Meadows v. Charles County School Board of Education et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Plaintiff 6/16/17 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 6/16/2017. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
DEBRA F. MEADOWS
Civil Action No. DKC 16-2897
CHARLES COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OF
EDUCATION, et al.
employment discrimination case are a motion to dismiss filed by
Defendant Helen E. Keller (ECF No. 22); a motion for summary
(“Charles County Schools” or the “Board”) (ECF No. 48); and two
papers filed by Plaintiff Debra Meadows (“Plaintiff”) (ECF Nos.
The issues have been briefed, and the court now
rules, no hearing being deemed necessary.
Local Rule 105.6.
For the following reasons, Ms. Keller’s motion will be granted,
the Board’s motion will be granted, and both of Plaintiff’s
motions will be denied.
Although the clerk did not docket these papers as motions
for leave to amend, they will be construed as such based on
their content. Indeed, the Board understood at least one of the
papers to be a motion for leave to amend and responded in
opposition to it. (ECF No. 54).
The allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint are not entirely
Plaintiff began working for Keller Transportation, Inc.
(“KTI”), a bus company that has a contract with Charles County
Schools, in 2011.
(ECF No. 1, at 7).
suffers from dyslexia.
Plaintiff lives in
(Id. at 8).
discovered several problems.
(Id. at 7).
First, she found out
that she was categorized an independent contractor and sought to
correct the Board’s employment records to reflect that she was
an employee of Charles County Schools.
Second, she found that
KTI’s human resources department had classified her and her son
as “border and migrant workers.”
Third, she discovered
that KTI had reported her income as being “extremely high,” too
high for her subsidized housing.
This discrepancy led
to Plaintiff and her nine-year-old daughter being assigned a
When the new school year started later in
2015, Plaintiff was given no vacation or sick leave for her
When Plaintiff was on workers’ compensation leave in
November 2015, KTI told Plaintiff that she should contact the
unemployment benefits office.
That office, however, informed
Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are set
forth in the complaint and construed in the light most favorable
her that KTI had not reported her employment with the company
and that she was not entitled to any unemployment benefits.
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on June 2, 2016, and the EEOC
issued her a right to sue notice on June 15.
(ECF No. 1, at 6).
She filed this suit on August 18 against Ms. Keller, KTI, the
Board, and “Keller Jr[.] Keller III Ernest Bus Service Inc.,”
alleging ongoing discrimination on the basis of her religion,
national origin, and disability in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et
seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.
Defendants retaliated against her in violation of Title VII.
(Id. at 5).
A schedule was set and discovery began (ECF No. 27), but
the parties have had numerous discovery disputes.
Judge Timothy J. Sullivan was assigned to the case on December
19, 2016 (ECF No. 29), and continues to supervise the discovery
issues between the parties.
Plaintiff has recently filed an
As discussed below, the identity of the fourth defendant
in this case is unclear, but it appears this defendant has not
yet been served. (ECF No. 10).
interlocutory appeal based on one of Judge Sullivan’s decisions.
(ECF No. 64).4
On November 23, Ms. Keller moved to dismiss all claims
(ECF No. 22).
Plaintiff was provided with a
Roseboro notice (ECF No. 24), which advised her of the pendency
of the motion to dismiss and her entitlement to respond within
seventeen days from the date of the letter.
See Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975).
response on March 6, 2017 (ECF No. 50).
The Board filed its
pending motion for summary judgment on March 1, 2017.
“[W]hile the filing of a notice of appeal ‘confers
jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district
court of control over those aspects of the case involved in the
appeal[,]’” the district court does not lose jurisdiction when a
litigant appeals an unappealable order. United States v. Jones,
367 F.App’x 482, 484 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Griggs v. Provident
Consumer Disc. Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982)); accord 16A Charles
Alan Wright, Arthur Miller, et al., Federal Practice and
Procedure § 3949.1 (4th ed. 2017) (“The weight of authority holds
that an appeal from a clearly non-appealable order fails to oust
district court authority; older cases holding to the contrary
have been rejected.” (footnotes omitted)). Although the precise
nature of Plaintiff’s appeal is not clear, it appears that
Plaintiff appealed a non-final order and did not seek a
certificate of appealability. See United States v. Hinton, 420
F.App’x 270, 270 (4th Cir. 2011) (dismissing appeal where denial
of motion for recusal was “neither a final order nor an
appealable interlocutory or collateral order”); Poux v. FCI
Bennettsville SC, 418 F.App’x 157, 157 (4th Cir. 2011)
(dismissing appeal of order staying discovery); Stephens v.
