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Lindsey-Grobes v. United Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

October 14, 2014

CAROLYN LINDSEY-GROBES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE JARROD HAZEL, District Judge.

This is a race discrimination case brought by Plaintiff Carolyn Lindsey-Grobes ("Plaintiff") against her employer, United Airlines, Inc. ("United"), for purported violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq. This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address United's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 9, as well as two motions to strike (ECF Nos. 10, 15) filed by United. The Court held a hearing on these motions on September 15, 2014. For the reasons stated below, United's Motion to is GRANTED and United's motions to strike are GRANTED as well.[1] The dismissal is with prejudice.[2]

I. BACKGROUND

The events giving rise to this action occurred as a result of the historic blizzards that struck the Baltimore-Washington area in late 2009 and early 2010. During such periods of inclement weather, United has a policy of providing certain eligible employees with companyissued hotel rooms close to the airport to ensure full staffing operations at the airport. See ECF No. 1 at ¶ 5. Plaintiff, a sales agent for United stationed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, contends that United applied this policy discriminatorily by providing similarly situated white colleagues with their own rooms, while refusing to provide Plaintiff, an African-American, with her own room. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff points to three allegedly discriminatory incidents to support her claim. Id. at ¶¶ 8-18. Additionally, Plaintiff contends that she was retaliated against when she reported this conduct. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 22.

The first allegedly discriminatory incident occurred on Friday, December 18, 2009 - the day before a major blizzard struck the Baltimore-Washington area leaving nearly two feet of snow on the ground between Saturday, December 19, 2009 and Sunday, December 20, 2009. Id. at ¶ 8. On that Friday, December 18, 2009, Plaintiff returned to the Baltimore-Washington area from Houston where she had been attending a company event. Id. at ¶ 9. With a snowstorm in the forecast, Plaintiff called her supervisor from Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. to ask that she be provided a company-issued hotel room. Id. Plaintiff's supervisor, however, denied her request because Plaintiff was not scheduled to work the following day (Saturday) - the day on which the snow was forecast to hit. Id .; see also ECF No. 13-1 at ¶ 23 (acknowledging that "[she] could not get a room, as [she] was off Saturday"). As a result of her supervisor's denial of Plaintiff's request to provide her with a hotel room, Plaintiff was forced to return home whereupon she became stranded for several days due to the massive amounts of snow that had accumulated. See ECF No. 1 at ¶ 11. During this time, Plaintiff was unable to attend work and received a negative mark on her attendance record as a result. Id. Plaintiff contends that the decision not to provide her with a company-issued hotel room was discriminatory because a white colleague was provided a company-issued hotel room on Saturday, December 19, 2009 and Sunday, December 20, 2009, despite the fact that this colleague was not scheduled to work on Sunday or Monday. Id. at ¶ 10. When Plaintiff asked one of her superiors why her white colleague was provided a company-issued hotel room when Plaintiff was not, she was told that it was because the colleague "was at work when the snow began."[3] Id. at ¶ 11.

The second incident of which Plaintiff complains arose a few weeks later shortly before another major blizzard hit the Baltimore-Washington area, which ultimately dumped another two feet of snow between Friday, February 5, 2010 and Saturday, February 6, 2010. Id. at ¶ 10. Sometime prior to February 5, 2010, and in anticipation of the predicted blizzard, Plaintiff once again asked her supervisor if she could be provided a company-issued hotel room. Id. Again, Plaintiff's supervisor denied her request because she was not scheduled to work on Friday, February 5, 2010 - the day on which the snow was forecast to fall. Id. Hoping not to miss any additional work due to the snow or to spend her own money on a hotel, Plaintiff elected to share a room with one of her African-American colleagues, who had been provided with her own company-issued hotel room. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff has not alleged that she missed any shifts or overtime opportunities as a result of this second incident. Again, Plaintiff contends that the decision not to provide her with a company-issued hotel room on February 5, 2010 was discriminatory because two white colleagues were provided a company-issued hotel room on Friday, February 5, 2010 and Saturday, February 6, 2010, despite the fact that they were not scheduled to work on Sunday or Monday. Id. at ¶ 14.

