Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Crites v. Eastern West Virginia Community

Supreme Court of West Virginia

April 7, 2017

Amy Crites, Plaintiff Below, Petitioner
v.
Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College and Charles Terrell, Defendants Below, Respondents

         (Hardy County 15-C-28)

          AMENDED MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Amy Crites, 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 based upon its doubt that petitioner would prevail in the action and by applying an incorrect standard of review.

         This 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.

         In May of 2015, petitioner filed a complaint against her 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. According to the complaint, petitioner alleged that respondents threatened to decrease her compensation unless she transferred to another position sometime in 2012. Petitioner claimed that after her transfer, a male was hired to fill her old position at a higher salary. As a result, petitioner filed a complaint that asserted unlawful discriminatory practice with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission ("WVHRC"), which petitioner claimed issued her a letter granting her the right to sue her employer. Petitioner further alleged that respondents engaged in discrimination against her by denying her privileges normally allowed to other employees, such as denying her sick leave request. Petitioner also stated that in December of 2014, she testified during a trial against respondents involving a former Eastern employee. According to petitioner, her testimony addressed what she believed were other discriminatory actions by respondents. Following her testimony, petitioner alleged that respondents allowed hostile and intimidating communications between employees concerning her testimony. Petitioner further claimed that respondents disciplined her for violating hiring practices that she could not implement in March of 2015. Ultimately, petitioner alleged that, because of these issues, the resulting hostile work environment altered the conditions of her employment.

         In June of 2015, both respondents filed individual answers to petitioner's 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.

         We have 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 (1986).

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.

         In 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 she 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 her to relief. This Court finds that the evidence supports the circuit court's findings.

         On appeal, petitioner argues that respondents discriminated against her, in part, because of her December of 2014 testimony in an unrelated civil case involving another Eastern employee in an action against Eastern. However, the record shows that several of the alleged instances of discrimination of which petitioner complains occurred prior to her 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. Two of the alleged instances of discrimination constituted other Eastern employees sending electronic correspondences with which petitioner did not agree, and a third was predicated on Dr. Terrell communicating his suggestion that petitioner advocated not following Eastern's policies. At no point does petitioner indicate how any of these alleged acts of retaliation constitute an adverse decision against her or set forth any evidence that respondents would not have engaged in these acts but for her protected class. Moreover, it is unclear to which protected class petitioner alleges she belongs. Simply put, petitioner has failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination, and the circuit court correctly granted respondents' motions to dismiss.

         Lastly, 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.

         For the foregoing reasons, the circuit court's January 4, 2016, orders granting respondents' ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.