Muncy, 918 F.2d 174 (4th Cir. 1990) (dismissing appeal of order
granting leave to file motion to dismiss).
court retains jurisdiction over the case and may resolve the
Plaintiff was provided a Roseboro notice for the Board’s
motion (ECF No. 49), and she responded on March 13 (ECF No. 51).
Plaintiff filed her pending motions on March 28 and April 26.
(ECF Nos. 52; 62).
III. Plaintiff’s Motions to Amend
Standard of Review
A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course
within twenty-one days after serving it or within twenty-one
whichever is earlier.
When the right to
amend as a matter of course expires, “a party may amend its
pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent or the
Whether to grant leave
to amend is a matter left to the discretion of the district
court, see Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d
754, 769 (4th Cir. 2011), though courts should “freely give leave
when justice so requires,” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).
leave to amend is appropriate “only when the amendment would be
prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on
the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be futile.”
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th Cir. 1999)
(emphasis in original) (quoting Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co.,
785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986)).
Generally, pro se pleadings
are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard
than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
(1976)); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
“Memorandum to Amend and Correct” and the other labeled a “Rule
2-341. Rule -341 Amending and Pleading to Correct in Plaintiff
Defen[ses]” – that appear to be efforts to amend her complaint.
Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552; the Economic Espionage Act, 18
U.S.C. §§ 1831-1839; the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a; mail
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1691, et
seq.; conspiracy to defraud the government; § 1981; § 1983; and
multiple provisions of the federal tax code.
Charles County Schools responded in opposition to one of
Plaintiff should not be allowed to amend her complaint because
Rule 2-341 appears to be a citation to Maryland state
rules of civil procedure, which do not apply in federal court.
her proposed changes would be futile and because she failed to
comply with Local Rule 103.6.
(ECF No. 54-1, at 2-4).
Local Rule 103.6(a) requires that a plaintiff submit an
“original of the proposed amended pleading” separately from her
motion for leave to amend.
Local Rule 103.6(c) states that the
moving party “shall file and serve (1) a clean copy of the
amended pleading and (2) a copy of the amended pleading in which
stricken material has been lined through or enclosed in brackets
and new material has been underlined or set forth in bold-faced
Local Rule 103.6(d) mandates that a plaintiff seeking
leave to amend shall first “attempt to obtain the consent of
consent of the other counsel has been obtained.”
In a number of respects, Plaintiff’s motions for leave to
amend fail to adhere to the requirements of the Local Rules.
both papers, Plaintiff simply provided a single document with
Additionally, Plaintiff failed to attach red-
line versions comparing her original complaint with her amended
Defendants had consented to the amended pleadings, and the Board
avers that Plaintiff did not attempt to obtain its consent.
Failure to comply strictly with the dictates of Local Rule
103.6 by itself is not fatal to Plaintiff’s motion for leave to
amend, especially in light of her pro se status.
v. Brady, No. RWT–10–2107, 2011 WL 1833346, at *1 n.1 (D.Md. May
13, 2011) (“As a pro se litigant, [the plaintiff’s] failure to
comply with Local Rule 103.6 is not fatal to her request for
leave to amend, and the Court concludes that her filing contains
additional briefing.”); see also Awah v. Bd. of Educ. of Balt.
Cty., No. WMN–09–1044, 2010 WL 1929908, at *2 (D.Md. May 11,
2010) (refusing to deny pro se plaintiff’s motion to amend on
the ground that he had not filed a red-line copy where there was
no prejudice to defendant).
Rules is not optional.
However, compliance with the Local
Hollingsworth v. Perry, 558 U.S. 183,
191 (2010) (noting that local rules “have the force of law”);
The rules pertaining to amendments, for
As such, even
See Cmty. Connections, Inc. v. Parker, No. RWT-07-
3282, 2010 WL 148332, at *2 (D.Md. Jan. 12, 2010) (“The Court
can neither act as counsel for a pro se litigant nor excuse a
pro se litigant’s failure to comply with the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, the Local Rules, or the orders of this Court
due to ignorance of the law.”).
Additionally, as noted above, Plaintiff’s papers include a
large number of new allegations and cite to a wide variety of
standards that call for claims to be set forth “in numbered
paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set
importantly, Plaintiff’s allegations are overwhelmingly unclear.
It is well-settled law that complaint allegations must “give the
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.”
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,”
Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see
also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009).