The third and final incident of which Plaintiff complains arose a few days later when another foot of snow fell in the Baltimore-Washington area between Wednesday, February 10, 2010 and Thursday, February 11, 2010. Id. at ¶ 15. On Thursday, February 11, 2010, Plaintiff's supervisor started calling his employees to inform them that United would be providing company-issued hotel rooms for Friday, February 12, 2010. When Plaintiff asked her supervisor to be provided a hotel room for that night, her request was denied because Plaintiff was not scheduled to work that Friday. Id. at ¶ 16. Ultimately, however, Plaintiff worked on Friday and was provided a hotel room for that night. Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff contends that she was not paid overtime for that work. Id.

At some unspecified point in time, Plaintiff reported the purported discrimination to United. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 22. Following her reporting of these events, Plaintiff contends that she was subjected to retaliatory monitoring of her performance, breaks and bidding on shifts, as well as negative performance reviews. Id.

After filing charges against United for discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Plaintiff received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on January 31, 2014. Id. at ¶ 23. Accordingly, on March 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against United for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 claiming that she was subjected to racially motivated disparate treatment as well as retaliatory acts for reporting the alleged discrimination. See ECF No. 1. United has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. See ECF No. 9. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant United's motion and will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Strike

Prior to addressing United's Motion to Dismiss, the Court must address United's Motion to Strike Paragraph 23 of Plaintiff's Complaint as well as Exhibits 1 and 2 attached thereto. See ECF No. 10. Paragraph 23 states:

Plaintiff filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who issued a Determination on July 31, 2013 that the Defendant's conduct violated 42 U.S.C. §§2000(e) (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). See: Exhibit 1 [EEOC's Factual Determination]. Defendant refused to conciliate and Plaintiff received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on or about January 31, 2014 See: Exhibit 2 [Notice of Failure to Conciliate].

United argues that this allegation and the related exhibits are "immaterial" (ECF No. 10-1 at 2) and should be stricken pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f), which permits "the court [to] strike from a pleading... redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that the allegations and exhibits are proper as they were included in the complaint "to plead and prove that (a) the administrative process has been exhausted when the Defendant failed to respond to the EEOC and (b) the Plaintiff timely filed her Complaint within ninety (90) days as required by law." ECF No. 13-1 at 19. The Court disagrees.

Paragraph 23 and the related exhibits go far beyond what is necessary for Plaintiff to satisfy the requirement that she plead that she exhausted her administrative remedies and that her complaint was timely filed in federal court. Moreover, Paragraph 23's references to the EEOC's findings and the Defendant's refusal to conciliate are not even relevant to these threshold issues of exhaustion and timeliness. Nor are they probative of the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint, which are entitled to a de novo review by the District Court. See Chancey v. N. Am. Trade Sch., No. 10-0032, 2010 WL 4781306, at *3 (D. Md. Nov. 17, 2010) (striking from complaint references to "EEOC findings [as] immaterial to [Plaintiff's] causes of action" because "[b]ecause federal district courts review discrimination claims de novo "), aff'd sub nom. Chancey v. N. Am. Trade Sch., Inc., 442 F.Appx. 815 (4th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, the Court will grant United's Motion to Strike Paragraph 23, as well as Exhibits 1 and 2 attached to Plaintiff's complaint. See e.g., Chancey, No. 10-0032, 2010 WL 4781306, at *3 (plaintiff's "inclusion of these prejudicial [EEOC] findings when he has demanded a jury trial and admits that a juror might see the complaint may be an attempt to evade the Federal Rules of Evidence"); Chapman v. Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, No. 09-37, 2009 WL 1652463, at *2 (W.D. N.C. June 11, 2009) (striking from complaint paragraphs discussing EEOC's findings that the plaintiff "was retaliated against" and "subject ...


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