Doe v. Power Solutions, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paula Xinis on 11/17/2021. (ybs, Deputy Clerk)
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 1 of 8
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
POWER SOLUTIONS, LLC,
Civil Action No. 8:21-cv-02300-PX
Pending before the Court in this employment discrimination and negligence lawsuit is
Defendant Power Solutions, LLC’s motion to transfer venue. ECF No. 6. The matter is fully
briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the
motion is DENIED.
On January 16, 2019, Plaintiff Jane Doe (“Doe”) 2 started working for Defendant Power
Solutions, LLC (“Power Solutions” or “Defendant”) as an electrician. ECF No. 1 ¶ 16. Doe is a
Maryland resident, and Power Solutions is a Maryland corporation with a principal place of
business in Prince George’s County, Maryland. See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 5, 6; ECF No. 7 ¶ 6. As a
female electrician in a heavily male-dominated field, Doe avers that she faced intolerable sexual
harassment and sexual assault while employed at Power Solutions. See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 20, 22–23.
In November 2019, Doe was assigned to a job site in Herndon, Virginia. ECF No. 1 ¶ 19.
The foreman of the Herndon site, and Doe’s direct supervisor, Carlos Alfaro (“Alfaro”), almost
immediately embarked on a transparent campaign of sexual harassment aimed at Doe. See ECF
The facts alleged in the Complaint are taken as true and construed most favorably to Doe.
On November 12, 2021, this Court granted Doe’s request to proceed pseudonymously. ECF No. 12.
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 2 of 8
No. 1 ¶¶ 19, 20, 22. Alfaro asked her to remove her clothes, inquired about the color of her
underwear, requested sex, tried to touch her inappropriately, commented on her body, made
offensive and sexually explicit gestures, and drew naked pictures of her. Id. ¶ 23. Although Doe
complained about Alfaro’s conduct to two other Power Solutions supervisors, those complaints
fell on deaf ears. Id. ¶¶ 24, 29.
On December 6, 2019, Doe explained to another supervisor, Jonathan McPherson
(“McPherson”), that she was “frightened” of Alfaro. ECF No. 1 ¶ 29. She also recounted how
her earlier complaints had gone unaddressed and requested that, at a minimum, she be transferred
to another assignment away from Alfaro. Id.
Just a few hours later, Alfaro sexually assaulted Doe at the job site. ECF No. 1 ¶ 25.
Doe was on a ladder when Alfaro came behind her, wielding a long metal pipe, apparently
placed to imitate his penis. Id. ¶ 26. He shoved the pipe into Doe’s backside so violently that it
ripped her jeans and “lacerat[ed] her upper leg and vaginal area.” Id. During the assault, Alfaro
asked Doe whether she liked what he was doing to her. Id. ¶ 27. Doe broke free and fled, “with
tears pouring down her face and blood pooling between her legs.” Id. ¶ 28.
Doe sought immediate medical treatment for her injuries. ECF No. 1 ¶ 30. The hospital
administered a “SANE exam.” Id. Although “SANE” is not defined in the Complaint, the Court
takes judicial notice that this refers to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner—a medical professional
who is specially trained to administer care to survivors of sexual assault. See, e.g.,
Adult/Adolescent Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Certificate Program, Kent State
University, https://www.kent.edu/nursing/sane (last visited Nov. 12, 2021). Doe’s injuries were
such that she did not heal quickly, but she still reported to work. Doe continued to bleed through
her pants for days. Id. ¶ 30.
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 3 of 8
Doe also experienced significant backlash after complaining about Alfaro. ECF No. 1
¶ 31. Doe was falsely accused of various on-the-job violations and of having COVID-19. Id.
The false COVID-19 accusation forced Doe to take unpaid leave until she could produce a
negative test result. Id. In a last-ditch effort to improve her workplace conditions, Doe wrote a
letter to Power Solutions, seeking protection against any further discrimination. Id. When
conditions failed to approve, Doe resigned. Id. ¶ 32.
