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George v. The Maryland Department of Correctional Service

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 25, 2015

REGINA GEORGE
v.
THE MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICE DIVISION OF PRETRIAL DETENTION SERVICE

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services[1] (Department). ECF No. 12. The motion is fully briefed, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and for the reasons stated herein, the motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Regina George brings this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and Maryland's Fair Employment Practices Act ("FEPA"), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-606. Ms. George is a longtime employee of the State, having worked for the Department since 1989, and currently serves as a Pretrial Investigator at Central Booking in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1998, her foot and ankle were injured by the elevator at the Central Booking facility. As a result of her injury, she still uses crutches and an ankle boot to walk and relies on Maryland Department of Transportation's paratransit services (MTA Mobility) for local travel. Upon her return to work in 2000, Ms. George alleges that she suffered harassment because of her injured foot, retaliation when she complained of the harassment, and a revocation of the accommodations the Department made so that she could continue in her work.

Plaintiff's allegations of a hostile work environment stem from incidents between approximately 2002 and 2011. Ms. George first alleges that, when she returned to work, she was assigned "Booth 13" so that she could easily access the restroom and a printer, but this assignment was subsequently taken away along with printer access.[2] In 2006, a co-worker pulled her chair out from under her and as she lay on the ground, called her a "beached whale." In the same year, a co-worker related to her that he overheard the statement, apparently in reference to her injury, "Do you know what they do to lame horses? Shoot them." In 2008, another co-worker overheard her being referred to as "crip" (presumably short for "cripple"). Then, in 2010, she was accused of accidentally urinating at her desk by co-workers and was subsequently mocked as "pissy" and "smelly." The teasing related to this incident continued through 2011. Plaintiff does not detail any incidents past 2011.

Plaintiff states that she promptly complained of this harassment by co-workers to her union and "filed the proper grievances." She also filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2006 and 2009. She alleges that the complaints she made to her supervisors and union were not investigated and that she was in fact retaliated against for making those complaints. She pinpoints an incident on March 5, 2013, as the main retaliatory action taken against her. On March 5, Plaintiff was stopped and searched by a security guard when she attempted to enter Central Booking by an entrance on Eager Street. The search revealed that she had on her person $413.00 in cash secured in her bra, a glass bottle of perfume, a CD, a Bible, approximately 100 lottery tickets, and multiple letters addressed to Plaintiff. As a result of her attempt to carry these objects into Central Booking, Plaintiff was assessed a Level I Reprimand for a violation of a Department directive. Plaintiff appealed this reprimand, but the decision by the Department was affirmed by an Administrative Law Judge.

Plaintiff was at the Eager Street entrance on March 5th because from 2000 to 2013, [3] she had used this side entrance to Central Booking as her MTA Mobility drop-off point. The main access point to Central Booking is the North Sally Port, through which all Department employees must pass in order to go through a security clearance. After Plaintiff was found with the aforementioned contraband on her person, Warden Carolyn Scruggs determined that Ms. George should be restricted to using the North Sally Port in order to go through standard security checks. In the immediate aftermath of March 5th, Ms. George submitted two doctor's notes and a note from the Operations Manager of MTA Mobility that the "one north" entrance was inaccessible to MTA's operators. Ms. George also appealed Ms. Scruggs' decision to restrict access to the North Sally Port, but the appeal was denied.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Department has filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Usually, in evaluating a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must accept as true all well-pled allegations of the complaint and construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). A court considers only the pleadings when deciding a motion to dismiss. If matters outside the pleadings are presented and not excluded, the motion must be considered under the summary judgment standard of Rule 56. See Villeda v. Prince George's Cnty., 219 F.Supp.2d 696, 698 (D. Md. 2002). In this case, the parties have submitted matters outside the pleadings, and the Court has considered these matters with respect to Plaintiff's FEPA claim for failure to accommodate. Defendant's motion shall be considered a motion for summary judgment and decided accordingly on this issue, but will be considered under the 12(b)(6) standard as to all other matters.

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record before the court "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). See also Felty v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987) (noting that trial judges have "an affirmative obligation... to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial" (internal quotation marks omitted)). A fact is material if it might "affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court "views all facts, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Housley v. Holquist, 879 F.Supp.2d 472, 479 (D. Md. 2011) (citing Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Properties, 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987)).

III. ANALYSIS

In her complaint, Plaintiff brings this action broadly as "Violations of the Americans with Disability Act and Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008." See ECF No. 2 at 9 and 11. More specifically, Plaintiff's complaint relates to Title I of the ADA, which prohibits an employer from "discriminat[ing] against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a).[4] The Supreme Court, in Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 360 (2001), held that the Eleventh Amendment bars suits in federal court by state employees to recover money damages "by reason of the State's failure to comply with Title I of the ADA." Specifically, the Court found that Congress failed to document a history and pattern of the states' irrational employment discrimination practices against the disabled. Id. at 368. The Department is an agency of the State. Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. § 2-101. In her prayer for relief, Plaintiff requests "compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $300, 000, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest... [and] reasonable attorney fees and cost." ECF No. 2 at 13. Plaintiff has brought precisely the type of suit that was addressed by the Court in Garrett and found to be prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment. As such, all of Ms. George's claims under the ADA must be dismissed.

Plaintiff also brings this action as "Violation[s] of Md. Code State Gov't § 20-606." See ECF No. 2 at 9 and 11. Defendant argues that much of the complaint falls outside the statute of limitations, as FEPA requires that a "civil action is filed within 2 years after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." ECF No. 12-1 at 12 (quoting Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-1013(a)(3)). Defendant also argues that, in particular, Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim is completely barred by the statute of limitations as she cannot cite to an incident within the statute of limitations to make the continuing violation doctrine available. Id. Plaintiff fails to address this deficiency, especially in relation to her hostile work environment claim, in which all incidents are alleged to have occurred before 2011. Plaintiff initiated this action in the Circuit Court of Maryland for Baltimore City on July 24, 2014. Accordingly, all incidents and allegations occurring prior to July 24, 2012, must be dismissed, including Count I of Ms. George's FEPA claim as it relates to a hostile work environment.

When the two year statute of limitations is taken into account, only the retaliation and failure to accommodate claims arising from the March 5, 2013, incident remain. These claims, however, do not stand up under further scrutiny in light of the timing of the incident, the clearly established regulations at Central Booking, the Department's ...


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