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Maddox-Nichols v. Southern Maryland Hospital, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 19, 2014

JESSICA MADDOX-NICHOLS, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND HOSPITAL, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THEODORE D. CHUANG, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 10, filed by Defendants Southern Maryland Hospital. Inc. ("SMH"), Charles Stewart ("Stewart"), and Crystal Harcum ("Harcum") (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants raised the following issues in their Motion to Dismiss: (1) whether Plaintiff Jessica Maddox-Nichols ("Maddox-Nichols") failed to exhaust administrative remedies for her claims of hostile work environment (Count VI), sex discrimination (Count VII), and retaliation for opposition to sex discrimination (Count VIII); and (2) whether Maddox-Nichols sufficiently stated a claim for wrongful discharge in Count IX.

On August 11, 2014, Maddox-Nichols filed a stipulated dismissal of Count IX of the Complaint, which the Court approved on August 13, 2014. ECF Nos. 16-17. Therefore, the remaining issues before the Court are whether it must dismiss Counts VI-VIII for failure to exhaust, and if it dismisses Counts VI-VIII, whether the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Maddox-Nichols's state law claims for battery (Count IV) and false imprisonment (Count V). The Court has reviewed the pleadings and supporting documents and heard oral argument on November 5, 2014. For the following reasons. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. The Court also declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Maddox-Nichols's state law claims for battery and false imprisonment. Therefore, Counts IV-VII of the Complaint are DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

Maddox-Nichols is a white woman who began working at SMH in July 2007 as an administrative assistant and served as a payroll assistant from June 2011 until she was discharged on January 13, 2012. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 36, ECF No. 1. Maddox-Nichols alleges that shortly after she transferred to SMH's Payroll Department. Harcum, an African American woman who was her coworker, began engaging in discriminatory behavior toward Maddox-Nichols on the basis of leer race and her daughters' disabilities, and that SMH failed to rectify the situation and instead terminated her when she complained of the discrimination. Id. ¶¶ 16-39.

Maddox-Nichols further alleges in her Complaint that "[o]n several occasions during her employment, " Stewart, who was Maddox-Nichols's male supervisor, engaged in unwelcome sexual harassment and sexually discriminatory behavior toward her. Id. ¶¶ 41-45. This activity included an incident on or about November 22, 2011, [1] when Maddox-Nichols met with Stewart for her 90-day performance review. Id. ¶ 46. During that encounter. Stewart rubbed Maddox-Nichols's knee, and then, before Maddox-Nichols was able to run out of the office, grabbed her in a full embrace, trapped her arms under his and pressed her against his chest, kissed her forehead, brushed his hands along her hair, and told her how beautiful she was and that she would have to "prove herself innocent of charges that Harcum had made against her" regarding her work performance. Id. ¶¶ 21, 46-48. Maddox-Nichols alleges that less than 60 days after this unsuccessful sexual advance, Stewart participated in the decision to terminate her. Id. ¶ 51.

On or about January 8, 2012, Maddox-Nichols filed a complaint with the Baltimore Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging discrimination on the basis of race and disability.[2] Id. ¶ 32; see also Resp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. A, ECF No. 13-2. On January 13, 2012, SMH fired Maddox-Nichols for alleged violations of the hospital confidentiality policy. Compl. ¶ 36.

On February 24, 2012. Maddox-Nichols sent an email to the EEOC in which she requested that the EEOC add a document to her EEOC file. Resp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. C. ECF No. 13-2. The attached document was entitled "Amendment to my EEOC Complaint, " and contained a description of Stewart's unwelcome physical behavior toward Maddox-Nichols, including an account of the November 22. 2011 encounter between Stewart and Maddox-Nichols. Id.

On March 15, 2012. the EEOC sent a completed Charge of Discrimination Form ("the Charge") to Maddox-Nichols to review and sign. See Resp. Mot, Dismiss, Ex. D, ECF No. 13-2 (cover letter sent by EEOC along with the Charge form). However, only the boxes for race discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation were checked on the Charge. and the narrative portion of the document contained only a description of Maddox-Nichols being "subject to racial harassment by Crystal Harcum, " who "constantly berated and ridiculed" Maddox-Nichols by making references to her race and to her two daughters' disabilities. Mot. Dismiss. Ex. 1, at 1, ECF No. 10-2. Importantly, the sex discrimination box on the Charge was not checked, and the document did not otherwise contain any description of Stewart's alleged sexually discriminatory conduct toward Maddox-Nichols. Id. The only mention of Stewart is the following: "1 went to Chuck Stewart, Vice President, and Allen Burton, Comptroller, to complain [about Harcum] but no action was taken." Id. Despite the fact that the Charge contained no allegations of sex discrimination, Maddox-Nichols reviewed, edited, and signed the Charge on March 18, 2012. Id.

After the EEOC provided the Charge to SMH, and SMH submitted a formal position statement addressing the claims. Maddox-Nichols again raised to the EEOC her sex discrimination claims as part of her formal response to the employer's position statement. Resp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. F at 3, ECF No. 13-2. In submitting this response. Maddox-Nichols's counsel informed the EEOC that he did not object to the EEOC providing "the entirety of this submission" to counsel for SMH. id. at 1. Nevertheless. SMH never received Maddox-Nichols's proposed amendment, her response to the SMH position statement, or any other notice from the EEOC that Maddox-Nichols was asserting sex discrimination charges. Mot. Dismiss at 7. There is no evidence that the EEOC even investigated these claims.

In September 2013, after the requisite 180 days from the date of the Charge, Maddox-Nichols requested a right-to-sue letter, which the EEOC issued on October 30, 2013. Compl., Ex. A, ECF No. 1; Resp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. H, ECF No, 13-2. On January 27, 2014, Maddox-Nichols filed her Complaint, alleging, on the basis of Harcum's conduct: interference with contractual rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I) race discrimination under Title VII (Count II): and retaliation for her opposition to race discrimination under Title VII (Count III). On the basis of Stewart's conduct, including the alleged unwelcome physical contact during the November 22. 2011 meeting, Maddox-Nichols alleged: battery (Count IV); false imprisonment (Count V); hostile work environment on account of sex under Title VII (Count VI); sex discrimination under Title VII (Count VII); and retaliation for her opposition to sex discrimination under Title VII (Count VIII). As noted above. Maddox-Nichols's claim for wrongful discharge (Count IX) was dismissed by stipulation on August 13, 2014. See ECF Nos. 16-17.

On May 9, 2014, Defendants filed the present Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Court should dismiss Counts VI-VIII for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and that it should also decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Maddox-Nichols's state law claims for battery (Count IV) and false imprisonment (Count V).

DISCUSSION

I. Legal ...


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