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Greene v. Harris Corporation

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 20, 2014

KAREN E. GREENE, Plaintiff,
HARRIS CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.


MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendants' (Harris Corporation and Harl Dan Pierce) Motion to Dismiss [Document 24] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court has held a hearing and has had the benefit of the arguments of counsel.


At all times relevant hereto, Defendant Harris Corporation ("Harris"), a "global corporation" with its headquarters in Melbourne, Florida, has maintained an office in Columbia, Maryland. For fourteen years, from about 1996 through early 2010, Plaintiff Karen E. Greene ("Greene") provided office cleaning services to the Harris office in Columbia. For most of this period, there were no problems in the working relationship.

On March 1, 2008, "[Greene] and Harris entered into a renewable contract for janitorial services at the Columbia office, " with the contract automatically renewing each year.[2] Corrected First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶¶ 18-19. Problems developed after Defendant Harl Dan Pierce ("Pierce") began working at Harris' Columbia office as Director of Engineering in October 2008. Pierce acted rudely toward Greene. For instance, he never responded to greetings from Greene, "acting as if she were invisible... while cordially responding to other (sic) employees." Id . ¶¶ 23-24.

During a meeting in December 2009, Pierce stated to Harris employees (outside the presence of Greene) that "Greene dressed like a man, which really bothered him.'" Id . ¶ 33. Pierce further "described Ms. Greene as frumpy, dumpy and dresses like a man in flannel and jeans.'" Id . ¶ 34. Pierce asked the employees if Greene's appearance bothered them as well, to which they replied no. "Pierce then repeated that Ms. Greene was frumpy, dumpy, mopey, gloomy, [adding] the way she mopes around here.... It bothers me.'" Id . ¶ 39 (alterations in original). In late January to early February 2010, Pierce made similar remarks about Greene's appearance to a different group of Harris employees at a staff meeting.[3] At that meeting, a Harris employee informed Pierce that Greene is a lesbian, and Pierce "appeared visibly upset and then disgusted." Id . ¶¶ 47-48.

Shortly thereafter, Pierce reviewed Greene's invoices for the previous several months, "claim[ing] that he reviewed Ms. Greene's contract for budgetary reasons.'"[4] Id . ¶¶ 50-51. "According to Mr. Pierce, Harris paid Ms. Greene...'[m]ore than double the going market rate for cleaning.'"[5] Id . ¶ 56. However, "Harris documents refuted [Pierce's] contention." Id . ¶ 57. At the time of the review of Greene's contract in February 2010, "Ms. Greene's contract was the only one Mr. Pierce reviewed for alleged budgetary concerns. Id . ¶ 59.

Pierce had his secretary draft a letter "stat[ing] that Harris was terminating Ms. Greene's contract for budgetary reasons" as of March 6, 2010. Id . ¶¶ 60-62. When she was cleaning Pierce's office, Greene found the letter sitting directly on top of the waste basket. Id . ¶¶ 64, 67-68. At Pierce's request, Greene met with Pierce that day. Pierce told Greene "that he did not mean for her to see the letter." Id . ¶ 79. Greene responded, "[y]ou have treated me like dog shit, therefore, I have no respect for you, Mr. Pierce.'" Id . ¶ 80. According to Harris employees who were present at the meeting, throughout the conversation with Pierce, "Greene acted in a calm and professional manner." Id . ¶ 81.

Upon Pierce's request, Greene agreed to continue cleaning the Harris office until March 31, 2010. During Greene's remaining time at Harris, "Pierce continued to disparage [Greene]." Id . ¶ 101. Pierce also made efforts to avoid Greene and, on one occasion, asked his secretary "if she knew anything about Ms. Greene's relationship with another Harris female employee." Id . ¶¶ 102-07.

On April 1, 2010, Pierce contracted with Eurest Services, Inc. ("Eurest") to provide cleaning services for Harris' Columbia office. Id . ¶ 109. During the next seven months, the Eurest service was poor - the cleaning crews often did not show up and/or did not give an explanation for their absences, and the crews provided less than adequate cleaning. Id . ¶¶ 111-22.

"In December 2010, Eurest hired Ms. Greene as a janitor to clean the Harris office, beginning December 6, 2010." Id . ¶ 123. Greene was hired as a full-time employee of Eurest. Eurest assigned Greene to the Harris office location. Pursuant to the Master Service Agreement ("contract") between Eurest and Harris, Eurest was responsible for:

• "workers' compensation insurance;"
• "withholding taxes;"
• "benefits, such as retirement, health, vacation pay, sick pay, or other benefits plan [sic];"
• "federal unemployment compensation;" and
• "employer's liability insurance."

Id. ¶¶ 128-32. The contract "granted Harris control over employees [that Eurest] sent to clean the office." Id . ¶ 134.

Under the contract, Harris had the right to:

• "[i]nterview and otherwise evaluate all [Eurest] personnel assigned to [the Harris office];'"
• "accept or reject any [Eurest] individual(s) based upon their experience;'" and
• "require [Eurest cleaning] personnel to submit to Harris' standard drug testing.'"

Id. ¶ 135. Further, Harris was responsible for:

• "supply[ing] all c-fold towels, roll towels, toilet tissue, trash bags, [and] hand soap;'"
• "keep[ing] janitorial closets stocked at all times;'" and
• "meet[ing] with on site supervisor and review[ing] effectiveness on a weekly basis for the first 3 months.'"

Id. ¶ 137. "Harris chose the days on which Ms. Greene worked at its office, " and a Harris employee was Greene's on-site supervisor. Id . ¶¶ 138-39.

Greene was scheduled to begin cleaning Harris' Columbia office on December 6, 2010. Id . ¶ 123. On that very day, when Pierce saw Greene cleaning, he "immediately had Harris security escort her from the premises." Id . ¶¶ 146-47. The same day, Pierce emailed Russell Moodie, Sr. Facilities Manager, and stated: "[Greene] is the woman whom we dismissed because she was charging us $5000 a month. This is the woman ...

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