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Verderamo v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 5, 2014

ROBERT VERDERAMO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE, et al., Defendants

For Robert Verderamo, Marta Iwashko, Rana Santos, Gisselle Fredericks, Angela Ellis, Pamela Shaw, Rachel Lucas, William Young, Kenneth Jones, Savitri Sharma, Francine N. Ray, Rosalind A. Bowman, Ashley Warren, Natalie A. di Leonardo, Anthony Rumber, Dr. Mohammad A. Majid, Jennifer D. Bresett, Richard Renny, Christy L. Silbaugh, Leon J. White, Monique D. Pitts, Hongde Pan, Kevin Beardsley, Barry Verger, Ayesha M. Larkins, Kimberly L. Morrow, Teri J. Labbe, Kelly Miller, Jennifer Ingbretson, Carl Bucahanon, Christina M. Hurley, Joseph Harant, Candra Johnson, Emmanuel Obot, Blair Laughlin, Carolyn Chambers, Jocelyn Carlson, Theodis Warnick, Plaintiffs: John Michael Singleton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Singleton Law Group, Lutherville, MD.

For Mayor and City Council Of Baltimore, Defendant: Quinton M Herbert, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gary Gilkey, Baltimore City Law Department, Baltimore, MD.

For Anthony W. Batts, Defendant: Dorrell Antone Brooks, LEAD ATTORNEY, Baltimore Police Department, Office of Legal Affairs, Baltimore, MD; Jennifer Sutherland Lubinski, Baltimore City Law Department, Legal Affairs Division, Baltimore, MD.

OPINION

Page 723

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Ellen Lipton Hollander, United States District Judge.

This case concerns allegations of unlawful salary disparities among civilian employees of the Baltimore City Police Department (" BPD" ). In 2007, employees in the Laboratory Section (" Lab" ) of the BPD received salary increases, but certain categories of Lab employees received greater salary increases than did others. More than five years later, 40 of the Lab employees who received the smaller salary increases filed suit against the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (" City" ) and Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, in his official capacity (" Commissioner" ). ECF 1; ECF 20 at 6 n.1. They allege that the disparate pay and " salary inequity" violates Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count I)[1] and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Count II).[2]

The City filed a " Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment" (" City Motion," ECF 9), supported by a memorandum of law (" City Memo," ECF 9-1), and exhibits. The Commissioner filed a " Motion

Page 724

for More Definite Statement," seeking clarification as to whether the plaintiffs sought relief individually or on behalf of a class. ECF 10. In response, plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (ECF 16), clarifying that they seek relief individually.[3] Thereafter, the Commissioner filed a Motion to Dismiss (" Police Motion," ECF 19),[4] supported by a memorandum of law (" Police Memo," ECF 19-1). Although the Police Motion does not include exhibits, the Police Memo refers to the exhibits submitted by the City. Both motions have been fully briefed.[5]

Plaintiffs also filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (" Cross-Motion," ECF 21), supported by a memorandum (" Pl. Memo," ECF 21-1) and exhibits. The Cross-Motion appears to request summary judgment only as to plaintiffs' claims against the City, and only the City has filed an opposition (" City Opp.," ECF 23), to which plaintiffs replied (" Pl. Reply," ECF 24).

No hearing is necessary to resolve the pending motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, I will convert defendants' motions into motions for summary judgment, and I will grant summary judgment to defendants.[6]

Factual Summary

The plaintiffs in this case are 40 employees of the Laboratory Section of the Baltimore City Police Department whose job titles are either " Criminalist II," " Criminalist III," " Criminalist Supervisor," or " Crime Laboratory Quality Officer" (collectively, " Criminalists" ). Their salary grades are lower than those of Latent Print Examiners and Firearms Examiners in the Lab. According to plaintiffs, there are no material differences in the duties and responsibilities in the classes of Lab employees at issue, and thus the disparity in pay is inequitable and irrational, in violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For context,

Page 725

I will briefly set forth the responsibilities and requirements of each relevant class of Lab employee.

