United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant's Partial Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 4. Defendant moves to dismiss Counts II and
III of Plaintiff's complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Def.'s Partial Mot. to
Dismiss, ECF No. 4. In Count II, Plaintiff claims that
Defendant tortuously interfered with her employment and
prospective business advantage; and in Count III, Plaintiff
claims that Defendant fired Plaintiff in violation of West
Virginia public policy, constituting a retaliatory discharge.
Compl., ECF No. 1-1, at ¶ 56-76. The parties
have fully briefed the issues and the motion is now ripe for
adjudication. As explained below, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's motion.
Whitley Hundley, by counsel, filed a complaint in the Circuit
Court of Cabell County, West Virginia, on July 20, 2017,
alleging several claims against Defendant, Autism Services
Center, Inc. See generally Compl. Plaintiff's
complaint had three claims: (1) interference with rights
under the Family and Medical Leave Act; (2) tortious
interference with employment and prospective business
advantage; and (3) retaliatory discharge. Compl., at
¶ 41-76. On August 14, 2017, Defendant removed the case
to this Court. Def.'s Notice of Removal, ECF 1,
operates a series of residences in the Huntington area that
care for individuals with autism. Mem. in Supp. of Def s
Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 6, at 1. Plaintiff had been an
employee at one of the residences operated by Defendant.
Compl., at ¶ 4-6. She started working for
Defendant on October 19, 2014. Id. at ¶ 4.
After becoming pregnant, Plaintiff voluntarily left her
employment with Defendant on or around January 18, 2015.
Id. at ¶ 8-9; Answer, ECF No. 5, at
¶ 10. Plaintiff left her employment with Defendant on
what appeared to be friendly terms. Compl., at
¶ 9. After an eight-month hiatus, Plaintiff resumed her
employment with Defendant on or about October 27, 2015.
Id. at ¶ 10-11; Answer, at ¶ 10.
her second period of employment with Defendant, Plaintiff
discovered that her daughter had multiple serious health
conditions. Compl., at ¶ 12. Plaintiff notified
Defendant of her daughter's illnesses, and would
periodically request time off to tend to her sick daughter.
Id. at ¶ 15-16.
a year into her second period of employment, in the late
summer or early fall of 2016, Plaintiff obtained a second job
working for Autism Management in Cabell County, West
Virginia. Id. at ¶ 18. Autism Management is a
competitor of Defendant. Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 8,
at 1. On or about October 5, 2016, after Plaintiff had
notified Defendant of her second job, Plaintiffs supervisor,
an employee of Defendant, allegedly told Plaintiff that
“he did not care if she had another job, [but said]
that she was ‘unloyal, ' and that she ‘needed
to figure it out.'” Compl. at ¶ 21.
Plaintiff believed these comments constituted a threat that
if she maintained her second job, she would be fired.
Id. at ¶ 22.
November 26, 2016, Plaintiff, although not scheduled to work,
was called to one of the Defendant's residences by her
co-workers. Id. at ¶ 23. They needed
Plaintiff's assistance in caring for one of
Defendant's clients who was upset. Id. at ¶
23-25. This particular client supposedly cooperated better
with Plaintiff than he or she did with others. Id.
Eventually, Plaintiff calmed down the client. Id. at
¶ 27. However, during the situation, Plaintiff,
apparently, was forced to raise her voice to speak over the
loud yelling of the client. Id. at ¶ 34-35.
at work during her next scheduled shift on November 28, 2016,
Plaintiff's supervisor called Plaintiff into her office
and alleged that Plaintiff had verbally abused the agitated
client two days prior. Id. at ¶ 28-29. The next
day, Defendant terminated Plaintiff based upon the allegation
of “inappropriate interaction with her client and/or
verbal abuse.” Id. at ¶ 30 (internal
quotations omitted). Defendant filed a report with Adult
Protective Services (“APS”), against Plaintiff,
in which Defendant claimed that Plaintiff had used curse
words and yelled at the agitated client. Id. at
¶ 32; Answer, at ¶ 35. As a result of
Defendant's allegations regarding the incident for which
she was fired, Plaintiff claims that she “struggled to
find suitable gainful employment following her
termination.” Compl., at ¶ 36.
point after her termination, Plaintiff's Certified
Nursing Assistant (“CNA”) license became due for
renewal. Id. at ¶ 37. Plaintiff asserts that
Defendant was obligated to “provide timely and accurate
documentation to the Office of Health Facility Licensure
& Certification, ” but that Defendant failed meet
this obligation. Id. at ¶ 37-38. Further,
Plaintiff alleges that as a result, her CNA license was
suspended on or about February 28, 2017, pending
investigation. Id. After an apparently brief
investigation, Plaintiff's license was reinstated on
March 8, 2017. Id. at ¶ 39. Plaintiff claims
that Defendant's conduct caused her to suffer “lost
wages and other benefits of employment, emotional distress,
and damage to her reputation. Id. at ¶ 40.
August 21, 2017, Defendant filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 4) with an accompanying Memorandum in Support of the
Motion (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff responded on September 5, 2017
(ECF No. 7); and Defendant replied on September 12, 2017 (ECF
Rule 8(a) requires a complaint to include “a short and
plain statement of the claim … showing entitle[ment]
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To overcome a motion
to dismiss under Federal Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must also
be plausible. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 546 (2007). This standard requires a plaintiff to set
forth the “grounds” for an “entitle[ment]
to relief” that is more than mere “labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555
(internal quotations and citations omitted). 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) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Facial
plausibility exists when a claim contains “factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citation omitted).
the factual allegations in the complaint as true (even when
doubtful), the allegations “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level ….”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). If the
allegations in the complaint, assuming their truth, do
“not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic
deficiency should … be exposed at the point of minimum
expenditure of time and money by the parties and the
court.” Id. at 558 (internal quotations and
citations omitted). “Although for the purposes of a
motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations
in the complaint as true, we are not bound to accept as true
a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations and
citation omitted). Finally, a court must also “draw[ ]
all reasonable factual inferences from those facts [alleged]
in the plaintiff's favor . . . .” Martin v.
Duffy, 858 F.3d 239, 248 (4th Cir. 2017) (internal
quotations omitted) (quoting Veney v. Wyche, 293
F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted)).
Defendant has moved to dismiss two of Plaintiff's claims,
the Court will address each in turn.
Count II: ...