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Odutola v. Branch Banking and Trust Co.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 7, 2018



          Royce C. Lamberth United States District Judge

         Now before the Court are plaintiffs Motion to Remand to State Court [ECF No. 7] and defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 13]. Upon consideration, plaintiffs Motion to Remand to State Court is DENIED. Furthermore, defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. Counts I and III of plaintiff s complaint are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Counts II and IV of the complaint are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff, Oluwarotimi Odutola, worked for defendant, Branch Banking and Trust Company, as a personal banker from October 17, 2015 to November 22, 2016. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. In October of 2016, plaintiff had several incidents at work. See Id. ¶¶ 9-94.

         First, plaintiff became concerned when his superiors attempted to convince plaintiff to violate defendant's corporate policy by leaving a branch of the bank with only one teller working. Id. ¶¶ 9-12. Plaintiff attempted to raise his concerns in a meeting with his manager the next day. Id. ¶ 13. But the manager reprimanded plaintiff for not doing as he was told and used discriminatory language in the process. Id. ¶ 13-15.

         Just a few days later, plaintiff had an altercation with a customer. Id. ¶¶ 27-46. The customer came into the bank and approached plaintiffs window at the teller counter, trying to cash a suspicious check. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. When plaintiff told the customer that he needed to provide verification, the customer became enraged at plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 25-32. Plaintiff asked the customer to leave the premises, further angering the customer and causing him to make serious threats to plaintiffs life. Id. ¶¶ 33-35. Plaintiff came around the teller line window to try to alert the branch manager, but the customer blocked his path. Id. ¶¶ 36-41. A coworker tried to deescalate the situation, grabbing the customer's check and ID in order to notify the authorities. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. Finally, the branch manager came out of her office; she returned the check and ID to the customer, who left the store. Id. ¶¶ 44-46.

         Plaintiff was incredibly disturbed by the whole incident and the fact that the branch manager never intervened or even reported the customer. Id. ¶¶ 47-50. In a meeting with the branch manager, he told the manager that he planned to report both the incident with the customer and the discriminatory language from the earlier meeting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA"). Id. ¶ 55. Additionally, he wished to file a grievance report with defendant's human resources department. Id. ¶ 57. The branch manager responded by making discriminatory remarks to plaintiff and threatening to terminate his employment if he reported the incident. Id. ¶¶ 55-60.

         Plaintiff eventually called the police to report the altercation with the customer. Id. ¶¶ 77-85. Immediately after an officer came to question the branch manager, plaintiff was placed on administrative leave. Id. ¶ 86. On October 19, 2016, he filed a claim with the EEOC. And on November 22, 2016, the plaintiffs employment with the defendant was terminated. Id. ¶ 94.

         On October 27, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court. On December 22, 2017, plaintiff amended his complaint seeking $4.3 million in damages and listing four counts: (1) negligence; (2) hostile work environment; (3) violation of public policy; and (4) retaliation. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 95-209. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se.

         II. Plaintiffs Motion to Remand to State Court is Denied

         Plaintiff originally filed this suit in D.C. Superior Court. On January 16, 2018, defendant filed a notice of removal, removing the case to this Court. Plaintiff now moves to remand the case to Superior Court. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs motion is denied.

         A. Legal Standard

         Civil actions filed in state court may be removed to a United States district court by the defendant so long as the case could have originally been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2012). However, "[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." Id. § 1447(c). A challenge to subject matter jurisdiction may be raised on a motion to remand by the parties. Id. A "party opposing a motion to remand bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists in federal ...

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