Doe filed this suit on September 8, 2021. She seeks remedies pursuant to Title VII’s
prohibitions against gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment,
retaliation, and constructive retaliatory discharge; Title VII’s state analogues; and common law
negligence. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 2–4. On October 11, 2021, Defendant moved to transfer venue from
the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria Division). ECF No. 6. Doe strenuously opposes
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The propriety of venue transfers is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which states, “[f]or
the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer
any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any
district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). To prevail on its
motion, a defendant “must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed transfer
will better and more conveniently serve the interests of the parties and witnesses and better
promote the interests of justice.” Jones v. Koons Auto., Inc., 752 F. Supp. 2d 670, 680–81 (D.
Md. 2010) (quoting Helsel v. Tishman Realty & Constr. Co., 198 F. Supp. 2d 710, 711 (D. Md.
2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendant cannot rely on conclusory allegations of
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 4 of 8
hardship to meet this burden, but rather must produce evidence, by affidavits or otherwise,
demonstrating “the hardships they would suffer if the case were heard in the plaintiff’s chosen
forum.” Dow v. Jones, 232 F. Supp. 2d 491, 499 (D. Md. 2002).
When deciding the propriety of transfer, the Court must first determine whether the
action could have been brought in the requested district. In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 545 F.3d
304, 312 (4th Cir. 2008). If venue is proper in the requested district, the Court next considers
several non-exclusive factors such as “(1) the weight accorded the plaintiff’s choice of venue; (2)
witness convenience and access; (3) convenience of the parties; and (4) the interest of justice.”
Lynch v. Vanderhoef Builders, 237 F. Supp. 2d 615, 617 (D. Md. 2002). Importantly, the
plaintiff’s choice of venue is accorded special consideration such that “[u]nless the balance of the
factors ‘is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff’s choice of forum should rarely be
disturbed.’” CareFirst, Inc. v. Taylor, 235 F. Supp. 3d 724, 733 (D. Md. 2017) (quoting Collins
v. Straight, Inc., 748 F.2d 916, 921 (4th Cir. 1984)). This Court retains “broad discretion” when
deciding the propriety of transfer, Volkswagen, 545 F.3d at 312, undertaking “an individualized,
case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” United States ex rel. Salomon v. Wolff,
268 F. Supp. 3d 770, 774 (D. Md. 2017) (quoting Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22,
The Court first addresses whether this action could have properly been brought in the
Eastern District of Virginia. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Venue is proper, among other places, in
the “judicial district in which a substantial part of the events . . . giving rise to the claim
occurred.” Id. Because both parties agree that most of the events leading to this action—namely
the numerous instances of alleged sexual harassment and the eventual sexual assault—occurred
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 5 of 8
in Herndon, Doe could have elected to bring suit in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Accordingly, the Court turns to the factors relevant to whether the action should be transferred
Plaintiff’s Choice of Venue
A plaintiff is generally regarded as the master of her Complaint. As a result, her choice
of venue must be accorded substantial deference. See Lynch v. Vanderhoef Builders, 237 F.
Supp. 2d 615, 617 (D. Md. 2002). The degree of deference, however, “is significantly lessened
when none of the conduct complained of occurred in the forum selected by the plaintiff . . .” Id.
To be sure, the events did take place in the transferee district. Compare ECF No. 6 at 5 with
ECF No. 10 at 2. But Doe is a Maryland resident, which itself may be a basis to defer to her
choice of venue. See 28 U.S.C. §1391(b)(1); see also Maiden Biosciences, Inc. v. MPM Med.,
Inc., No. RDB-17-3029, 2018 WL 2416071, at *4 (D. Md. May 29, 2018); Topiwala v. Wessell,
No. WDQ-11-0543, 2012 WL 122411, at *7 (D. Md. Jan. 12, 2012). Likewise, Power Solutions
calls Maryland home. Although a close call, this factor tips slightly in Doe’s favor when
considering that a plaintiff’s choice of venue must not be easily disturbed. See Ramani v.
Genesis Healthcare, Inc., No. GJH-19-3342, 2021 WL 211302, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 21, 2021).
Convenience of Witnesses
The convenience of witnesses is “perhaps the most important factor” in deciding the
propriety of transfer. Cronos Containers, Ltd. v. Amazon Lines, Ltd., 121 F. Supp. 2d 461, 466
(D. Md. 2000). To prevail on this factor, the movant must offer particularized evidence that
supports transfer for witness convenience or other like considerations. MedServ Int'l, Inc. v.
