United States District Court, D. Maryland
WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.
Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Good Samaritan Hospital of Maryland, Inc. (GSH), ECF No. 7. Plaintiff opposed the motion, and Defendant replied. Upon review of the filings and the applicable case law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that the motion must be granted.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Eangria Bouthner, proceeding pro se, brought this action against her former employer, GSH, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq. Plaintiff is an African American woman, born in 1958, and alleges in her Complaint that GSH discriminated against her on the basis of her race, color, sex, and age. Plaintiff also alleges that she was retaliated against for lodging a complaint against one of her supervisors, Kenneth Benson. The relevant facts as alleged in the Complaint and in various materials submitted by Plaintiff with the Complaint are as follows.
Plaintiff began her employment with GSH in 1999 as a Telephone Service Representative. She was promoted to a supervisor position and, in or around 2006, was promoted to the position of Manager of Switchboard Communications. When promoted to that position, Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Kenneth Benson, GSH's Chief of Security. While Plaintiff's relationship with Benson appears, initially, to have been positive, it began to degenerate at some point in 2008. In a memorandum dated November 4, 2008, to Karen Evelius, an attorney in GSH's Human Resources Department, Plaintiff complained about how Benson was treating her and asking to be placed under a different supervisor. Pl.'s Ex. B.
Plaintiff was eventually transferred to the supervision of April Lejsiak, GSH's Director of Imaging, on or about February 5, 2010. ECF No. 1-1 at 6. In another memorandum to Evelius dated February 21, 2010,  Plaintiff detailed the continuing tensions between her and Benson. Id. at 14-17. In her Complaint, Plaintiff also relates difficulties she experienced after she was transferred under the supervision of Lejsiak, including: being "yelled at on a daily basis;" being made to clock in and out for lunch; having her schedule micromanaged; and, being assigned numerous time consuming reports. See ECF No. 1-1 at 6-8. Plaintiff again complained to Human Resources and, on or about April 21, 2010, she was placed under the supervision of Thomas Senker, a GSH Vice President.
Plaintiff alleges that her working conditions under Senker were no better. She avers he "did everything in his power" to force her to resign and she "felt like a ball and chain was around [her] neck." Id. at 10. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Senker froze her department's budget, removed her from a Leadership message list, and added 18-20 more items to her job description. Id . In June of 2010, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation of a suspected payroll fraud issue. Id. at 26. She then applied for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and was granted leave through August 31, 2010. See id. at 66. On or about August 9, 2010, Plaintiff sent a letter to Senker stating that she was resigning, effective August 23, 2010.
On or about December 13, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Maryland Commission on Human Rights. ECF No. 7-2. In that Charge, she recounted the difficulties she experienced under the supervision of Benson, Lejsiak, and Senker and concluded that she believed that she had been "discriminated and retaliated against because of [her] race (black)." Id . In that Charge, the boxes for "Race" and "Retaliation" were checked to indicate the bases on which she believed she was discriminated, but the boxes for "Color, " "Sex, " and "Age" were not checked. Id . Plaintiff was issued a "right-to-sue" letter on May 9, 2013, and timely filed this action.
In response to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant GSH filed a motion seeking dismissal or the entry of judgment on the following grounds: (1) because her charge of discrimination was limited to race and retaliation, Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to any claim for color, sex, or age discrimination; (2) because she voluntarily resigned and cannot establish that this resignation was a constructive discharge, Plaintiff cannot establish that she suffered an adverse employment action; (3) Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination; and (4) because she has not identified a protected activity in which she engaged, Plaintiff cannot establish a retaliation claim. While Plaintiff filed an opposition to this motion, for the most part, she fails to directly respond to any of these arguments but simply repeats, verbatim, the allegations in her Complaint.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Defendant's first argument must be analyzed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), in that a Title VII plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies deprives the federal court of subject matter jurisdiction over such claims. Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd. , 551 F.3d 297, 300-01 & n. 2 (4th Cir. 2009). Generally, "questions of subject matter 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 Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30 (3d ed. 1998)). The plaintiff always bears the burden of demonstrating that subject matter jurisdiction properly exists in federal court. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute" and the defendant is "entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Id . In its analysis, the court should "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." Evans, 166 F.3d at 647.
Defendant's remaining arguments are governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under this rule is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville , 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver , 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co. , 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999). In evaluating the complaint, however, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs , 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst , 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli , 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). Ultimately, a complaint must "permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct' based upon its judicial experience and common sense.'" Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals , 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679). To this end, "while a plaintiff [in an employment discrimination case] is not required to plead facts that constitute a prima facie case in order to survive a motion to dismiss, [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id . (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A. , 534 U.S. 506, 510-15 (2002); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
A. Exhaustion of ...