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Brown-Morrison v. Jacobs

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 10, 2018

VERA BROWN-MORRISON, Plaintiff,
v.
KATIE JACOBS, SUSAN ABBOTT, and VINFEN CORPORATION, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT SUSAN ABBOTT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

          F. Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge

         This is an action for workplace discrimination. Plaintiff Vera Brown-Morrison, a black woman who practices Pentecostalism, alleges that defendants Vinfen Corporation, her former employer; Katherine Sharby, [1] her team leader; and Susan Abbott, the Vice President of Vinfen, violated federal labor law and discriminated against her on the basis of her race and religion. She further alleges that she was retaliated against when she reported those violations to Abbott.

         Defendant Susan Abbott has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, that motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are set forth as alleged in the complaint.

         Plaintiff Vera Brown-Morrison is a black woman who practices Pentecostalism. (Compl. Ex. B ¶ 1). She began working for Vinfen on February 14, 2011, as a Community Integration Coordinator. (Id.). In November 2013, Sharby was hired as Brown-Morrison's team leader. (Id. Ex. B ¶ 2).

         The complaint alleges that Sharby “continuously targeted members of [Brown-Morrison's] team who[] [were] not white by constantly switching their work assignments and clients around as well as delegating licensed caseloads to unlicensed practitioners.” (Id.).

         The complaint further alleges that from December 2013 to May 2014 Sharby organized mandatory trainings that occurred during lunch and required employees to eat during the training. (Id. Ex. B ¶ 4). Brown-Morrison “felt very uncomfortable” with that because, in accordance with Pentecostalism, she and three other co-workers on her team were fasting for 30-40 days around the Easter holiday. (Id.).

         On October 6, 2014, Brown-Morrison sent an email to Abbott, expressing her concerns that Sharby was giving her, an unlicensed practitioner, work assignments that required a license. (Id. Ex. B ¶ 5). She told Abbott in the email that she “felt uncomfortable doing these duties as [she was] not qualified and spoke about [Sharby's] unprofessional behavior towards [her] because of [her] race.” (Id.). According to the complaint, she never heard back from Abbott. (Id.).

         The complaint alleges that Sharby reprimanded Brown-Morrison and other employees, who were again fasting for religious reasons, in November 2014 for not attending a potluck prior to another training. (Id. Ex. B ¶ 6). It further alleges that Brown-Morrison unsuccessfully attempted to transfer to other positions or another team. (Id. Ex. B ¶ 7).

         The complaint alleges that on February 12, 2015, Brown-Morrison received a Corrective Action form, and that Sharby fabricated all five clients mentioned on the form in order to accuse Brown-Morrison of failing 25% of the time. (Id. Ex. B ¶ 8). Furthermore, it alleges that she was issued the Corrective Action form in retaliation for complaining to Abbott. (Id.).

         B. Procedural Background

         Brown-Morrison filed this action on November 7, 2017. The complaint alleges violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.; and ...


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