Rooney, No. AW-05-3173, 2006 WL 8457082, at *2 (D. Md. Feb. 7, 2006). Mere conclusory
allegations of hardship are not enough. The movant must specifically show how the plaintiff’s
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 6 of 8
choice of venue visits specific hardship. Int'l Masonry Training & Educ. Found. v. Hawaii
Masons’ Training Fund, No. 3320-PX, 2019 WL 1492684, at *1 (D. Md. Apr. 3, 2019). Put
differently, “[t]ransfer of venue is inappropriate where it will merely shift the balance of
convenience from plaintiff to defendant.” Maiden Biosciences, Inc., 2018 WL 2416071, at *5
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bd. of Trs. v. Baylor Heating & Air Conditioning,
Inc., 702 F. Supp. 1253, 1258 (E.D. Va. 1988)).
Defendant offers that McPherson, a potential fact witness, is “not a Maryland resident
and does not presently work in Maryland.” ECF No. 6 at 6. Defendant also highlights that
Doe’s psychiatry expert, Dr. Thomas N. Wise, practices in McLean, Virginia. Id. Doe also has
filed a formal charge of discrimination with the Fairfax County Office of Human Rights and
Equity Programs, and it is possible that any subsequent criminal investigation was handled by
the Fairfax County Police Department. Id. Lastly, Defendant suggests that some unidentified
fact witnesses work or reside in Virginia. Id. Doe counters that the mere presence of witnesses
in Northern Virginia does not render this forum comparatively more burdensome. See ECF No.
10 at 4. Additionally, Doe points out that Defendant ignores many other liability and damages
witnesses who reside or work in Maryland, to include Doe’s alleged assailant and each of her
treating medical providers. See id.
In all, the Court is not persuaded that venue in this District would be unduly burdensome
to any of the identified witnesses. Most obviously, the Eastern District of Virginia’s Alexandria
courthouse is about a thirty-minute drive from the District of Maryland’s Greenbelt courthouse,
to which this case has been assigned. Defendant has simply failed to show why this minor
additional travel time to this forum should trump Plaintiff’s choice. Because Defendant has not
met its burden to demonstrate witness inconvenience, this factor favors Doe.
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 7 of 8
Convenience of the Parties
As to the convenience of the parties to this action, both acknowledge that they are “at
home” in Maryland. Compare ECF No. 6 at 5 with ECF No. 10 at 1. Further, it appears that
each party is represented by attorneys based in Washington, D.C., which is essentially
equidistant from this District and the transferee district. Accordingly, this factor also cuts against
transfer. See Wolf v. P.J.K. Food Serv., LLC, No. 21-01443-PX, 2021 WL 4991724, at *3 (D.
Md. Oct. 27, 2021) (“[I]t makes little sense that a courthouse in the Eastern District of
Virginia—located about 30 minutes by car from this District—will be any more convenient than
litigating the case here.”).
Interests of Justice
Finally, the Court turns to the somewhat amorphous “interest of justice” factor, which
encompasses all relevant considerations apart from witness and party convenience. See
Topiwala v. Wessell, No. WDQ-11-0543, 2012 WL 122411, at *8 (D. Md. Jan. 12, 2012). This
includes whether the plaintiff’s chosen venue has sufficient familiarity with the underlying
substantive law and whether any local interests would favor resolution of the issues in the place
they occurred. See id.; see also Maiden Biosciences, Inc., 2018 WL 2416071, at *5.
At the end of the day, the interests-of-justice factor is a wash. The gravamen of Doe’s
Complaint sounds in federal antidiscrimination law, on which either forum is well versed. As to
the supplemental claims, Doe invokes both Maryland and Virginia common law, placing either
court in the position of interpreting the state law of the other. As for the Virginia state law
claims, the Court notes that they do not involve issues so “complex or ambiguous” that it
counsels in favor of transfer. See Richardson v. Nationwide Mortg. Corp., No. M-84-240, 1985
WL 9133, at *9 (D. Md. Oct. 4, 1985). This factor, in short, neither helps nor hurts Defendant’s
Case 8:21-cv-02300-PX Document 14 Filed 11/17/21 Page 8 of 8
On balance, three of the four factors weigh in favor of Doe’s selected venue. The Court
will honor Doe’s choice of forum. The motion to transfer venue is, therefore, DENIED. A
separate Order follows.
November 17, 2021
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?