Tolliver v. Tandium, Corp.
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 1/7/2022. (bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 1 of 7
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Civil Action No. ELH-21-1441
This Memorandum resolves a motion to remand, filed by plaintiff Charles Tolliver, who
is currently self-represented.
He sued defendant Tandium Corporation (“Tandium”) in the
Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County (the “Circuit Court”), to recover wages that were
allegedly unpaid. ECF 1-1; ECF 4 (the “Complaint”). The suit lodged claims for violations of
the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code (2016 Repl. Vol.,
2017 Supp.), §§ 3-501 et seq. of the Labor and Employment Article (Count I), and the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (Count II). ECF 4 at 4-10. Tandium removed
the case to this Court on June 10, 2021, on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1441, and 1446. ECF 1. 1
Tolliver subsequently filed an Amended Complaint, in which he abandoned his FLSA
claim. ECF 19. And, he has moved to remand, arguing that without the FLSA claim, the Court
should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. ECF 13 (the
Tolliver was represented by counsel in State court. However, counsel is not a member
in good standing of the bar of this Court. ECF 7. Following removal, the Clerk informed
plaintiff’s counsel that, within 14 days, she was required to notify the Court if she would seek
admission to the bar of this Court, or if another attorney would be entering an appearance. Id. No
attorney has appeared for plaintiff. However, according to Tandium, Tolliver has a law degree
and is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia. ECF 16 at 1 n.1.
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 2 of 7
“Motion to Remand”). Tandium has not responded in opposition to the Motion to Remand, and
the time to do so has passed. See ECF 18; Docket.
No hearing is necessary to resolve the motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that
follow, I shall grant the Motion to Remand.
I. Factual and Procedural History
According to the Amended Complaint, Tandium, a “web-based HR services company,”
hired Tolliver in July 2020 as a Regional Sales Manager. ECF 19, ¶¶ 6, 8. His “primary duty
was making sales.” Id. ¶ 11. However, he was terminated in November 2020. Id. ¶ 18. By that
point, he had “successfully closed three deals” and had a “sales pipeline of roughly $250,000.”
Id. ¶ 13.
Tolliver asserts that under the terms of his employment with Tandium, defendant was to
pay him “a 20% commission on administrative fees and a 50% commission on set up fees per
client upon the collection of said fees from each client.” Id. ¶ 23. He alleges that during the time
of his employment, he collected fees from three clients. Id. ¶¶ 14-16, 25. Therefore, he claimed
that he was “eligible for commission.” Id. ¶ 25. But, Tolliver was terminated by Tandium
without having been paid a commission for any of the three clients. Id. ¶ 18. Tandium claimed
that no commissions for overtime pay were due to Tolliver. Id. ¶¶ 20, 26, 41. Accordingly,
plaintiff seeks unpaid wages and damages under the MWPCL. Id. at 10; see id. ¶¶ 23-41.
Tolliver’s earlier FLSA claim was also related to his compensation at Tandium. While at
Tandium, Tolliver was classified as exempt from FLSA overtime requirements under the
“outside sales exception.” ECF 4, ¶¶ 43-46. However, Tolliver alleged that he was misclassified
because he actually spent little time away from the Tandium office. Id. ¶¶ 43-64. He claimed
that, as a result, he was improperly denied overtime pay for considerable nighttime and weekend
work, and sought unpaid wages and damages under the FLSA. Id. at 10, ¶¶ 12, 43-64.
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 3 of 7
On June 17, 2021, Tandium filed a motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process,
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(5). ECF 10. The motion was accompanied by a memorandum
of law (ECF 10-1) (collectively, the “Motion to Dismiss”) and one exhibit (ECF 10-2). Tolliver
did not respond to the Motion to Dismiss.