The responsibilities of a Criminalist II include conducting " complex chemical and physical laboratory tests of unknown substances and evidence involved in crimes." Criminalist II Job Description, ECF 9-3 at 3. They " are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Work is performed in a laboratory where there is exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals, unknown dangerous substances and sharp laboratory instruments." Id. The position requires a master's degree in chemistry, biology, physics, or a " closely related forensic science," and two years of experience. Id. at 4. Alternatively, the position is available to applicants with only a bachelor's degree in the above-named fields and three years of experience. Id. The position also requires certification by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to analyze Controlled Dangerous Substances. Id. The current pay range is $48,600 to $68,600, annually. Id. at 3.

There are three different Criminalist III positions: DNA Analysis, Trace Analysis, and Drug Analysis. See Criminalist III Job Description, ECF 9-3 at 5-10. The responsibilities of a Criminalist III are similar to those of a Criminalist II, with the added responsibility of " assigning, reviewing and coordinating the work of subordinate [Criminalists I and II]." Id. at 5, 7, 9. The position of Criminalist III DNA Analyst requires, inter alia, a master's degree in " chemistry, biology, physics, or a closely related forensic science including a minimum of 12 semester or credit hours . . . in courses of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, or related subjects . . . ." Id. at 6. The other two Criminalist III positions require either a master's degree and three years of experience or a bachelor's degree and four years of experience, and a Criminalist III Drug Analyst requires state certification. Id. at 8, 10. The current pay range for each of the Criminalist III positions is $51,000 to $72,000 per year. Id. at 5, 7, 9.

There are two different categories of Criminalist Supervisors: Drug Analyst and Trace Analyst. A Criminalist Supervisor Drug Analyst " supervises the analyses of unknown substances and evidence involved in crimes. Work of this class involves supervising the activities of criminalist personnel," as well as evaluating their performance and making personnel recommendations. Criminalist Supervisor Job Description, ECF 9-3 at 11. The position of Criminalist Supervisor Drug Analyst requires a master's degree and five years of experience or a bachelor's degree and six years of experience, as well as a certification from the State. Id. The position of Criminalist Supervisor Trace Analyst is similar in terms of responsibilities and educational requirements, but is directed toward " the analyses of minute quantities of unknown substances, blood and trace evidence involved in crimes." Id. at 13. The current pay range for the Criminalist Supervisor positions is $58,800 to $83,800 per year. Id. at 11, 13.[7]

Two other types of Lab employees are pertinent here: Latent Print Examiners and Firearms Examiners. A Latent Print Examiner " identifies, classifies, develops and analyzes latent fingerprint evidence of suspect persons." Latent Print Examiner Job Description, ECF 9-3 at 19. Latent Print Examiners " work a conventional workweek," but their work " is performed in a laboratory setting where dangers from noxious fumes exist." Id. The position requires a bachelor's degree in criminalistics, chemistry, biology, physics, or a related

Page 726

science; two years of experience; and certification as a Latent Print Examiner by the Latent Print Certification Board of the International Association for Identification. Id. at 20. The current pay range is $64,800 to $91,100. Id.

A Firearms Examiner " identifies and examines bullets, bullet fragments, cartridges and firearms used in crimes." Firearms Examiner Job Description, ECF 9-3 at 15. Firearms Examiners are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and their work is performed amid " loud gunshots" and " dangerous weapons." Id. The position requires a bachelor's degree in criminalistics, chemistry, biology, physics, or a related science and two years of experience. Id. No certifications are required. The annual pay currently ranges from $64,800 to $91,100. Id.

