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Martin v. Napolitano

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 9, 2014

JOHN C. MARTIN, Plaintiff
JANET NAPOLITANO, Secretary, Dep't of Homeland Security, Defendant


JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

I. Background

This complaint of employment discrimination was filed by John C. Martin against Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security ("Department"). Martin complains of Defendant's alleged failure to promote him and give him incentive bonuses, alleged gender discrimination, and an allegedly hostile work environment during the time Martin was employed as a Master Behavior Detection Officer with the Department's Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") at Baltimore Washington International Airport ("BWI"). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Defendant has moved to dismiss Martin's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim; alternatively, Defendant has moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 12.) Martin's request for an extension of time to respond to Defendant's motion was granted (ECF Nos. 11, 13), but his submission to the Court, when finally filed, was significantly late and provided no explanation for its tardiness and no request for leave to file out of time; consequently, his response was stricken (ECF No. 17) and, to date, the Court has not received any further motion for leave to file out of time. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). The motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) and (6) will be granted, and the Court will not consider the alternative motion under Rule 56.

II. Standard for Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1)

The burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982) (noting challenge may be either facial, i.e., complaint fails to allege facts upon which subject-matter jurisdiction can be based, or factual, i.e., jurisdictional allegations of complaint are not true). See also Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (same); Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Ry. Co., 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (same). In the case of a factual challenge, it is permissible for a district court to "consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Richmond, Fredericksburg, 945 F.2d at 768 (citing Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219).

III. Standard of Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim

A complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the Twombly opinion stated, "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. at 555. "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'... Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

IV. Analysis

A. Exhaustion

A plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies for a Title VII claim deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over the claim. Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). "Only 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.'" Id. at 300 (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 963 (4th Cir.1996)). Stated differently, if the claims made in a judicial complaint are reasonably related to a plaintiff's administrative charge and if they can be expected to follow from a reasonable administrative investigation, then those claims may be included in the subsequent lawsuit. Smith v. First Union Nat'l Bank, 202 F.3d 234, 247 (4th Cir. 2000). The description of the conduct in the administrative charge must parallel the conduct described in the judicial complaint. See Chacko v. Patuxent Institution, 429 F.3d 505, 506 (4th Cir. 2005) ("We hold that a plaintiff fails to exhaust his administrative remedies where, as here, his administrative charges reference different time frames, actors, and discriminatory conduct than the central factual allegations in his formal suit."). In the particular context of a discrimination charge against a federal agency, a plaintiff must first present his complaint to his employing agency. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c).

Because Defendant has challenged Martin's exhaustion of his claims-and therefore has challenged the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction-it is incumbent upon Martin to show that all claims he now presents in this suit were fairly presented to the Department. Martin claims he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge "regarding the Defendant's discriminatory conduct" on May 18, 2011. (Compl. ¶ 32.) He does not, however, provide the substance of that charge and it is, consequently, impossible for the Court to compare his administrative charge to his present judicial complaint. The best evidence of what he alleged in his administrative charge is an attachment to his complaint; it is the EEOC's denial of reconsideration of its earlier decision affirming the Department's finding that Martin was not subjected to harassment based on sex. ( Id. Attachment.) Additionally, Defendant has attached to its motion an affidavit of Martin that apparently was part of the investigative process on his administrative charge. (Def.'s Mot. Ex. 1 at 97.) In his affidavit, Martin states his understanding that the Department had accepted for investigation the question of whether he "was subjected to a hostile work environment based on sex (male)...." ( Id. ) Martin has provided no proof that he made an administrative charge for anything other than hostile work environment due to his gender.

The Court concludes Martin has exhausted a claim of hostile work environment based on his gender. His claims of failure to be promoted, failure to be given incentive bonuses, and any claim of discrimination other than hostile work environment have not been exhausted and are not properly before the Court.

B. Failure to State a Claim for Relief

A Title VII claim for hostile work environment requires the establishment of four elements: "(1) unwelcome conduct, (2) based on [plaintiff's] gender, (3) sufficiently pervasive or severe to alter the conditions of employment and to create a hostile work environment, and (4) some basis for imputing liability to [plaintiff's employer]." Matvia v. Bald Head Island Management, Inc., 259 F.3d 261, 266 (4th Cir. 2001). ...

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