United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. Hazel United States District Judge.
action, Plaintiff Cesia Sanchez alleges race discrimination,
in violation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866,
42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), and
breach of her employment contract by her former employer,
Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. (“Whole Foods”),
relating to her termination from employment. Now pending
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF
No. 9, which Plaintiff opposed, ECF No. 14. No. hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is
granted in part and denied in part.
Cesia Sanchez, a Latina of Hispanic ancestry, began working
for Defendant, Whole Foods, in November 2002. ECF No. 1-2
¶ 5. In 2013, after working as an Assistant Team Leader
at different stores since 2002, Sanchez was promoted to
Facilities Manager at a distribution center in Landover,
Maryland. Id. ¶ 5. As one of the three managers
at the distribution center, Sanchez was specifically tasked
with overseeing the kitchen facilities, while Jack Lunick
oversaw the seafood facilities and Russell Cartwright managed
warehouse distribution. Both men are Caucasian. Id.
¶ 6. Many of the employees Sanchez managed were
early 2016, Sanchez's annual performance evaluations
showed she exceeded the expectations for her position and had
never received a written reprimand. Id. ¶ 5.
This changed when Cartwright was promoted to Executive
Director of Facilities and, shortly thereafter, placed
Sanchez on administrative leave. Id. ¶ 7-8.
When she asked why this happened, Cartwright told her that
Whole Foods headquarters and regional had received a letter
and complaints from her team members because a television did
not work at the facility, there was a lack of cleaning
resources, and a supervisor who reported to Sanchez was
resuming her duties, Sanchez attended a meeting with
Cartwright and the entire kitchen team, during which
Cartwright explained there would no longer be a kitchen
supervisor but Sanchez would remain a manager. Id.
¶ 9. When Cartwright asked the team if they were okay
with this decision, two team members, Marie and Mariana,
objected. Id. Then, as Sanchez left this meeting,
Maria, a Hispanic female team member, said to her: “We
don't want you around here perra.” Id.
“Perra” is Spanish for “bitch dog.”
Id. Sanchez then reported the incident to Cartwright
and Dave Gearhart, Whole Foods's human resources
director, explaining that she felt threatened in the
workplace and would like management to intervene and take
corrective action. Id. No such investigation of
action was taken. Id. As a result, Maria felt
empowered to engage in insubordinate behavior. Id.
30, 2016, despite the Whole Foods policy that a second female
should be present whenever a male supervisor meets with a
female employee, Cartwright and Gearhart met alone with
Sanchez. Id. ¶ 10. At the meeting, Cartwright
pressured Sanchez to resign, asking her to seek a demotion
back to assistant store team leader, because her team members
did not like her. Id. When she attempted to speak,
Gearhart cut her off, stating he did not care for what she
had to say. Id. Sanchez refused the request to
resign. Id. Then, despite Whole Foods's
progressive discipline policy requiring a verbal and written
warning before a final written warning, Cartwright issued
Sanchez a final written warning. Id. Five days
later, in a meeting with Cartwright and Regional Vice
President Julia Obicci, a Caucasian female, Sanchez received
a final written warning. Id. ¶ 11.
mid-August 2016, one of Sanchez's male subordinate
employees asked her to attend a disciplinary meeting with a
female team member. Id. ¶ 12. When the female
team member began to scream at the male supervisor, Sanchez
warned her that her behavior was insubordinate and instructed
her to either stop screaming at her supervisor or go home.
Id. The female team member chose to go home.
Id. Whole Foods then terminated Sanchez on September
12, 2016, claiming she made a bad decision to send the female
team member home without pay. Id. ¶ 13.
filed suit against Whole Foods in the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County, Maryland on August 7, 2018. ECF No. 1
¶ 1. In her Complaint, Sanchez alleges disparate
treatment and hostile work environment based on race, in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and common law breach of
contract. ECF No. 1-2 ¶¶ 14-23. On October 9, 2018,
Whole Foods removed the suit to this Court, alleging this
Court has federal question jurisdiction over the § 1981
claim, under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental
jurisdiction over the breach of contract claim, under 28
U.S.C. § 1367, as well as original diversity
jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. ECF No. 1 ¶
4-7. On October 23, 2018, Whole Foods filed a Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 9.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), “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 Atl.
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. “But where the
well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than
the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the
pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at
679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). To determine whether a
claim has crossed “the line from conceivable to
plausible, ” the Court must employ a
“context-specific inquiry, ” drawing on the
Court's “experience and common sense.”
Id. at 679-80.
12(b)(6)'s purpose “is to test the sufficiency of a
complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts,
the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion, the Court must consider all well-pleaded allegations
in a complaint as true and must construe all factual
allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
See Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion should be granted
“only if it is clear that no relief could be granted
under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with
the allegations.” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A.,
534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002).
limited exceptions, the Court may consider evidence outside
the complaint without converting a motion to dismiss to one
for summary judgment. See Goldfarb v. Mayor & City
Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015).
These exceptions include documents explicitly incorporated
into the complaint as well as those submitted by the movant
that are integral to the complaint and the authenticity of
which is not challenged by the plaintiffs. See Phillips
v. Pitt County Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir.
2009). Beyond these exceptions, the Court would need to
convert the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment
to consider any evidence outside the complaint. See
Biospherics, Inc. v. Forbes, Inc., 989 F.Supp. 748, 749
(D. Md. 1997). “Such conversion is not appropriate
where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable
discovery.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citing Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 178 (4th Cir.
Count I: 42 U.S.C. § 1981
Section 1981 provides that “[a]ll persons within the
jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right
in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts .
. . as is enjoyed by white citizens.” 42 U.S.C. §
1981. Sanchez alleges that Whole Foods violated § 1981
by subjecting her to disparate treatment and a hostile work
environment based on her race. Specifically, Sanchez alleges
Whole Foods did so by requiring her to report to a Caucasian
male colleague, placing her on leave for complaints against
another colleague, failing to investigate or take ...