Murphy v. Mercy Medical Center, Inc.
CORRECTED MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard D. Bennett on 2/9/2017. (for typographical error only)(dass, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
TERESA MICHELLE MURPHY,
MERCY MEDICAL CENTER, INC.,
Civil Action No. RDB-16-1658
Plaintiff Teresa Michelle Murphy (“plaintiff” or “Murphy”) has filed a two-count
complaint against Mercy Medical Center, Inc. (“defendant” or “Mercy”) alleging race and
gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the
Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”) based on her non-promotion and/or
exclusion from supervisory and managerial positions in Mercy’s Environmental Services
Department. 1 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; Md. Code, State Gov’t §§ 20-266(a), 20-606(f).
Now pending before this Court is Mercy’s Motion to Dismiss (“Mercy’s Motion”)
(ECF No. 4). The parties’ submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, defendant Mercy’s Motion to
Title VII and FEPA are analyzed herein as one because “[t]he Maryland Court of Appeals has deemed
FEPA to be the state law analogue of Title VII, and has noted that Maryland courts ‘traditionally seek
guidance from federal cases in interpreting Maryland’s [FEPA].’” Lawrence v. Maryland Aviation, Admin., No.
RDB-16-112, 2016 WL 5870028, at *1 n.1 (D. Md. Oct. 7, 2016) (quoting Linton v. Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied
Physics Lab., LLC, No. JKB-10-276, 2011 WL 4549177, at *4 n.3 (D. Md. Sept. 28, 2011)).
Dismiss (ECF No. 4) is GRANTED, and plaintiff’s Complaint (ECF No. 1) is DISMISSED
When reviewing a Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the facts alleged in
the plaintiff’s Complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011).
In June 2014, Plaintiff Teresa Murphy, a white woman, applied for a supervisory
position in the Environmental Services Department of Mercy Medical Center, a hospital
located in Baltimore, Maryland. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 7, 25.) While Murphy was not selected for
the supervisory position, she was instead selected to work as a Lead Technician and began
working in this capacity on August 11, 2014. (Id. at ¶ 27.) The Department’s Director, Craig
Sattler (“Sattler”), informed her that she would need “more hospital experience” to meet
Sattler’s “minimum qualifications for the supervisory position” for which she had applied
and had not been selected. (Id. at ¶¶ 23, 27.) In September 2014, Murphy began supervisory
training, which lasted several months. (Id. at ¶¶ 27, 28.)
On January 2, 2015, Murphy spoke with one of her staff members about the staff
member’s failure to complete all of his assigned tasks. 2 (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 29.) In response, the
staff member, an African American male, “stated that [Murphy] ‘needed to watch her back.’”
(ECF No. 1 at ¶ 29.) Murphy reported the incident to her supervisor and to Sattler. (Id. at ¶
30.) On January 5, 2015, Murphy gave a list of daily tasks to the same staff member. (Id. at ¶
31.) Upon receipt of this document, the staff member “destroyed the written task list in
front of Plaintiff in a threatening manner.” (Id.) Later that day, the same staff member
While many of the factual allegations in the Complaint revolve around plaintiff’s interactions with this staff
member, nowhere in the Complaint is he named or otherwise identified.
“yell[ed] down a corridor at [Murphy] asking [Murphy] what her problem was.” (Id. at ¶ 32.)
Murphy reported both incidents to the management of the Environmental Services
Department and to Mercy’s Human Resources Department. (Id.)
Murphy further alleges that the same staff member “physically assaulted” her on
January 13, 2015. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 33.) The Complaint does not state any other information
about the alleged assault. (Id.) Murphy reported this incident to her supervisor. (Id.) The
Complaint states that Murphy does not believe that the staff member was ever reprimanded
for this conduct. (Id. at ¶¶ 33, 34.)
Murphy alleges that she “continued to receive harsh treatment from her coworkers
and subordinates.” (Id. at ¶ 35.) Murphy posits that her coworkers “were treating her in this
manner due to her race and gender.” (Id.) While Murphy “continued to share her concerns”
with the Environmental Services Department management, “her treatment in the workplace
continued to go unaddressed.” (Id. at ¶ 36.)
