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Wilson v. Susquehanna Bancshares, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 19, 2014

MICHAEL A. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSQUEHANNA BANCSHARES, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE L. RUSSELL, II, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants Susquehanna Bancshares, Inc. and Susquehanna Bank's (collectively, "Susquehanna") Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 3). Plaintiff Michael A. Wilson is suing Susquehanna for the alleged retaliation he received in response to Wilson reporting Susquehanna's alleged unlawful practices to the proper authorities. Wilson is also suing Susquehanna for alleged racial discrimination. The Court, having reviewed the pleadings and supporting documents, finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2011). Susquehanna's Motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Susquehanna is a chartered bank incorporated in the State of Maryland. From May 2012 until March 2013, Susquehanna employed Wilson, an African-American male, as an Appraisal Review Associate. In this capacity, Wilson reviewed state and federally related commercial real estate transactions to ensure compliance with internal and external regulations. Wilson also routinely verified the independence of external appraisers.

During his tenure at Susquehanna, Wilson experienced differential treatment. For example, Susquehanna monitored Wilson's arrival and departure times while others were extended the courtesy of arriving late to address personal matters. On one occasion, Wilson was informed that he returned from lunch minutes late. Wilson was also labeled a "brown nose" and "suck up, " asked to arrange others' birthday celebrations while his was never acknowledged, and repeatedly denied an opportunity to transfer to a location closer to home. According to Wilson, Appraisal Review Associate Robert Dennison[2] made significantly more than him despite Wilson's participation on the team that hired and trained Mr. Dennison.

In January 2013, Tonya Swanson, Susquehanna's V.P. and Appraisal Review Officer, and Paula Browning, Susquehanna's V.P. and Manager of Commercial Real Estate, instructed Wilson to discontinue external appraisal independence verifications and to ignore Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Valuation Guidelines when reviewing appraisals performed for banks other than Susquehanna. Wilson informed both ladies that ignoring the guidelines was illegal. Specifically, on January 17, 2013, Wilson informed Swanson that he intended to file a complaint regarding her request because it was unethical and in violation of the law. That day, Wilson filed an internal complaint with Susquehanna's EthicsPoint telephone hotline. The next day, on January 18, 2013, Wilson filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Consumer Help Department ("FRB Complaint"). On January 22, 2013, Wilson reiterated his complaint to Karen Gerdes, Regional Manager of Human Resources.

Despite Wilson's complaints, Susquehanna's employees continued to violate appraisal regulations. Moreover, after filing the FRB Complaint, Wilson endured various forms of retaliation, including being excluded from critical meetings and decisions, receiving hostile comments and emails from managers, denial of professional development financial assistance and reimbursement, and denial of previously offered learning opportunities. Wilson was also denied an internal promotion to Chief Review Appraiser without an interview. Approximately two months after filing his complaint, Wilson resigned under duress on March 18, 2013.

On or about April 2013, Wilson filed an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC issued Wilson a right-to-sue letter on December 24, 2013. Wilson filed suit against Susquehanna on January 10, 2014, alleging violation of the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Statute, 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6 (2012) (Count I), wrongful discharge against public policy (Count II), and racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (2012) (Count III). (ECF No. 1). Susquehanna now moves to dismiss Counts I and II, and a portion of Count III. Susquehanna also moves for summary judgment on Wilson's unequal pay claim in Count III.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss

1. Standard of Review

The purpose of a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro , 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co. , 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint is also insufficient if it relies upon "naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotation marks omitted).

2. Analysis

The Court will grant Susquehanna's Motion to Dismiss as to Counts I and II because Wilson has failed to allege an adverse employment action. The Court will also grant Susquehanna's Motion as to Count III because the alleged facts fail to raise an inference of racial discrimination, fail to ...


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