Even after affording the papers a generous construction, the
court cannot determine the precise nature of Plaintiff’s new
Therefore, Plaintiff’s presently pending motions will be
If Plaintiff wishes to allege new facts or add new
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules.
advised that her complaint should: (1) clearly and separately
identify each law that she alleges a defendant has violated; (2)
identify which defendant has violated each law; (3) describe how
each defendant violated each law; and (4) explain how those
violations give her a cause of action against each defendant –
that is, explain why she has a right to sue the defendant for
each legal violation.
defendants in this case have been properly identified.
their responsive pleadings and motions, it is clear that Ms.
It is unclear whether Plaintiff intended to
file suit against any other defendants.
The fourth defendant on
the docket, “Keller III Bus Service Incorporated,” appears to be
a division of KTI.6
Keller Bus Service thus need not, and
cannot, be sued separately from KTI.
Therefore, Plaintiff will
Maryland corporations can be identified using the State
Department of Assessments and Taxation (“SDAT”) website:
There are no SDAT
records for “Keller III Bus Service Incorporated.” The website
lists “Keller Bus Service, Inc.” as having forfeited its
corporate status in 1992. In a more recent document provided by
Plaintiff, Keller Bus Service is identified as a division of
KTI. (See ECF No. 21-1, at 12).
be directed to show cause why this fourth defendant should not
Standard of Review
As noted above, Ms. Keller and the Board have both filed
dispositive motions as to the claims currently filed against
(ECF Nos. 22; 48).
Their arguments implicate multiple
Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies, an argument
that is analyzed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) because it could
deprive this court of jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s claims.
See Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus, Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 406
(4th Cir. 2013); Onuoha v. Grafton School, 182 F.Supp.2d 473, 481
jurisdiction must be decided ‘first, because they concern the
court’s very power to hear the case.’”
Owens-Illinois, Inc. v.
Meade, 186 F.3d 435, 442 n.4 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting 2 James
Moore, et al., Moore’s Federal Practice § 12.301 (3d ed. 1998)).
subject matter jurisdiction properly exists in federal court.
Plaintiff’s summonses also identified Ernest Keller, Jr.
and Ernest Keller, III as defendants (ECF No. 6), though neither
was named individually in the complaint.
It appears that
Plaintiff named these individuals on the summonses as agents for
KTI or Keller Bus Service. Accordingly, Plaintiff will also be
directed to notify the court if she intended to sue either or
both of these persons.
See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int’l Corp.,
166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).
In a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)
motion, the court “is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence
on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings
without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.”
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States,
945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991); see also Adams v. Bain, 697
F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982).
Dismissal for lack of subject
jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 945 F.2d at 768 (citation
As noted above, pro se pleadings are liberally construed
and held to a less stringent standard.
means that the court will read the pleadings to state a valid
claim to the extent that it is possible to do so from the facts
available; it does not mean that the court should rewrite the
Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1132 (10th Cir. 1999).
That is, even
when pro se litigants are involved, the court cannot ignore a
Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.
1990); Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB–12–969, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3
dismissed if it does not allege a plausible claim for relief.”).
The Board’s motion for summary judgment, which also raises
Summary judgment will be granted only if
there exists no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008).
dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is
undertaking this inquiry, a court must view the facts and the
favorable to the party opposing the motion,” Matsushita Elec.
(1962)); see also EEOC v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, 424 F.3d 397,
405 (4th Cir. 2005), but a “party cannot create a genuine dispute
2001) (citation omitted).
To prevail on a motion for summary
judgment, the moving party generally bears the burden of showing
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.
issues for which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof,
such as subject matter jurisdiction here, however, it is her
responsibility to confront the summary judgment motion with an
there is a genuine issue for trial.
See Ross v. Early, 899
F.Supp.2d 415, 420 (D.Md. 2012), aff’d, 746 F.3d 546 (4th Cir.
Both Ms. Keller and the Board support their motions on the
remedies as to any claims against them because they were not
named in Plaintiff’s EEOC complaint.
(ECF No. 22-1, at 8).
federal lawsuit is determined by the charge’s contents[, and]
[o]nly those discrimination claims stated in the initial charge,
those reasonably related to the original complaint, and those
developed by reasonable investigation of the original complaint
may be maintained in a subsequent Title VII lawsuit.”
Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009).
have ended or conciliation attempts have failed only ‘against
the respondent named in the [administrative] charge.’”
v. Bd. of Trs. of Montgomery Cmty. Coll., 848 F.2d 457, 458 (4th
Cir. 1988) (alterations in original) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e5(f)(1)); accord Causey v. Balog, 162 F.3d 795, 800 (4th Cir.
The naming requirement “is not a mere technicality.”
Alvarado, 848 F.2d at 458.
It is necessary because it both
effectuation the Act’s primary goal, the securing of voluntary
compliance with the law.”
