United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
Christina Black, Plaintiff, represented by James Lewis
Cromer, J Lewis Cromer and Associates, Julius Wistar Babb,
IV, J Lewis Cromer and Associates & Shannon Polvi, J Lewis
Cromer and Associates.
Carolina Department of Corrections, Defendant, represented by
Eugene H. Matthews, Richardson Plowden and Robinson.
REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. McDONALD, Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the court on the defendant's motion to
dismiss (doc. 5). Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28,
United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(A), and Local Civ. Rule
73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized
to review all pretrial matters in employment discrimination
cases and submit findings and recommendations to the district
defendant removed this case from the McCormick County Court
of Common Pleas on January 11, 2016 (doc.1), based upon this
court's federal question jurisdiction. See 28
U.S.C. Â§ 1331. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleges two
causes of action: (1) a federal claim for interference with
rights in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act
("FMLA") and (2) a state law claim for wrongful
discharge in violation of public policy.
defendant has moved to dismiss the case pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) and for judgment on
the pleadings under Rule 12(c). On February 19, 2016, the
plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion to
dismiss (doc. 12), and on February 26, 2016, the defendant
filed a reply (doc. 16).
plaintiff is a former employee of the defendant South
Carolina Department of Corrections ("the defendant"
or "SCDC"). SCDC is an agency of the State of South
Carolina (doc. 1-1, comp., parties Â¶Â¶ 1-2).
first cause of action, the plaintiff alleges that the
defendant violated her rights under the FMLA (doc. 1-1, comp.
Â¶Â¶ 6-14, 25-30). The plaintiff alleges that in her most
recently updated family medical leave request from her
physician, her physician indicated that the plaintiff
"suffers from a lifelong condition, " she was seen
by her doctor on September 25, 2013, and that she was able to
return to work on November 20, 2013 ( id., factual
allegations Â¶ 13). The plaintiff returned to work on November
21, 2013 ( id. Â¶ 15). Thereafter, she claims that
she was "targeted, " "reprimanded for
pretextual reasons, " and ultimately terminated from
employment ( id. Â¶Â¶ 16-23). The plaintiff claims
that she went on medical leave under the FMLA for her own
serious heath condition and was terminated "for
exercising her rights pursuant to the FMLA" (
id. Â¶Â¶ 27-29). As relief, the plaintiff seeks
"back pay, front pay, liquidated damages, interest,
attorney's fees and costs, equitable relief as may be
appropriate, including reinstatement, and all other relief
she may be entitled to under the FMLA" ( id. Â¶
second cause of action, the plaintiff alleges that SCDC
terminated her employment in violation of the public policy
of South Carolina. Specifically, the plaintiff states that
Provisions 1.1, 2.1, and 7.2 of the Code of Ethics for Nurses
set forth "clear mandates of public policy" (
id. Â¶Â¶ 32-33) (citing S.C. Code Ann. Â§ 40-33-70
("Nurses shall conduct themselves in accordance with the
code of ethics adopted by the board in regulation."))).
She alleges that SCDC wrongfully terminated her because she
"did carry out the functions of her job competently and
satisfactorily as reflected in all employee annual
evaluations and in accordance with the Code of Ethics for
Nurses... ( id. Â¶ 35).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Standard of Review
defendant has moved for dismissal of the plaintiff's FMLA
cause of action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) and (6) and has moved for judgment on the pleadings
on the plaintiff's wrongful discharge in violation of
public policy cause of action under Rule 12(c) (doc. 5 at 1).
A Rule 12(c) motion is assessed under the same standards as a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Occupy Columbia
v. Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 115 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th
Cir.1999)). "The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to
test the sufficiency of a complaint." Williams v.
Preiss-Wal Pat III, LLC, 17 F.Supp. 3d 528, 531 (D.S.C.
2014) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178
F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). "[T]he facts alleged
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level' and must provide enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Robinson v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 551 F.3d
218, 222 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 569 (2007)). "The
plausibility standard is not akin to a probability
requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation
complaint "does not need [to allege] detailed factual
allegations, " pleadings that contain mere "labels
and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "Where a complaint
pleads facts that are merely consistent with a
defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Stated differently, "where the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it
has not show [n]'-that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'" Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). When determining a motion to dismiss pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6), the court must take all well-pled material
allegations of the ...