United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr. United States District
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Greenville
Safety Consultants, Inc., Juanita Worthy and Mark Worthy
(“Defendants”) Partial Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff Kyle Johnson's (“Plaintiff”)
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (ECF No. 6.) Specifically, Defendants seek
dismissal of Plaintiff's state law causes of action for
Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy (Second
Cause of Action) and violation of the South Carolina Unfair
Trade Practices Act (Eighth Cause of Action). The matter has
been fully briefed, and the Court heard arguments from
counsel on May 29, 2018. For the following reasons, the Court
hereby grants in part and denies in part Defendants'
Partial Motion to Dismiss.
plaintiff's complaint should set forth “a short and
plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 “does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570)). “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.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556)). In considering a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court “accepts all
well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff . . . .”
Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc.,
591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). A court should grant a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion if, “after accepting all
well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as
true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those
facts in the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that
the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his
claim entitling him to relief.” Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999).
initiated this action by filing his complaint in the Court of
Common Pleas in Greenville County, South Carolina on July 19,
2017. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's Complaint alleges nine
causes of action against Defendants for breach of contract,
wrongful termination, violation of the South Carolina Payment
of Wages Act, violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act,
fraud, fraud in the inducement, violation of the South
Carolina Unfair Trade Practice Act, quantum meruit and
retaliatory termination. Id. Defendants' filed
their Notice of Removal on August 30, 2017, asserting federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Id. Thereafter, on September 13, 2017, Defendants
filed their Partial Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 6.)
Plaintiff claims that Defendants improperly classified him as
an independent contractor, rather than an employee, to avoid
paying payroll taxes on Plaintiff, to avoid having to cover
Plaintiff under Defendants' workers' compensation
insurance and to avoid paying Plaintiff overtime pay. (ECF
No. 1-1 at 4.) Plaintiff further alleges that he sustained
injuries while working for Defendants in January 2017.
Id. After sustaining the injuries, Plaintiff
reported the accident to Defendants who discouraged him from
pursuing coverage under Defendants' workers'
compensation policy. Id. 4-5. Nonetheless, Plaintiff
chose to pursue a claim for his injuries under
Defendants' workers' compensation policy, which
Defendants later discovered. Id. at 5. Thereafter,
Plaintiff claims Defendants terminated Plaintiff's
employment on or about February 22, 2017 in retaliation for
him filing a workers' compensation claim. Id. at
5-6. Plaintiff also avers that Defendants' actions are
capable of repetition in that Defendants' routinely
misclassify employees as independent contractors.
Id. at 12.
move for an order dismissing Plaintiff's Second Cause of
Action for Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy
and Plaintiff's Eighth Cause of Action for Violation of
the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act
(“SCUTPA”). The Court will address each cause of
action in turn.
Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy
hearing on Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss held on
May 29, 2018, Plaintiff withdrew his Second Cause of Action
for Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy. Because
this claim is no longer before the Court, Defendants'
motion as to this claim is hereby denied because the issue is
South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act
SCUTPA creates a private right of action in favor of any
person who suffers an ascertainable loss of money or property
“as a result of the use or employment by another person
of an unfair or deceptive method, act or practice declared
unlawful by [this Act].” S.C. Code Ann. §
39-5-140(a). “Unfair methods of competition and unfair
or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or
commerce are . . . unlawful.” S.C. Code Ann.
§39-5-20(a). However, to be actionable under the SCUTPA,
“the unfair or deceptive act or practice must have an
impact upon the public interest.” York v. Conway
Ford, Inc., 480 S.E.2d 726, 728 (S.C. 1997).
“Unfair or deceptive acts or practices have an impact
upon the public interest if the acts or practices have the
potential for repetition.” Id. Additionally,
the conduct at issue must affect more than just the parties
to the litigation to have an impact on the “public
interest.” See Florence Paper Co. v. Orphan,
379 S.E.2d 289, 291 (S.C. 1989).
Carolina Courts have held that employer-employee relations
matters are not covered by the SCUTPA because they are
private matters that do not involve the public interest.
See Miller v. Fairfield Communities, Inc., 382
S.E.2d 16, 20 (S.C. Ct.App. 1989) (holding that a
plaintiff's claim based on the employer-employee
relationship is not covered by the SCUTPA) and Davenport
v. Island Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Inc., 465 S.E.2d 737,
740 (S.C. Ct. App. 1995) (stating that the employer-employee
relationship does not fall within the intended scope of the
SCUTPA). Furthermore, this Court, interpreting South Carolina
law, has similarly held that claims arising out of the
employer-employee relationship are not cognizable under the
SCUTPA. See Uhlig LLC v. Shirley, No.
6:08-CV-01208-JMC, 2011 WL 1119548, at *9 (D.S.C. Mar. 25,
2011) (holding that disputes arising between employers and
employees are private matters that fall outside the scope of
the SCUTPA) and Ramsey v. Vanguard Services, ...