Weidman v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 13–2007.

Decision Date08 January 2015
Docket NumberNo. 13–2007.,13–2007.
Citation776 F.3d 214
PartiesRichard C. WEIDMAN, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION; Clarion Ellis Johnson; Jeffrey Woodbury; Victoria Martin Weldon; Stephen D. Jones; Kent Dixon ; F. Bud Carr; Daniel Whitfield ; Jeremy Sampsell; Gerard Monsivaiz; Meghan Hasson, Defendants–Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

ARGUED:Richard C. Weidman, Great Falls, Virginia, Appellant Pro Se. Thomas Patrick Murphy, Hunton & Williams, LLP, McLean, Virginia, for Appellees. ON BRIEF:Arthur E. Schmalz, Ryan M. Bates, Hunton & Williams LLP, McLean, Virginia, for Appellees.

Before GREGORY, FLOYD, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.


Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded by published opinion. Judge GREGORY wrote the opinion, in which Judge FLOYD and Judge THACKER joined.

GREGORY, Circuit Judge:

Pro se Plaintiff Richard Weidman sued his former employer, Exxon Mobil Corporation (ExxonMobil), and ten ExxonMobil employees, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for reporting illegal pharmacy practices, which caused him to suffer a heart attack and emotional distress. Weidman, still pro se, appeals the district court's dismissal of his fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, personal injury, and wrongful discharge claims. Weidman furthermore challenges the district court's denial of his motion to remand the case to state court. For the reasons below, we affirm the district court's denial of Weidman's motion to remand and dismissal of all but one of his tort claims. We hold Weidman has sufficiently stated a claim for wrongful discharge against ExxonMobil.


In March 2013, Weidman filed suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court against his former employer, ExxonMobil, and ten ExxonMobil employees. These employees include: (1) Clarion Ellis Johnson, Medical Director; (2) Jeffrey Woodbury, Vice President for Safety, Security, Health and Environment and Johnson's supervisor; (3) Victoria Martin Weldon, U.S. Director of Medicine and Occupational Health and Weidman's supervisor from February 2010; and (4) Stephen Jones, whose title is not given but who reported directly to Johnson and supervised Weldon. The complaint also named four individuals who investigated Weidman's reports of retaliation: Daniel Whitfield, Kent Dixon, Jeremy Sampsell, and F. Bud Carr. Lastly, the suit named Meghan Hasson and Gerard Monsivaiz, who worked in the Human Resources Department, though Monsivaiz is only mentioned in the case caption. Weidman is a Virginia resident, as are three of the defendants: Hasson, Monsivaiz, and Sampsell.

Weidman worked as Senior Physician in ExxonMobil's Fairfax, Virginia office from 2007 until his termination in January 2013. Upon being hired, Weidman was required to read ExxonMobil's Standards of Business Conduct (“handbook”). This handbook detailed employee standards with respect to reporting suspected violations of law and policy. It also guaranteed nonretaliation by ExxonMobil against employees for making such reports. Weidman claims that he attended yearly meetings where videos were played showing Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, guaranteeing that employees would never suffer retaliation for reporting violations.

Weidman's complaint alleges that in 2009 he discovered ExxonMobil had been operating illegal pharmacies in multiple states, and had also illegally stockpiled large quantities of medication in its Fairfax, Virginia office, as well as in other clinics. He asserts many senior managers were aware of these illegal activities, including Johnson, Weldon, and Jones. Weidman further contends that Jones requested he “participate in a scheme” to distribute stockpiled medication to ExxonMobil employees in Virginia. In January 2010, Weidman says he informed Johnson he would not obtain a New Jersey medical license to work at a clinic in that state as long as it was operating an illegal pharmacy. In response to this, Weidman alleges Johnson became “physically intimidating” toward him.

Weidman claims he reported “violations of the law by the Medical Department,” in response to which “Johnson initiated a malicious campaign of retaliation.” The campaign included “attempts to humiliate, discredit, and punish Weidman,” including “continuously humiliat[ing] Weidman before [his] colleagues,” falsely classifying him as a poor performer, and “ma[king] statements that clearly implied that Weidman was a pedophile” at an office gathering. Shortly thereafter, Weidman reported via email to senior management his belief that Johnson was retaliating against him for prior complaints, and that ExxonMobil was violating pharmacy laws in several states. ExxonMobil proceeded to conduct what Weidman describes as a “sham” investigation into his allegations. Weidman says Whitfield and Dixon, two investigators assigned to the matter, falsely concluded that Johnson had not harassed Weidman and that the pharmacies were legal.

