Meadows v. Charles County School Board of Education et al

Filing 80

MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Plaintiff 12/5/17 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 12/5/2017. (sat, Chambers)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND : DEBRA F. MEADOWS : v. : Civil Action No. DKC 16-2897 : CHARLES COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al. : MEMORANDUM OPINION Presently pending and ready for resolution in this employment case is the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, for summary judgment, and for judgment on the pleadings (“Defendant”). filed by Defendant (ECF No. 75). Keller Transportation, The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Rule 105.6. For the Inc. following reasons, the motion Local will be granted. I. Background A. Factual Background1 Plaintiff’s complaint is not a model of clarity. Plaintiff lives in federally subsidized housing with her children, started working for Defendant in 2011, and suffers from dyslexia. No. 1, at 7-8). Although not stated in the complaint, she stated in the EEOC charge that she is Jewish. 1 (ECF (ECF No. 75-5). Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are set forth in the complaint and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant changed her status from employee to independent contractor for the purposes of her 2015 tax refund. Plaintiff further alleges that she incurred a debt related to her housing after Defendant misreported her income and misclassified her and her daughter as “border[s] and migrant workers.” (ECF No. 1, at 7). She also alleges that Defendant did not give her vacation leave or sick leave and refused to pay her for work she had done during the 2015 school year. alleges that [p]ool[.]” Defendant put her in a “group She [i]nsurance (Id.). On March 26, 2015, Plaintiff contacted her Congressman to explain the problem she was having with her taxes. 1, at 6-7). (ECF No. 1- Plaintiff was injured on November 2, 2015, and she quit working for Defendant on February 26, 2016. (ECF No. 1, at 7-8). B. Procedural History Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on June 2, 2016, alleging that her former employer, Keller Transportation, Inc., discriminated against her on the basis of religion, national origin, and disability when it changed the way it deducted taxes from her paycheck, did not compensate her for time worked, and denied her leave. (ECF No. 75-5). notice on June 15. The EEOC issued her a right to sue (ECF No. 1, at 6). 2 Plaintiff filed suit on August 18 against Defendant, Helen Keller, the Charles County Board of Education (the “Board”), and “Keller Jr[.] Keller III Ernest Bus Service Inc.,” alleging discrimination on the basis of disability, religion, and national origin 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 of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq. alleged retaliation. Plaintiff also (Id. at 5). On November 23, Ms. Keller moved to dismiss all claims against her. (ECF No. 22). judgment on March 1, 2017. The Board (ECF No. 48). moved for summary On June 16, the court granted Ms. Keller’s motion to dismiss and the Board’s motion for summary judgment. Keller III Ernest Bus (ECF No. 67). Service Inc.” Because “Keller Jr[.] was never properly identified and served by Plaintiff, it was dismissed on July 6. (ECF No. 70). After discovery closed, Keller Transportation, Inc., the only remaining defendant, moved to dismiss for lack of subject judgment matter on the jurisdiction, pleadings for on summary August 21. judgment, (ECF or No. for 75). Plaintiff has not responded, despite receiving notice of the opportunity and necessity to respond. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). 3 (ECF No. 76); Roseboro v. II. Motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction A. Standard of Review Motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction are governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). burden of proving that subject exists in the federal court. The plaintiff bears the matter jurisdiction properly See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). In a 12(b)(1) motion, the court “may consider evidence outside the pleadings” to help determine whether it has jurisdiction over the case before it. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991); see also Evans, 166 F.3d at 647. The court should grant the 12(b)(1) motion “only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” B. Richmond, 945 F.2d at 768. Analysis Defendant first argues that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because many of Plaintiff’s claims exceed the scope of the EEOC charge. (ECF No. 75-1, at 9-11). Although courts have occasionally mislabeled the requirement that a Title VII complaint not exceed the scope of an EEOC charge as a procedural bar, see, e.g., Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 407 (4th Cir. 2013)(quoting Chacko v. Patuxent Inst., 429 F.3d 505, 506 (4th Cir. 2005) and Dennis v. Cnty of Fairfax, 4 55 F.3d 151, 156 (4th Cir. 1995), the scope of the EEOC charge is a jurisdictional bar. See, e.g., Jones v. Calvert Grp., Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009) (“Importantly, a failure by the plaintiff to exhaust administrative remedies concerning a Title VII claim deprives the federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.”); Bryant v. Bell Atl. Md., Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 133 (4th Cir. 2002) (“Therefore, because the scope of Bryant’s complaint exceeds the limits set by the allegations of Bryant’s administrative complaint, we cannot analyze the merits of Bryant’s retaliation or color and sex discrimination claims.”). An EEOC charge, however, “does not strictly limit a Title VII suit which may follow.” Chisholm v. United States Postal Serv., 665 F.2d 482, 491 (4th Cir. 1981) (emphasis added). An EEOC “charge[] must be construed with utmost liberality since they are made by those unschooled in the technicalities of formal pleading,” Alvarado v. Bd. of Trs. of Montgomery Cmty. Coll., 848 F.2d 457, 460 (4th Cir. 1988) (quoting Kaplan v. Int'l Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Emps., 525 F.2d 1354, 1359 (9th Cir. 1975)), and it exhausts not only those facts contained in the charge but also all factual allegations that “a reasonable investigation of [the] administrative charge would uncovered[.]” Chacko v. Patuxent Inst., 429 F.3d at 512. have The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has found that a reasonable investigation would uncover additional facts, 5 not identified in the original charge, related to the subject matter of the original charge. (“The allegation in the See Chishom, 665 F.2d at 491 administrative complaint that USPS discriminated in promotions sufficed to put USPS on notice that the entire promotional system was being challenged, including