For his part, on July 21, 2021, Tolliver filed a motion to amend his complaint pursuant to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2) (ECF 15), together with a redlined copy of the proposed amended
complaint (ECF 15-1) (collectively, the “Motion to Amend”). 2
The proposed amended
complaint abandoned the FLSA claim. ECF 15-1 at 7-9. And, on July 19, 2021, Tolliver filed
his Motion to Remand on the ground that, without the FLSA claim, the court should decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction. ECF 13. Tandium responded in opposition to the Motion to
Amend (ECF 16), but did not respond to the Motion to Remand.
In my Memorandum (ECF 17) and Order (ECF 18) of November 1, 2021, I granted the
Motion to Amend. I also ordered Tolliver to docket six exhibits referenced in his Amended
Complaint that had not been filed with the Court. And, I denied the Motion to Dismiss as moot,
because it was directed to the original Complaint, which was superseded by the Amended
Complaint. See, e.g., Goodman v. Diggs, 986 F.3d 493, 498 (4th Cir. 2021); Young v. City of
Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 573 (4th Cir. 2001). Finally, I granted Tandium until November
23, 2021, to respond in opposition to the Motion to Remand.
Tolliver docketed his six exhibits on November 16, 2021, and marked them as
“Confidential.” ECF 20. By Order of November 18, 2021 (ECF 21), I directed the Clerk to
maintain them under seal. However, I noted that, with the exception of Exhibits 2 and 4, which
contain confidential business and financial information, there was no apparent basis for sealing
Tolliver attempted to file his Motion to Amend on July 19, 2021, but it was rejected by
the Court for failure to include a redlined copy. ECF 14.
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 4 of 7
the exhibits. Id. at 2. Accordingly, I ordered Tolliver to submit a justification for the assertion
of confidentiality for the remaining exhibits, due by December 3, 2021. Id.
In response, on November 22, 2021, Tolliver filed a “Motion to Seal or Otherwise Limit
Inspection of Certain Exhibits.” ECF 22 (the “Motion to Seal”). In particular, Tolliver sought to
seal Exhibit 2, Exhibit 4, and Exhibit 5 (ECF 20-5). Exhibit 5 is a demand letter from plaintiff’s
lawyer to Tandium,. Plaintiff argued that the exhibits contain his “base salary information,” and
that making this information publicly available “could substantially impact future salary
negotiations and create less favorable employment opportunities.” ECF 22. Tolliver did not
discuss or assert a need to seal Exhibits 1, 3, or 6. These exhibits do not contain plaintiff’s salary
information, which is the sole basis asserted by plaintiff for sealing.
In a Memorandum (ECF 23) and Order (ECF 24) of December 8, 2021, I ruled that
Exhibit 4 should be sealed in its entirety. But, by December 17, 2021, I directed Tolliver to
docket redacted versions of Exhibits 2 and 5, omitting his salary information. Further, I ordered
the Clerk to unseal Exhibits 1, 3, and 6. Tolliver failed to comply. Therefore, I granted him an
extension, until January 7, 2022, warning that if he did not meet the extended deadline, I would
assume he no longer sought to seal Exhibits 2 and 5. ECF 25. Thereafter, on January 7, 2022,
Tolliver submitted redacted versions of Exhibits 2 and 5. See ECF 26.
Tandium has not responded to the Motion to Remand. Therefore, I assume that Tandium
does not oppose remand.
The case was removed from State court based on federal question jurisdiction, in light of
Tolliver’s FLSA claim.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
And, a court may exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over State law claims “that are so related to claims in the action within such original
jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 5 of 7
States Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). “[W]hether the federal-law claims and State-law
claims are part of the same case is determined by whether they ‘derive from a common nucleus
of operative fact and are such that [a plaintiff] would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one
judicial proceeding.’” Hinson v. Norwest Fin. S. Carolina, Inc., 239 F.3d 611, 615 (4th Cir.
2001). Tolliver’s MWPCL claim satisfies this standard because, like the FLSA claim, it derives
from Tolliver’s allegations regarding Tandium’s compensation practices and its unpaid wages.
Notably, the Court’s supplemental jurisdiction does not necessarily terminate simply
because the federal law claim is no longer present in the case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367; Shanaghan
v. Cahill, 58 F.3d 106, 109 (4th Cir. 1995). However, pursuant to § 1367(c)(3), a district court
“may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim . . . if . . . the district court has
dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.”
