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Simmons v. O'Neill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

March 19, 2018

Morgan Simmons, Plaintiff,
v.
Katherine O'Neill, Jim Hipp, Kim Mary Danner, Spartanburg County, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Katherine O'Neill, Jim Hipp, and Kim Mary Danner (collectively, “the Moving Defendants”). [Doc. 11.] Plaintiff alleges race discrimination and retaliation claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(A) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in employment discrimination cases are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration.

         Plaintiff filed this action ion August 31, 2017. [Doc. 1.] On November 6, 2017, the Moving Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. [Doc. 11.] The same day, the Court filed an Order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the summary judgment/dismissal procedure and of the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond to the motion. [Doc. 15.] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on January 3, 2018. [Doc. 24.] Accordingly, the motion to dismiss is ripe for review.

         BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff alleges that he is employed by Defendant Spartanburg County. [Doc. 1 at 3.] On May 8, 2015, Plaintiff was not allowed to order cell phones even though his white male co-worker was allowed to order cell phones without any cell phone experience. [Id. at 5.] Plaintiff contends that he was threatened with disciplinary action on December 22, 2015, for suggesting to a white male with 30 years of technology experience that he use new technology. [Id.] On February 10, 2016, Plaintiff completed an intake questionnaire with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), asserting that his employer, Spartanburg County, had discriminated against him on the basis of race. [Id.; Doc. 1-1 at 3-6.] Plaintiff contends that he was subsequently retaliated against when he was moved to a new office in March 2016 and when he was given a bad evaluation. [Doc. 1 at 5, 7.] The EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on June 12, 2017 [Doc. 1-1 at 1; see Id. at 2], and Plaintiff filed this action on August 31, 2017, asserting race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII [Doc. 1].

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

         Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe his pleadings. Estelle, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. Even under this less stringent standard, however, a pro se complaint is still subject to summary dismissal. Id. at 520-21. The mandated liberal construction means that only if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the complainant could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the complainant's legal arguments for him. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court “conjure up questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a claim should be dismissed if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a motion to dismiss, the court should “accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). However, the court “need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts” nor “accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). Further, for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may rely on only the complaint's allegations and those documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference. See Simons v. Montgomery Cty. Police Officers, 762 F.2d 30, 31 (4th Cir. 1985). If matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion is treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         With respect to well-pleaded allegations, the United States Supreme Court explained the interplay between Rule 8(a) and Rule 12(b)(6) in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citations omitted); see also 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, at 235-36 (3d ed. 2004) (“[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than a bare averment that the pleader wants compensation and is entitled to it or a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion that the pleader might have a legally cognizable right of action.”).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard reflects the threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2)-the pleader must plead sufficient facts to show he is entitled to relief, not merely facts consistent with the defendant's liability. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“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.”'” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557)). Accordingly, the ...


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