Robert Eagle, by counsel Harley O. Staggers Jr., appeals the
Circuit Court of Hardy County's January 4, 2016, orders
granting respondents' motions to dismiss. Respondents
Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College
("Eastern") and Dr. Charles Terrell, by counsel
Matthew R. Whitler and Benjamin P. Warder, filed a response
and a supplemental appendix. Petitioner filed a reply. On
appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in
granting respondents' motions to dismiss upon its doubt
that petitioner would prevail in the action and by applying
an incorrect standard of review.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
2015, petitioner filed a complaint against his employer and
respondent herein, Eastern. Petitioner also named Dr.
Terrell, president of the college and respondent herein, as a
defendant, both in his individual capacity and in his
capacity as president of the college. In June of 2015,
petitioner filed an amended complaint. According to the
amended complaint, petitioner alleged that respondents
threatened to terminate him and another employee, Tim
Riggleman, sometime in 2012. Later, petitioner testified at a
trial upon Mr. Riggleman's claims against Eastern based
upon the West Virginia Human Rights Act ("WVHRA").
According to petitioner, three months after Mr.
Riggleman's trial, Eastern disciplined him for hiring an
individual who was never actually hired. Accordingly,
petitioner filed a complaint against respondents for
violation of the WVHRA. Petitioner alleged that because of
these issues, the resulting hostile work environment altered
the conditions of his employment.
of 2015, both respondents filed individual answers to
petitioner's amended complaint, in addition to motions to
dismiss the same. Following additional briefing on the
motions to dismiss, the circuit court held a hearing on the
motions in December of 2015. Thereafter, in January of 2016,
the circuit court entered orders granting both of
respondents' motions to dismiss. In the orders, the
circuit court specifically found that petitioner's claims
regarding events that occurred in 2012 were barred by the
applicable statute of limitations. As to the timely causes of
action, the circuit court found that petitioner's
allegations against respondents "amount to nothing more
than generalized workplace grievances pertaining to routine
personnel issues" and did not rise to the level of
actionable conduct committed by respondents. It is from these
orders that petitioner appeals.
previously held that "'[a]ppellate review of a
circuit court's order granting a motion to dismiss a
complaint is de novo.' Syllabus Point 2,
State ex rel. McGraw v. Scott Runyan Pontiac-Buick,
Inc., 194 W.Va. 770, 461 S.E.2d 516 (1995)." Syl.
Pt. 2, Hill v. Stowers, 224 W.Va. 51, 680 S.E.2d 66
(2009). Additionally, we have held as follows:
"The trial court, in appraising the sufficiency of a
complaint on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, should not dismiss the
complaint unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff
can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief." Syl. Pt. 3, Chapman v. Kane
Transfer Co., 160 W.Va. 530, 236 S.E.2d 207 (1977).
Syl. Pt. 2, Roth v. DeFeliceCare, Inc., 226 W.Va.
214, 700 S.E.2d 183 (2010). Further, in addressing employment
discrimination, we have set forth the following standard:
"In order to make a prima facie case of employment
discrimination . . . the plaintiff must offer proof of the
following: (1) That the plaintiff is a member of a protected
class. (2) That the employer made an adverse decision
concerning the plaintiff. (3) But for the plaintiff's
protected status, the adverse decision would not have been
made." Syllabus Point 3, Conaway v. Eastern
Associated Coal Corp., 178 W.Va. 164, 358 S.E.2d 423
Syl. Pt. 2, Johnson v. Killmer, 219 W.Va. 320, 633
S.E.2d 265 (2006). Upon our review, the Court finds no error
in the circuit court's orders granting respondents'
motions to dismiss.
granting respondents' motions to dismiss, the circuit
court specifically found that the allegedly discriminatory
acts of which petitioner complained "amount[ed] to
nothing more than generalized workplace grievances pertaining
to routine personnel issues" and, therefore, did not
rise to the level of actionable conduct by respondents.
According to petitioner, this finding evidences the circuit
court's failure to apply the appropriate standard of
review in granting respondents' motions to dismiss, as
the circuit court improperly granted those motions because it
did not believe he could prevail on her claims. To the
contrary, the record on appeal is clear that the circuit
court applied the appropriate standard of review and made its
ruling upon the fact that, beyond doubt, petitioner could
establish no set of facts that would entitle him to relief.
This Court finds that the evidence supports the circuit
appeal, petitioner argues that respondents discriminated
against him, in part, because of his December of 2014
testimony in Mr. Riggleman's trial against Eastern.
However, the record on appeal is clear that several of the
alleged instances of discrimination of which petitioner
complains occurred prior to his testimony in that separate
proceeding. As such, it is unclear how respondents were
alleged to have retaliated for an act that had not yet
occurred. Further, of the alleged retaliatory acts that
occurred following petitioner's testimony, the circuit
court was correct in determining that these acts did not rise
to the level of actionable discrimination. One of the alleged
retaliatory acts involved an electronic correspondence from
Dr. Terrell regarding the Riggleman trial that did not relate
to petitioner, and other alleged acts related to disciplinary
acts taken against petitioner with which he did not agree. At
no point does petitioner indicate how any of these alleged
acts of retaliation constitute an adverse decision against
him or set forth any evidence that respondents would not have
engaged in these acts but for his protected class. Moreover,
it is unclear to which protected class petitioner alleges he
belongs. Simply put, petitioner has failed to establish a
prima facie case of employment discrimination, and the
circuit court correctly granted respondents' motions for
petitioner takes issue with the circuit court's finding
that Dr. Terrell was immune from liability below. The Court,
however, finds that this issue is irrelevant to the
resolution of this appeal, given that the circuit court
specifically found that, despite Dr. Terrell's immunity,
none of the alleged acts that he committed constituted valid
claims of discrimination. As such, it is unnecessary to
address the appropriateness of the circuit court's ruling
with regard to Dr. Terrell's immunity.
foregoing reasons, the circuit court's January 4, 2016,
orders granting respondents' ...