The court has discretion to decide whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. The
Fourth Circuit has recognized that under § 1367(c)(3), “trial courts enjoy wide latitude in
determining whether or not to retain jurisdiction over state claims when federal claims have been
extinguished.” Shanaghan, 58 F.3d at 110; see ESAB Group, Inc. v. Zurich Ins. PLC, 685 F.3d
376, 394 (4th Cir. 2012) (“Section 1367(c) recognizes courts’ authority to decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction in limited circumstances, including . . . where the court dismisses the
claims over which it has original jurisdiction.”); Hinson, 239 F.3d at 616 (stating that, “under the
authority of 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), authorizing a federal court to decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction, a district court has inherent power to dismiss the case or, in cases removed from
State court, to remand, provided the conditions set forth in § 1367(c) for declining to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction have been met”).
The Court may exercise this discretion by dismissing a case or by remanding the case if it
is a removed action. See Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 353-57 (1988). “In
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 6 of 7
Carnegie–Mellon, the [Supreme] Court found federal courts to have an inherent power to
remand removed State claims when the federal claims drop out of the case.” Hinson, 239 F.3d at
616 (emphasis in original). “Even though Carnegie–Mellon was decided before the doctrine of
pendent jurisdiction was codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1367,” the Fourth Circuit has said that it
“continues to inform the proper interpretation of § 1367(c).” Id. And, the 30-day deadline
specified in 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for motions to remand on the basis of defects other than subject
matter jurisdiction does not apply to motions to remand arguing that the Court should decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction. This is because such motions do not arise under § 1447(c).
See Hinson, 239 F.3d at 616.
When exercising this discretion, the Supreme Court has instructed federal courts to
“consider and weigh . . . the values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity in
order to decide whether to exercise jurisdiction over . . . pendent state-law claims.” CarnegieMellon, 484 U.S. at 350.
In particular, “a remand may best promote [these] values” by
permitting a case to be resolved in State court without the needless expense of filing a new case.
Id. at 353.
These factors plainly favor remand to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. The
sole claim in this case is one of State law, which the Maryland State courts are obviously well
equipped to address. Furthermore, this case has not progressed in this Court beyond very
preliminary motion practice, without any consideration on the merits. Cf. Carnegie-Mellon, 484
U.S. at 350 n.7 (“[I]n the usual case in which all federal-law claims are eliminated before trial,
the balance of factors to be considered under the pendent jurisdiction doctrine . . .will point
toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.”). Thus, remand is
appropriate. See, e.g., Medina v. L & M Const., Inc., RWT–14–00329, 2014 WL 1658874, at *2
(D. Md. Apr. 23, 2014) (“Finally, as a matter of comity, this Court will remand Medina’s state
Case 1:21-cv-01441-ELH Document 27 Filed 01/07/22 Page 7 of 7
law claims back to state court, as ‘[n]eedless decisions of state law [by federal courts] should be
avoided both as a matter of comity and to promote justice between the parties, by procuring for
them a surer-footed reading of applicable law.’”) (alteration in Medina) (quoting United Mine
Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)).
The Supreme Court has cautioned that district courts should guard against “manipulative
tactics.” Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 357. But, “it is not bad faith for a plaintiff to bring both
State and federal claims in State court and then, upon removal, seek dismissal of the federal
claims and remand to State court. Such a remand is the risk that a removing defendant takes.”
Ramotnik v. Fisher, 568 F. Supp. 2d 598, 603 (D. Md. 2008); see also Shilling v. Northwestern
Mut. Life Ins. Co., 423 F. Supp. 2d 513, 518-21 (D. Md. 2006).
Accordingly, I shall grant Tolliver’s Motion to Remand.
For the aforementioned reasons, I shall grant the Motion to Remand (ECF 13).
An Order follows.
Date: January 7, 2022
Ellen L. Hollander
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?