On an unspecified date after the investigation into Weidman's report, Weidman says the Medical Department designated him as a “poor performer” and required him to participate in a performance improvement plan. In September 2011, Weidman claims to have received an email from ExxonMobil's Legal Department stating ExxonMobil pharmacies had been in violation of multiple state laws. Weidman says he then sent another email to senior managers informing them that Johnson and other members of the Medical Department had retaliated against him, and that there had been a cover up of these actions during the first investigation. A second investigation commenced, led by Sampsell and Carr. During the investigation, Carr allegedly admitted to Weidman that ExxonMobil had been operating illegal pharmacies for years, and that Johnson had permitted their operation.

Under the performance improvement plan, which lasted for over a year, Weidman participated in meetings with Weldon, which Hasson also attended. Weidman contends the purpose of the meetings was not to improve his performance, but to overburden him with the creation of new tasks meant to cause his failure to perform. In late October 2012, Weidman alleges he complained to Human Resources about the “oppressive and unjustifiable” meetings. He was particularly concerned about a meeting scheduled just days before he was to undergo surgery. The meeting occurred on October 24, 2012, and was “hostile and confrontational.” Weidman claims to have had a heart attack during the meeting “as a direct result of the stress which Weldon maliciously inflicted upon him.” In mid-December, ExxonMobil extended Weidman's performance improvement plan. At the next meeting in January 2013, Weidman's employment was terminated, allegedly for failure to cooperate with the plan.

Subsequently, Weidman filed his complaint asserting four causes of action: (1) fraud, because Appellees allegedly retaliated against him despite representations made to the contrary in the handbook and by CEO Tillerson in yearly videos; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (3) “personal injury” of “irreparable damage to his heart”; and (4) wrongful discharge. Weidman pursues this last count under two theories, that his termination violated Virginia's public policy and was also a breach of an implied unilateral contract established by ExxonMobil's employee handbook.

Appellees removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where they also moved to dismiss the case under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6). Weidman moved to remand the case to state court. The district court dismissed all of Weidman's claims and denied his motion to remand.


In appealing the district court's denial of his motion to remand, Weidman raises a threshold jurisdictional issue that we address de novo. See Mayes v. Rapoport, 198 F.3d 457, 460 (4th Cir.1999). Weidman named three non-diverse defendants in his complaint, but the district court found it could properly retain subject matter jurisdiction under the “fraudulent joinder” doctrine. Normally, complete diversity of citizens is necessary for a federal court to exercise diversity jurisdiction, meaning the plaintiff cannot be a citizen of the same state as any other defendant. Id. at 464. However, the fraudulent joinder doctrine provides that diversity jurisdiction is not automatically defeated by naming non-diverse defendants.1 The district court can “disregard, for jurisdictional purposes, the citizenship of certain nondiverse defendants.” Id. at 461. It can retain jurisdiction upon the non-moving party showing either that the plaintiff committed outright fraud in pleading jurisdictional facts, or that “there is no possibility that the plaintiff would be able to establish a cause of action against the in-state defendant in state court.” Mayes, 198 F.3d at 464 ; see also Marshall v. Manville Sales Corp., 6 F.3d 229, 233 (4th Cir.1993) ( “A claim need not ultimately succeed ... [as] only a possibility of a right to relief need be asserted.”).

We agree with the district court that Weidman, a Virginia resident, cannot succeed in any of his claims against the non-diverse defendants—Monsivaiz, Sampsell, or Hasson—in state court. First, Monsivaiz is only mentioned in the complaint caption; there is no factual detail at all to support any claims against him. Of the two remaining non-diverse defendants, Weidman has not in any way alleged that Sampsell or Hasson made materially false statements on which Weidman reasonably relied, that their actions were connected to his heart attack, or that they engaged in outrageous or intolerable conduct. These claims fail in any case, for reasons described in Part III.

The only plausible claim against Hasson and Sampsell is the wrongful discharge claim. Appellees argue that Sampsell or Hasson cannot be liable for wrongful discharge because Weidman named only ExxonMobil in the paragraph of his complaint describing this count. Even assuming Weidman brings suit against all Appel...

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