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Ware v. Nicklin Associates

October 3, 2008

GLORIA J. WARE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NICKLIN ASSOCIATES, INC.; STERICYCLE, INC.; JOHN NICKLIN; SCOTT MILLER; GEORGE FOX; CURTIS PATTON; AND DAVID LEBLANC,: DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Currently before the Court are defendant Nicklin Associates Inc.'s ("Nicklin") Motion*fn1 to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and defendant Stericycle Inc.'s ("Stericycle") Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff, Gloria Ware, brought this lawsuit against Nicklin and its employees named as defendants and also Stericycle (collectively, the "defendants") alleging race, age and sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(a) (2000) and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 (2008) ("DCHRA") and wrongful termination. According to Nicklin, the allegations contained in the complaint are inadequate to provide the relief which the plaintiff seeks. Stericycle posits that it is improperly named as a defendant.

Upon consideration of the parties' various filings submitted in regard to Nicklin's Motion to Dismiss ("Nicklin's Mot."), Stericycle's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Stericycle's Mot.") and the relevant portions of the record, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that Nicklin's Motion must be denied and that Stericycle's Motion must be denied without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Summary*fn2

In July 2003, Nicklin hired the plaintiff as a part-time secretary. Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 10. In December of 2003, the plaintiff was promoted to the position of Account Manager, id. ¶ 11, and in early 2004, Nicklin promoted the plaintiff to the position of Office Manager, id. ¶ 13. In late 2004, the plaintiff was also assigned duties and responsibilities of the Transportation Manager without receiving any additional pay, id. ¶ 14, while the person who previously held the Transportation Manager position (a male) purportedly "was paid almost twice as much as [the plaintiff] was paid to do half the work." Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Nicklin Associates, Inc. at 4.

John Nicklin, a Vice President of the Nicklin corporation, id. ¶ 7, allegedly "referred to black workers in racist slurs and made racist references", id. ¶ 29. Several times during the course of her employment, the plaintiff claims that she requested that Mr. Nicklin cease using racially derogative language when referring to Nicklin's African-American employees, id. ¶ 30, and the plaintiff told her co-workers that she intended to file a charge of discrimination against Nicklin with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), id. ¶ 16. She filed her charge of discrimination with the EEOC on March 9, 2005,*fn3 id. ¶ 9 and according to the plaintiff, Nicklin's management knew that she had filed the complaint with the EEOC, Compl. ¶¶ 17, 18, 28, and was aware that she "had knowledge of a fraudulent billing and invoicing scheme" employed by Nicklin, id. ¶ 32.

On Thursday, April 14, 2005, the plaintiff was absent from work for half the day and absent the entire day on Friday, April 15, 2005, for medical reasons. Id. ¶ 23. On Monday, April 18, 2005, the plaintiff's employment was terminated by Nicklin when she returned to work for not providing "a written explanation from a doctor or healthcare provider that justified and substantiated her absence from work for medical reasons" even though she had not been made aware that she needed one. Id. ¶¶ 20, 22. And according to the plaintiff, she was terminated despite otherwise having an unblemished record. Id. ¶ 21.

B. Procedural Summary

On August 24, 2007, the EEOC issued a letter to the plaintiff indicating that she could initiate a lawsuit based on the charges she had lodged against Nicklin with the EEOC. Compl. ¶ 33. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on November 19, 2007. Her complaint asserted claims against Nicklin and five of its employees for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and the DCHRA, and for wrongful termination. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4-7, 34-45. The complaint also named Stericycle as a defendant because "it is the successor in interest to Nicklin Associates, Inc. and, alternatively, the former employer of [the plaintiff]." Id. ¶ 3. Stericycle timely removed the case to this Court on February 8, 2008.*fn4

Docket Entry ("D.E.") #1.

On February 19, 2008, the Nicklin defendants moved for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Stericycle moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. The plaintiff has filed oppositions to both motions.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Rule 12(b)(6)

When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court "must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true" and "must grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Sparrow v. United Airlines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Erickson v. Pardus, ___ U.S. ____, ____, 127 S. Ct 2197, 2200 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Under this Rule, a plaintiff need not allege specific details that prove the veracity of a claim; rather, a properly pleaded complaint only need contain a clear and concise statement of the claim sufficient to place a defendant on "notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of [her] entitlement to relief [in her complaint] requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ____, ____, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). Moreover, "'[a] court may dismiss a complaint 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 ...


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