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Tyler-Perkins v. Virginia Community College System

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

January 10, 2020




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Virginia Community College System ("VCCS") and the Commonwealth of Virginia's (collectively, with VCCS, "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (the "Motion to Dismiss"). (ECF No. 18.) Plaintiff Leslie Tyler-Perkins responded to the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 20), and Defendants replied, (ECF No. 21).

         These matters are ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction over Tyler-Perkins's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, [1] For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Factual Background [2]

         This Title VII action arises out of the Defendants' allegedly "unlawful and discriminatory application of its layoff and job classification policy and procedures against [Tyler-Perkins] on the basis of race and/or gender." (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 17.)

         1. Tyler-Perkins Employment Allegations Prior to October 29.2017

         Prior to her resignation, Tyler-Perkins, a fifty-three-year-old African-American woman, worked as an automotive instructor at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College ("JSRCC"). (Id. ¶ 12.) Throughout her tenure at JSRCC, Tyler-Perkins contends that she was an "excellent employee and satisfactorily performed her job duties." (Id. ¶ 14.)

         In 2006, JSRCC hired Tyler-Perkins as an "Adjunct Instructor" in the Automotive Technology Department. (Id. ¶ 13.) Two years later, in 2008, JSRCC hired her as a "full-time Nine-Month Teaching Faculty." (Id. ¶ 15.) "Shortly thereafter," the Interim Dean of JSRCC evaluated Tyler-Perkins and "noted [that] she had extensive GM automotive training." (Id. ¶ 16.) Following that evaluation, the Assistant Dean of the Goochland Campus asked Tyler-Perkins to "undertake Ford automotive training [so she could] teach classes to work on Ford automobiles and be the backup instructor for the Ford program." (Id.)

         "At about the same time," the Coordinator of the GM ASEP program resigned, and JSRCC hired a Caucasian male to fill this position. (Id. ¶ 17.) Without saying that she applied or showed interest in the position, Tyler-Perkins contends that the man JSRCC hired "was hired to a full-time position at JSRCC at the same time as [Tyler-Perkins] and [she] had more GM training and experience than" he did. (Id.) Again, without claiming that she applied or showed interest in other positions, Tyler-Perkins avers that "[e]ach time a twelve-month faculty position became available, JSRCC bypassed [her] in favor of Caucasian male faculty, despite [Tyler-Perkins] meeting necessary qualifications for each position." (Id. ¶ 18.)

         Without providing a date, Tyler-Perkins contends that when she

received a full-sized tool box to work with and to be used to teach her automotive classes, like all other Automotive Technology faculty who were all male and who already had full-sized tool boxes, the program head then gave the male employees copies of [Tyler-Perkins's] keys and the male colleagues used [Tyler-Perkins's] tool box as community property.

(Id. ¶ 19.) She avers that "[n]one of the Caucasian faculty had to give up copies of their toolbox keys." (Id.)

         In 2013, the Coordinator of the Ford ASSET Program, a Caucasian male, became ill and could not work. (Id. ¶ 20.) Tyler-Perkins applied for this position, obtained it, and requested the same twelve-month contract held by the former coordinator. (Id.) JSRCC, however, only awarded her a nine-month contract. (Id. ¶ 20.) Although the Dean of the Business School told Tyler-Perkins that "he would request a twelve-month contract, ... it was not obtained." (Id. ¶21.)

         After receiving this position, JSRCC "forced [Tyler-Perkins] to undergo a rapid training and preparation schedule to teach classes according to Ford and JSRCC standards," which required "extensive traveling" out of Virginia "once or twice a month." (Id. ¶ 22.) Tyler-Perkins also requested her pay "be rectified as a lower rank Caucasian male instructor currently made 5 to 7% more than" she, but, she alleges, she "did not obtain any increase in pay." (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Tyler-Perkins contends that she "regularly earned less than lower ranked Caucasian male instructors." (Id. ¶ 26.)

         When she began her new position, JSRCC "required" Tyler-Perkins and the prior Coordinator of the Ford Asset Program "to switch work and teaching toolboxes." (Id. ¶ 25.) Tyler-Perkins maintains that "JSRCC again requested [that she]... provide a copy of the keys to the program head." (Id.) She avers that JSRCC "only made this a requirement of the African-American manufacture program teachers ... [n]one of the Caucasian faculty had to give up copies of their toolbox keys." (Id.)

         In 2016, JSRCC hired a Caucasian male as the "program head of Automotive Technology." (Id. ¶ 27.) In 2017, the Dean of the Business School met with Tyler-Perkins for a yearly performance evaluation and gave Tyler-Perkins "until November to get her [Automotive Service Excellence] LI Certification to support her job position requirements." (7tf. ¶28.) On October 16, 2017, the Dean then "wrongfully issued a counseling memorandum to [Tyler-Perkins] for not having her... LI Certification and threatened to fire" her. (Id. ¶ 29.)