In February 2005, each of the above-described positions offered a salary less than the current salary. Perceiving this as a problem, Edgar F. Koch, the Director of the Lab, sent a memorandum to the Chief of the BPD Detective Division. See Feb. 2005 Memo, ECF 20-1.[8] In the Memo, he expressed concern about Lab employees leaving BPD for higher-paying positions in other jurisdictions. Id. In November 2005, Mr. Koch sent a similar memorandum to Edward C. Schmitt, Director of BPD's Personnel Section. See Nov. 2005 Memo, ECF 20-2. Mr. Koch advised, id. :

The Crime Laboratory has been experiencing a situation that involves loss of personnel and the hiring of suitable replacements. . . . Over the past two years, the Laboratory has lost several key personnel in the Drug Analysis Unit, Firearms, Latent Prints and Mobile Units. This loss can be attributed to two factors; (1) low salary and (2) the inordinate amount of workload.

The November 2005 Memo outlined the qualifications, training periods, caseloads, and salaries for each of several Lab positions. And, it explained that the salaries paid by BPD were substantially lower than those paid to similar employees in surrounding jurisdictions. Id. The memo concluded, id. : " It is recommended that the Laboratory personnel be upgraded in salary to eliminate further loss of experienced personnel."

At the request of the BPD, the Baltimore City Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ) conducted a Crime Laboratory Salary Study (" Study" ) to review the compensation of classifications of civilian Lab employees. ECF 9-5. The Study, submitted by DHR on April 6, 2006, recommended the following " class upgrades" to the BPD, id. :

o Criminalist II - Grade 112 to Grade 114
o Criminalist III - Grade 113 to Grade 115
o Criminalist Supervisor - Grade 116 to Grade 118
o Crime Lab Quality Control Officer - Grade 115 to Grade 116
o Latent Print Examiner - Grade 094 to Grade 114
o Firearms Examiner - Grade 094 to Grade 114

On April 25, 2006, a few weeks after DHR released its Study, Mr. Koch wrote to the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division. See Apr. 2006 Memo, ECF 21-5. He suggested that the Study did not fully capture the degree to which Lab salaries lagged behind those in neighboring jurisdictions. He requested that the position of Criminalist II be upgraded to Grade 118;

Page 727

that Criminalist III be upgraded to Grade 119; and that Criminalist Supervisor be upgraded to Grade 121. Id. Mr. Koch did not make a specific recommendation regarding the pay grades of the Latent Print and Firearms Examiners, but he did highlight the lengthy training period, substantial backlog, and comparatively low salaries of those positions. Id. The record does not contain any response from the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division.

On August 11, 2006, Mr. Koch sent the Police Commissioner [9] an " Appeal of Salary Study Conducted by [DHR]." Appeal, ECF 20-4. In the Appeal, Mr. Koch contended that the BPD " salary study has many errors in it," and he provided extensive data on the salaries and workloads of surrounding jurisdictions. Id. Mr. Koch also identified several Lab employees who had left the Lab for higher-paying positions elsewhere, and he noted that the " National [I]nstitute of Justice [estimated] the advertising, hiring and training of an individual at approximately $250,000 per person." Id. The Appeal also included a list of the backlogs in each department; the backlog for Latent Print Examiners was easily the largest of all the units listed. Id. In addition, Mr. Koch expressed particular concern about the Lab's difficulty in attracting qualified Latent Print and Firearms Examiners, and he advocated for " [t]he movement of the Firearms and Latent print examiners from the CUB [City Union of Baltimore] bargaining unit to MAPS [Managerial and Professional Society of Baltimore, Inc.]," which would result in an increase in their salaries. Id. Mr. Koch also requested that several other classes of Lab employees be upgraded to a level higher than that recommended by DHR. As relevant here, he recommended that Criminalist II be upgraded to Grade 118; Criminalist III to Grade 119; Crime Lab Supervisor to Grade 121 or 122; and Lab Quality Officer to 120. Id.

Mr. Koch wrote to the Chief of BPD's Administrative Division on January 24, 2007, to express the urgency of the need to increase the salaries of Firearms Examiners. See Jan. 2007 Memo, ECF 20-5. He requested " that the firearms examiner position be upgraded from a Grade ...


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