Id. at 458-59.
Here, Plaintiff filed her EEOC complaint only against KTI.
(ECF No. 22-2, at 2).
In Plaintiff’s responses to each of the
pending motions, she argues that KTI, Ms. Keller, and the Board
“are incorporated as one body.”
No. 51, at 11).
(ECF No. 26, at 3; see also ECF
Although a plaintiff’s failure to name a party
within an EEOC charge ordinarily would prohibit suit against
that party for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, some
courts have recognized the “substantial identity” exception to
the naming rule, whereby a plaintiff may bring suit against a
defendant unnamed in an EEOC charge.
See, e.g., Sedlacek v.
Hach, 752 F.2d 333, 334–36 (8th Cir. 1985); Romero v. Union Pac.
R.R., 615 F.2d 1303, 1311 (10th Cir. 1980).
Although the United
explicitly adopted the “substantial identity” exception, it has
cited the exception with approval in dicta.
See Alvarado, 848
F.2d at 461 (finding it unnecessary to apply the exception in
the case sub judice, but citing district court decisions within
the Fourth Circuit that have applied it); EEOC v. Am. Nat’l
Bank, 652 F.2d 1176, 1186 n.5 (4th Cir. 1981) (reasoning that
jurisdiction is proper “where it is clear that the defendant
through some relationship with the named respondent had notice
of the charges and participated in the conciliation process”).
interests between named and unnamed parties; (2) ability of the
plaintiff to ascertain the unnamed party at the time of the EEOC
charge; (3) notice of the EEOC charge by the unnamed party; and
Zhang v. Sci. & Tech. Corp., 332 F.Supp.2d 864,
Rest./BrettCo, Inc., 61 F.Supp.2d 448, 457–58 (D.Md. 1999)).
substantial identity among KTI, Ms. Keller, and the Board, these
Charles County Schools, a public educational
entity, clearly has very limited similarity of interests with
KTI, one of its contractors focused solely on transportation.
Plaintiff offers no explanation as to why she could not have
identified Charles County Schools in her EEOC complaint, and the
Board has provided unrefuted affidavit evidence that it was not
Plaintiff filed this suit.
(ECF No. 48-2 ¶ 8).
similarity of interests with that business entity and is more
charge, neither is conclusive.
The complaint does not indicate
especially where, as here, the governing statutes distinguish
between individual and employer conduct.8
As with the Board,
Title VII and the ADA “do not provide for causes of action
against defendants in their individual capacities.”
Sternheimer, 387 F.App’x 366, 368 (4
Cir. 2010) (citing Baird
ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d 462, 472 (4th Cir. 1999)); Lissau
v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180 (4th Cir. 1998)
(“[S]upervisors are not liable in their individual capacities
for Title VII violations.”).
Limited individual liability is
one of the key legal benefits of incorporation.
occasionally considered a corporate entity and its owner a
single integrated entity for Title VII purposes, but “[s]uch
situations are the exception,” and “limited liability remains
the rule.” See Johnson v. Flowers Indus., 814 F.2d 978, 981 (4th
Cir. 1987). To the degree that Plaintiff argues in her response
to the motion that Ms. Keller and KTI are a single entity, she
fails to plead facts that would support considering Ms. Keller
See Johnson, 814 F.2d at 982 (“One-hundred
percent ownership and identity of directors and officers are,
even together, an insufficient basis for applying an alter ego
theory to pierce the corporate veil.”); see also Wood v. S. Bell
Tel. & Tel. Co., 725 F.Supp. 1244, 1249 (N.D.Ga. 1989) (finding
that the “existence of a parent-subsidiary relationship is not
enough to impose liability on the parent” because corporate
ownership encompasses certain rights to control the corporation,
“such as the right to choose directions and set general
liability” (citing Baker v. Raymond Int’l, Inc., 656 F.2d 173,
180 (5th Cir. 1981))).
For the forgoing reasons, even if
Plaintiff had exhausted her administrative remedies, Ms.
Plaintiff was able to identify Ms. Keller at the time of her
EEOC charge, yet chose not to include her.
the Board nor Ms. Keller have substantial identity with KTI, and
Plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as
to her claims against both parties.
Both motions will therefore
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss filed by
summary judgment filed by Defendant Charles County, Board of
Education will be granted, and Plaintiff’s motions to amend will
A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
Keller’s motion to dismiss would be granted on the ground that
she does not qualify as Plaintiff’s employer under the relevant
Because Plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative
remedies as to Ms. Keller and the Board precludes subject matter
jurisdiction over the current claims against them, the parties’
other arguments as to the merits are not considered in this
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