aspects of the system such as discipline and testing which were not specifically enumerated in the complaint.”). The Fourth Circuit has also found that a reasonable investigation would not uncover a different discriminatory conduct form not of discrimination identified in the or types initial charge perpetrated by people not identified in the initial charge. Chacko, 429 F.3d at 512 (“[A] reasonable of investigation See of discrete instances of supervisor misconduct not involving name calling could not be expected to lead to a continuous pattern of nonsupervisory Bryant, 288 misconduct F.3d at which 133 did involve (“Administrative name calling.”); investigation of retaliation, and color and sex discrimination, however, could not reasonably be expected to occur in light of Bryant’s sole charge of race discrimination”). Plaintiff alleged that Defendant discriminated against her when it “stopped taking taxes out of my paycheck, stopped paying for time worked, and stopped giving leave” in her EEOC charge. (ECF No. 75-5, at 2). In her Title VII suit, Plaintiff has alleged, in addition to the claims in her EEOC charge, that she 6 incurred a housing debt because her employer overreported her income and was placed in a “group [i]nsurance [p]ool.” 1, at 8). (ECF No. The claim that Defendant misreported Plaintiff’s income to housing authorities does not relate to any actions identified in the EEOC complaint investigation would have uncovered. different action involving a or that a reasonable This complaint centers on a different government agency therefore is outside the scope of the EEOC charge. and Likewise, the claim of being placed in the wrong insurance plan does not have any connection Therefore, to Plaintiff’s the facts alleged discrimination before claims the related EEOC.2 to her insurance plan and housing debt will be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff also brings a claim for retaliation. At times, “a plaintiff may raise the retaliation claim for the first time in federal court.” 1992). Courts Nealon v. Stone, 958 F.2d 584, 590 (4th Cir. can hear claims of retaliation, even if not brought before the EEOC, when an employee is retaliated against for filing the initial EEOC charge. the retaliation claim is reasonably 2 Id. In such a situation, related to the charge. Defendant identifies a possible claim related to pension benefits. The complaint is confusing, but, despite a reference to a pension, the pension issue does not appear to be related to any cause of action. (See ECF No. 7-8). If it were, the court would lack subject matter jurisdiction. See Chacko, 429 F.3d at 512. 7 Hentosh v. Old Dominion Univ., 767 F.3d 413, 416-17 (4th Cir. 2014). If, however, the retaliation is unrelated to the EEOC charge itself, and arose prior to the filing of the EEOC charge, then a failure to raise the retaliation claim before the EEOC will divest the courts of subject matter jurisdiction. See Sloop v. Mem’l Mission Hosp., Inc., 198 F.3d 147, 149 (4th Cir. 1999). Plaintiff did not identify retaliation as a basis for her EEOC charge. Congressman If she claims that reporting the tax issue to her was protected activity, and that any retaliatory actions occurred before she left Defendant’s employment, then the actions were taken prior to the filing of the EEOC charge, and should have been included in the EEOC charge. extent based that on Plaintiff her letter intended to the to raise congressman, a Thus, to the retaliation the claim claim will be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.3 III. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings A. Standard of Review Rule 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed — but early enough not to delay trial — a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Under the circumstances presented 3 As will be discussed in the next section, if Plaintiff contends that the filing of the EEOC complaint was her protected activity, she fails to identify any potentially retaliatory adverse employment actions and the complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. 8 here, the motion is governed by the same standard governing motions to 12(b)(6). dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule Burbach Broad Co. v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405–06 (4th Cir. 2002). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 Presley v. City of (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff’s complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,’ rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 n. 3 (2007). Bell. Atl. Corp. That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). B. Analysis As best as can be discerned, Plaintiff is alleging that she was misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee and that she was denied sick leave, vacation time, and payment for work performed. (ECF No. 1, at 7-8). She is alleging all this was done in violation of Title VII and the ADA. (Id. at 4). Plaintiff 9 is also alleging retaliation. (Id.). Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings. (ECF No. 75). To state a plausible claim of discrimination under Title VII and the ADA, Plaintiff must allege facts showing that she was discriminated against. F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 2010). Here, Plaintiff’s complaint contains only a legal claim of discrimination and allegations about disputes between her and her employer. not relate to nationality, mistreatment and, due therefore, to her disability, complaint plausible claim of discrimination. The allegations do does religion, not state or a See McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep’t of Transp., State Highway Admin, 780 F.3d 582, 585-86 (4th Cir. 2015); Haulbrook v. Michelin N. Am., 252 F.3d 696, 702 (4th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff’s discrimination claims will be dismissed. To state a plausible claim of retaliation, Plaintiff must allege: “(1) engagement in a protected activity; (2) adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link between the protected activity and the employment action.” Coleman, 626 F.3d at 190. As noted earlier, Plaintiff has failed to identify any adverse employment action after the filing of her EEOC charge. Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff claims Defendant retaliated against her after she filed the EEOC charge, her claim will be dismissed. 10 Because Defendant is entitled to judgment on the pleadings, its motion for summary judgment does not need to be addressed. IV. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, for judgment on the pleadings, and for summary judgment filed by Defendant Transportation, Inc. (ECF No. 75) will be granted. Keller A separate order will follow. /s/ DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge 11

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