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Woods v. Stoba USA Corp.

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

May 14, 2019

FAITH WOODS, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West's report and recommendation (“R&R”) that the court deny defendant Stoba USA Corporation's (“Stoba”) motion for partial dismissal. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and denies Stoba's motion without prejudice. The court instructs the plaintiff to amend her complaint as explained below within 14 days of this order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Faith Woods (“Woods”) brought claims against Stoba for gender discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and wrongful discharge in violation of South Carolina public policy. The court finds that the R&R ably recites the facts of this case as alleged by the complaint. In short, Woods began working for Stoba in May 2017. During her employment, she alleges that Otto Stadler (“Stadler”), who appears to have been her former supervisor, instructed her to change the paperwork for a shipment of valve sleeves to reflect that the sleeves were made in the United States instead of in Germany. Woods refused to do so and complained to Stoba that doing so would violate the law and subject her to criminal liability. Woods also alleges that Stadler instructed Woods to fire another female employee despite the employee's good job performance. Woods alleges that she protested because the only reason Stadler wanted the employee to be fired was because she was female, but Stadler still instructed Woods to fire the employee. Woods then alleges that after she made her complaints, she was written up for a “no call, no show” on a day on which she worked and was paid for, and that she was subsequently fired for the “no call, no show” and poor job performance. Woods alleges that she did not have poor job performance and that several white males have been written up for “no call, no show” and were never fired.

         Woods filed her complaint on December 11, 2018. Stoba then filed a motion for partial dismissal on January 4, 2019, seeking to dismiss Stoba's claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy (“WDPP”). ECF No. 7. Woods responded on January 18, 2019, ECF No. 12, and Stoba replied on January 24, 2019, ECF No. 13. On March 25, 2019, the magistrate judge issued an R&R, recommending that the court deny Stoba's motion. ECF No. 23. Stoba filed objection to the R&R on April 5, 2019, ECF No. 24, to which Woods replied on May 3, 2019, ECF No. 29. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARDS

         A. R&R

         The magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The recommendation carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Id. at 270-71. The court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge . . . or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the R&R to which a specific objection is made. Id.

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see also Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”). To be legally sufficient, a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion should not be granted unless it appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would support his claim and would entitle him to relief. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court should accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir.1999); Mylan Labs., Inc., 7 F.3d at 1134. “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.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.


         Stoba makes two primary objections to the R&R. First, Stoba argues that the R&R erred in declining to find that Woods's WDPP claim is based on an internal report and should therefore be dismissed. Next, Stoba contends that the R&R erred in finding that a plaintiff pleading a WDPP claim is not required to plead the specific source of a clear mandate of public policy. The court considers each in turn.

         A. WDPP Claim Based on Internal Report

         Stoba first argues that the R&R erred by not recommending dismissal of Woods's WDPP claim because the claim is based on Woods's allegation that she was fired as a result of her internal report to Stoba, which is not recognized as a basis for a WDPP claim. In South Carolina, “[a]n at-will employee may be terminated at any time for any reason or for no reason, with or without cause.” Mathis v. Brown & Brown of S.C., Inc., 698 S.E.2d 773, 778 (S.C. 2010). However, the Supreme Court of South Carolina created a public-policy exception to this rule. Ludwick v. This Minute of Carolina, Inc.,337 S.E.2d 213, 216 (S.C. 1985). The court held that “a cause of action in tort for wrongful discharge arises” when “retaliatory discharge of an at-will employee constitutes violation of a clear mandate of ...

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