         2. Tyler-Perkins's Employment Allegations After October 29, 2017

         "During this time in the Fall 2017 semester, JSRCC implemented reductions in force due to declining enrollment." (Id. ¶ 31.) "As a result, on October 31, 2017, the Dean issued a letter to [Tyler-Perkins] notifying her of her layoff." (Id. ¶ 32.) Tyler-Perkins avers that she "was the most senior faculty member in the layoff of Automotive Technology faculty." (Id. ¶ 34.) While recognizing that she "was the only African-American female faculty member of the Automotive Technology department of JSRCC," Tyler-Perkins maintains that she "was the only person of color and the only female in the Automotive Technology department who JSRCC laid off." (Id. ¶¶ 35, 48.)

         Tyler-Perkins asserts that VCCS Policy 3.1 l.l.l.b (the "Policy") "establishes guidelines for releasing teaching faculty in order of least seniority, providing, in part, 'teaching faculty within a given discipline, teaching field or program shall be released in order of least seniority.'" (Id. ¶ 36 (quoting the Policy).) Tyler-Perkins claims that JSRCC, "in violation of the Policy, "retained [the new head of Automotive Technology], who JSRCC hired well after" her. (Id. ¶ 33.) She maintains that her "instructor position and the program head position are both in the same teaching field, Automotive Technology, and [she] had more seniority" than the more-recently hired program head. (Id. ¶ 37.)

         On November 6, 2017, after JSRCC had issued her a letter notifying her of her layoff, Tyler-Perkins asserts that the Dean of the Business School "again wrongfully issued a counseling memorandum to [her] for not having her... LI Certification." (Id. ¶ 38.)

         On December 1, 2017, about two months after her layoff, Tyler-Perkins challenged her layoff through the VCCS grievance procedure, where she lost in the immediate appeals process. (Id. ¶ 39.) She then appealed to an Ad Hoc Hearing Committee. (Id.) On April 18, 2018, about four months after her first appeal, the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee found in favor of Tyler-Perkins, concluding that VCCS "did not follow [the] [P]olicy ... as both challenged positions are teaching faculty, and both positions are in the same teaching field, Automotive Technology." (Id. ¶ 40.) However, "the President of JSRCC overturned this decision," and Tyler-Perkins appealed to the VCCS Appeals Panel, which "upheld the President's decision." (Id. ¶ 41.)

         Tyler-Perkins next appealed to the State Board for Community Colleges. (Id.) On July 14, 2018, while the appeals process proceeded, Tyler-Perkins took a teaching position at the Greene County Technical Center, in Greene County, Virginia, which paid her a lower salary than JSRCC and required a longer commute from her home. (Id. ¶ 42.) Later, the State Board for Community Colleges "agreed with [Tyler-Perkins's] position and ordered reinstatement... without any loss of rank, seniority, status, or continuity of service." (Id. ¶ 43.) "On or about July 31, 2018," about eight months after JSRCC laid off Tyler-Perkins, JSRCC reinstated her. (Id. ¶ 44.)

         After her reinstatement with JSRCC, JSRCC "informed [Tyler-Perkins], by counsel, she was again going to be slated for JSRCC's next and upcoming round of layoffs and it would be in her best interest to resign." (Id. ¶ 45.) Defendants attach to their Motion to Dismiss the email to which Tyler-Perkins refers in her Amended Complaint.[3] (Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Ex. 14 "the Email," ECF No. 19-14.) The email shows that, prior to Tyler-Perkins's reinstatement, Counsel for JSRCC sent the email to all staff and faculty informing them of the upcoming budget cuts and the need to implement budget saving measures. (Id. 2-3.) In that email, Counsel for JSRCC said that "VCCS feels strongly that Ms. Tyler-Perkins should have the information ... so that she may make an informed decision on the college's recent offer of reinstatement." (Id. 1.) Counsel for JSRCC clarifies that the information contained in the email "does not negatively affect the offer of reinstatement in any way." (Id.)

         On August 15, 2018, about two weeks after her reinstatement, Tyler-Perkins "involuntarily resigned from JSRCC" because of JSRCC's "prior discriminatory practices, fear of returning to a hostile work environment, just having obtained her new job position, and feeling she had no other option." (Id. ¶ 46.)

         About ten days after her "involuntary resignation]," Tyler-Perkins "filed a Title VII Charge of Discrimination based on race and sex with the Equal Opportunity Commission ('EEOC'), and, pursuant to a work sharing agreement, with the Virginia Division of Human Rights." (Id. ¶ 6.) On September 18, 2018, the "EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue to [Tyler-Perkins], which [she], by counsel, received on September 20, 2018." (Id. ¶ 7.)

         B. Procedu ...

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