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Campbell v. Bristol Community College

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 23, 2017



          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge

         This is a workplace discrimination and retaliation action. Plaintiff Marlyne Campbell has brought suit against her former employer, defendant Bristol Community College. The complaint alleges claims for hostile work environment, discrimination on the basis of race, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, as well as state-law claims arising out of the same facts. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se.

         Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the facts are set forth as alleged in the complaint. Bristol Community College (“BCC”) is a public institution of higher education established under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 15A, § 5. Marlyne Campbell is an African-American woman and former employee of BCC. (Compl. 2).

         In 2012, Campbell worked as a Career Development Counselor at BCC. (Id.). BCC was one of fifteen state community colleges that benefitted from a $20 million federal educational grant entitled the Massachusetts Community College and Workforce Development Transformation Agenda, or the MCCWDTA grant. (Id. ¶ 6). The complaint alleges that from August 28, through October 10, 2012, staff members at BCC informally referred to the MCCWDTA grant as the “Mack Daddy” grant. (Id.). The complaint characterizes that term as an “insulting racial slur.” (Id. ¶¶ 7, 9).

         On November 17, 2012, Campbell met with unspecified personnel in the human resources department to complain about what she viewed as harassment and an excessive workload. (Id. ¶ 8). Two days later, on November 19, she received a poor work-performance review. (Id.). On December 11, 2012, BCC allegedly took away resources that Campbell needed to perform her responsibilities, including her computer, desk, phone extension, and office space. (Id. ¶ 7). The following week, she reported to “[an] appropriate manager, human resources, and faculty” that employees were referring to the MCCWDTA grant as the “Mack Daddy” grant. (Id. ¶ 9). Shortly thereafter, on December 26, 2012, Campbell was terminated. (Id.). The complaint alleges that BCC terminated her without conducting a fair investigation and without any verbal or written warning. (Id.).

         On September 13, 2013, Campbell filed a claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) alleging employment discrimination on the basis of age and race, as well as retaliation. (Campbell MCAD Charge, Def. Mot., Ex. A, 3).[1] After an investigation and preliminary hearing, the MCAD determined that there was insufficient evidence to determine that Campbell had been discriminated against. (MCAD Notice of Lack of Probable Cause Finding, Def. Mot, Ex. C).

         On June 23, 2016, Campbell brought this lawsuit alleging violations of state and federal law arising out of what she viewed as BCC's discriminatory and retaliatory conduct. BCC has moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6).

         II. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim made pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (citations omitted). Dismissal is appropriate if the complaint fails to set forth “factual allegations, either direct or inferential, respecting each material element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.” Gagliardi v. Sullivan, 513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Centro Médico del Turabo, Inc. v. Feliciano de Melecio, 406 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2005)).

         On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction made pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), “‘the party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court carries the burden of proving its existence.” Murphy v. United States, 45 F.3d 520, 522 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Taber Partners, I v. Merit Builders, Inc., 987 F.2d 57, 60 (1st Cir. 1993)). When ruling on a 12(b)(1) motion the Court “must credit the plaintiff's well-[pleaded] factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Merlonghi v. United States, 620 F.3d 50, 54 (1st Cir. 2010).

         III. Analysis

         Although not entirely clear, the pro se complaint appears to allege six claims arising under Title VII and state law. The Title VII claims include (1) hostile work environment, (2) race discrimination, and (3) retaliation. The state law claims include (1) breach of contract, (2) ...

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