In addition, Murphy alleges that the Human Resources Department held a staff
meeting on March 10, 2015 that “was called as a result of racial tensions” in the
Environmental Services Department. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Murphy did not attend this meeting, but
asserts that she “later learned that during the March 10, 2015 meeting, several of the staff . . .
expressed issues with working for a ‘white woman.’” (Id. at ¶ 38.)
On March 23, 2015, after learning of several open supervisory positions in the
Environmental Services Department, 3 Murphy applied for a position in “another
Murphy “became aware of a second supervisory position opening [in the Environmental Services
Department] due to the termination of one of the Day Shift Supervisors for derogatory racial comments.”
(ECF No. 1 at ¶ 39.) Ms. Murphy did not apply for any openings in the Environmental Services Department.
department” at Mercy. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 39, 40.) On May 1, 2015, Mercy allegedly notified
Murphy that “she could not be considered for the position,” and the Human Resources
Department “encouraged [her] to seek employment elsewhere.” (Id. at ¶¶ 41, 42.)
Murphy filed an EEOC discrimination complaint on September 1, 2015. (ECF No. 1
at ¶ 15.) Murphy ended her employment at Mercy on January 22, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 13.) On or
about February 26, 2016, the EEOC dismissed Murphy’s case and issued her a Right to Sue
letter. (ECF No. 1-1.) Murphy timely filed her Complaint in this Court on May 26, 2016.
(ECF No. 1.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a plaintiff is required to plead “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose
of this requirement is to “to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(citation and internal quotations omitted). Consequently, “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citation omitted). Similarly, “an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” is insufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
Rather, to withstand a motion to dismiss, “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face,” meaning the court could draw “the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged.” Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted).
In the context of employment discrimination, the Supreme Court has clarified that
pleadings need not “contain specific facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination
under the framework set forth” in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 (2002). However, in order to survive a motion
to dismiss, plaintiff’s “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dept. of Transp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582,
585 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).
Although a complaint need not contain detailed allegations, it must contain “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by
showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.
Id. at 561.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere statements, do
not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Additionally, “[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must
be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679.
While plaintiff’s Complaint is replete with legal conclusions regarding the many ways
in which defendant allegedly discriminated against her, the Complaint is largely devoid of
factual allegations to support these legal theories. The only factual allegations related to race
and gender in the Complaint are: (1) that the majority of employees in Mercy’s
Environmental Services Department are African-American (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 26); (2) that
defendant failed to discipline an African-American co-worker with whom plaintiff had a
poor working relationship and who allegedly confronted plaintiff physically on one occasion
(Id. at ¶¶ 29-34); (3) that plaintiff received “harsh treatment from her coworkers and
subordinates” because of “her race and gender” (Id. at ¶ 35); 4 and (4) that defendant’s
Human Resources Department held a staff meeting—which plaintiff did not attend—during
which plaintiff’s co-workers allegedly expressed “issued working for a ‘white woman’” (Id. at
¶ 38). Even accepting these allegations as true, plaintiff fails to state a plausible claim that
her non-promotion (and, possibly, other adverse employment actions) was the result of
Mercy’s unlawful discrimination against her as a white woman. See McCleary-Evans, 780 F.3d
at 585 (to survive a motion to dismiss, the “factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level”). 5
Accordingly, defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 4) is GRANTED and
plaintiff’s Complaint (ECF No. 1) is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
For the reasons stated above, defendant Mercy’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 4) is
GRANTED, and plaintiff’s Complaint (ECF No. 1) is DISMISSED WITHOUT
A separate Order follows.
Date: February 9, 2017
Richard D. Bennett
United States District Judge
Plaintiff makes this general, conclusory allegation without reference to any incident or episode of alleged
discrimination by her coworkers. See ECF No. 1 at ¶ 35.
Similarly, plaintiff makes no factual allegations whatsoever in support of her claims that she was “classified”
by Mercy as a “Caucasian woman” or that Mercy follows a “policy and practice” of discrimination on the
basis of race and gender. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 44-46.)
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