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a court may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). Further, when a court considers a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court will accept a plaintiffs allegations as true and view the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.2d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). For the purpose of background, the Court considers the following facts that Plaintiff alleges in her Amended Complaint.

         A. Facts Alleged.

         Plaintiff is a 61-year-old African-American woman residing in Virginia. (Am. Compl. (ECF No. 1-1) ¶¶ 6, 12.) Defendant is a sub-organization of the United Methodist Church located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) On September 2, 2014, the Conference hired Plaintiff as the Director of Inclusivity and Lay Leadership Excellence. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 13.) The Conference terminated Plaintiffs employment on October 23, 2017. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the Conference requires that a lay person fill the position of Director of Inclusivity and Lay Leadership Excellence. (Am. Compl ¶ 14.) Further, she states that the position did not require her to lead a church or congregation. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) As director, she contends that she had no ministerial authority to instruct others in their Methodist faith. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff asserts that she was an administrator "charged with coordinating logistics, but [that] she was not responsible for teaching or personifying the beliefs of the Conference." (Am. Compl. ¶ 15.)

         In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that throughout the course of her employment, she "performed well and was evaluated favorably." (Am. Compl. ¶ 17.) However, she states that during the first year of her employment with the Conference, she noticed that she was given more areas of responsibility than her Caucasian co-workers, "relative to the resources with which she was asked to fulfill them." (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff further asserts that nearly all of her co-workers were Caucasian. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiff states that the workload disparity became obvious in Summer 2015. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.) In the Fall of 2016, Plaintiff approached Reverend Marc Brown ("Brown"), Plaintiffs supervisor and Director of Connectional Ministries, and Shirly Cauffman ("Cauffman"), the Chair of the Conference's Personnel Committee, about her concerns. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22.) Neither Brown nor Cauffman provided any meaningful response to Plaintiffs concerns about workload disparity. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22.) Indeed, Plaintiff asserts that after the meeting, both Brown and Cauffman displayed avoidant behavior towards her. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff further asserts that while the Conference failed to provide Plaintiff with any substantial assistance, the Conference provided additional support to other directors. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23.)

         During Plaintiffs Fall 2016 evaluation meeting, Brown addressed some of Plaintiff s workload concerns and requested that Plaintiff prepare for him a "detailed outline of the allocation of her time." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 26.) After reviewing the outline, Brown informed Plaintiff that her job description included the work that she had outlined. (Am. Compl. ¶ 26.)

         Plaintiff further alleges that sometime in early 2017, she presented her concerns during a staff meeting in front of Brown, Rowley and Director of Communications, Madeline Pillow ("Pillow"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.) During the meeting, Plaintiff explained that she "felt the Conference was not a good place for African-American employees and that at times she felt 'invisible.'" (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.)

         In September 2017, at a Board of Laity Meeting, Plaintiff again presented her concerns about the disproportionate workload and resources to the Board. (Am. Compl. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff further asserts that during the meeting, one Board member stated, "[l]et's be honest; the [United Methodist Church] is a white denomination." (Am. Compl. ¶ 30.) Following this meeting, Plaintiff states that the Conference again provided support and additional assistance to another director, while continuing to disregard Plaintiffs concerns. (Am. Compl. ¶ 31.)

         Plaintiff once again raised her issues with Brown, who reminded Plaintiff that her responsibilities were part of her job description. (Am. Compl. ¶ 32.) However, in response, Plaintiff asserted that "it would be different if everyone were in the same boat, but... others are being accommodated and I'm being left to suffer. It seems very unfair. I've been stressed out for three years and no one seems to care." (Am. Compl. ¶ 32.)

         On October 17, 2017, Plaintiff met with the Personnel Committee. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff alleges that the Personnel Committee attacked her for raising her concerns about her work responsibilities with the Board of Laity. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.) Two days later, Brown requested a meeting with Plaintiff, during which Brown gave Plaintiff a Performance Improvement Plan (a "PIP"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 36.) The PIP explained that Plaintiff had "'complained to members of the Board of Laity about [her] job duties,' and 'told the Common Table Personnel Committee that [she] intend[ed] to continue the practice of complaining to Boards and agencies.'" (Am. Compl. ¶ 36 (alterations in original).) Plaintiff declined to sign the PIP. (Am. Compl. ¶ 37.)

         Following the PIP incident, on October 23, 2017, Brown terminated Plaintiffs employment with the Conference, alleging that Plaintiff had acted unprofessionally with the Board of Laity and the Personnel Committee and that, in an act of insubordination, Plaintiff had accused Brown of lying in the PIP. (Am. Compl. ¶ 38.)

         B. Plaintiffs Causes of Action

         Plaintiff originally filed her Complaint on November 1, 2018, and her Amended Complaint on February 7, 2019, both in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond. Defendant removed the ...


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