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Chigozie M. Enoch v. Advanced Bioscience Lab. Inc

April 18, 2013

CHIGOZIE M. ENOCH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADVANCED BIOSCIENCE LAB. INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alexander Williams, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Chigozie M. Enoch brings this claim against Defendant Advanced Bioscience Laboratories Inc. ("ABL"). Plaintiff asserts a claim of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pending before the Court is Defendant ABL's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim ("Motion to Dismiss") or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. No. 5. The Court has reviewed the record and deems a hearing unnecessary. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES ABL's Motion to Dismiss.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The following factual background is drawn from the Complaint unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff Chigozie M. Enoch was hired on October 12, 2009 by ABL's Contracting Manufacturing Department, which is responsible for developing and manufacturing products for various entities on a contractual basis. Doc. No. 1 at 6.

Plaintiff, a Purification Specialist, was documenting a project at the time of the purported discovery of his alleged protected activity: a discrimination claim filed against his former employer, Becton Dickinson & Company ("Becton Dickinson"). Id. at 2-3. On March 16, 2012, in an effort to clean his computer's P drive in compliance with instructions from ABL's IT department, Plaintiff began transferring documents from his drive to his personal e-mail account. Id. at 2. While attempting to transfer documents pertaining to the discrimination claim, including Becton Dickinson's response, Plaintiff received an error message indicating that the documents failed to attach and that the e-mail failed to deliver. Id. Plaintiff states that "[a]s a result the contents of the documents were intercepted by ABL['s] IT department" and that ABL became aware of the protected activity. Id. at 2,6.

On March 20, 2012, two days after the interception, ABL implemented an Electronic Mail Transfer Policy, requiring Plaintiff's department to sign the policy. Id. at 3. The policy indicated that violating it would result in termination. Id. Plaintiff signed the policy and placed it within his training file. Id. at 6.

After the alleged discovery, Plaintiff began to observe his manager, Umme Habiba, making comments at departmental meetings regarding her belief in not discriminating against individuals based on their race or ethnicity. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Habiba never made such remarks prior to the discovery of his discrimination claim. Id.

On June 13, 2012, the purification team, which included Plaintiff, Dr. Claire Zhang (supervisor), and Treavor O'Neal (senior purification scientist), was scheduled to work in an assigned room. Id. at 8. To do so, members of the team must fully gown to preserve the integrity of the room. Upon arrival to the room, Plaintiff noticed that Zhang was not fully gowned. Believing that the room was already compromised due to Zhang, Plaintiff entered lacking a full gown, followed by O'Neal, who also was not fully gowned. Id. Of the three individuals involved, only Plaintiff was sanctioned. Plaintiff was placed on three-month probation the following day even after explaining the situation to Habiba. Id. at 8-9.

Plaintiff became concerned that his manager was "instructed to get rid of [him] because of the discrimination charge [he] filed against [Becton Dickinson] that was discovered on March 16, 2012." Id. at 9. Plaintiff based his belief on various incidents in which his employer blamed him for other employees' errors. Id.

Plaintiff grew frustrated with this treatment and called in sick. On July 24, 2012, Plaintiff returned to work. Id. On that day, he sent an email in the morning to the HR Director complaining that he had been singled out. Id. at 10. The director set a meeting in the morning that day and when Plaintiff arrived he was immediately notified of his termination. Id. The company president, who had also signed the e-mail policy, signed Plaintiff's termination. Id.

Plaintiff received a right to sue letter on September 21, 2012. Id. at 3. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on December 18, 2012, asserting a retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Doc. No. 1. ABL moved to dismiss on January 1, 2013. Doc. No. 5. ABL argues that Plaintiff insufficiently states a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse employment activity due to his failure to indicate that those involved in his termination had knowledge of the protected activity. Doc. No. 5-1 at 5. ABL further argues that Plaintiff has inadequately alleged causation because of the three-to-four-month gap between ABL's alleged knowledge of the protected activity and Plaintiff's termination. Plaintiff has responded and Defendant replied, and the matter is ripe for review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The purpose of a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). In two recent cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has clarified the standard applicable to Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).

These cases make clear that Rule 8 "requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). This showing must consist of at least "enough facts to state ...


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