United States District Court, D. Maryland
For Phyllis Maynor, Plaintiff: Jessie Lyons Crawford, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Jessie Lyons Crawford LLC, Baltimore, MD.
For Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Linda Ryder, George Opran, Defendants: Brian Travis Tucker, LEAD ATTORNEY, Steven G Metzger, Gallagher Evelius and Jones LLP, Baltimore, MD.
William M. Nickerson,
Senior United States District Judge.
Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital (Mt. Washington), Linda Ryder, and George Opran. ECF No. 3. The motion is fully briefed. Upon review of the briefing and the applicable case law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that the motion should be granted.
Plaintiff Phyllis Maynor is an African-American woman who began working for Defendant Mt. Washington in March of 2011 as a patient account representative. She was forty-nine years old at the time. Her immediate supervisor was Defendant Linda Ryder, the Director of the Patient Finance Department. Within a month of Plaintiff's hire, she alleges that Ryder began to harass her by " criticizing the way in which Plaintiff wrote, spoke, and unfairly criticized the [P]laintiff's work." Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 9. Much of the criticism appears to have centered on Plaintiff's speaking voice: Ryder " hated the way in which the Plaintiff spoke and hated the Plaintiff's voice in general," id. ¶ 10; complained that Plaintiff " was talking too loud,"
id. ¶ 11; and " accused Plaintiff of always yelling." Id. ¶ 29.
In April 2013, Defendant George Opran was promoted to Office Manager of the Patient Finance Department and thus became Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. Plaintiff alleges that he quickly joined Ryder in harassing her. Examples of his harassing behavior included: that he once " yelled extremely loud into the back of the Plaintiff's head in a frightening voice,"
id. ¶ 20, he falsely accused her of sleeping at her desk, id. ¶ 24, he " made childlike teasing facial expressions toward the Plaintiff that made her uncomfortable,"
id. ¶ 26, and he insulted her by stating " 'why do you sound like you do. Why do you talk like that.'" Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff also describes an incident that took place on the morning of July 19, 2013, where she was called into Opran's office and Opran and Ryder insulted her and attempted " to instigate an angry response" from her. Id. ¶ 39.
On January 29, 2014, another confrontation occurred between Plaintiff and Opran and Ryder that led to the termination of Plaintiff's employment the next day. Plaintiff received an email from Ryder requesting that she explain to Opran why a particular patient account was being recommended for a write-off. Plaintiff attempted to provide the explanation to Opran, but Opran continued to question her about the account and began to falsely accuse Plaintiff of saying that " Ryder could not read." Id. ¶ 72. Plaintiff opines that Opran was again trying to provoke an argument with Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 82.
Plaintiff was terminated the next day by Tom Ellis, the Human Resources Vice President, and, when she asked why, was told it was because she had yelled at Opran. Id. ¶ 108. Plaintiff told Ellis " that Opran was lying and that Defendant Ryder and Opran were offended by her voice,"
id. ¶ 109, but Ellis stated that he was terminating her anyway. Id. ¶ 110. Ellis also showed her several " write-ups" from her personnel file that Ellis represented had been signed by Plaintiff. Plaintiff denied that she had ever signed or even seen those documents before the day that her employment was terminated.
Based upon these allegations, Plaintiff filed a Complaint on August 25, 2014, asserting claims of " Harassment" under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (Count I); " Race Discrimination" under Title VII (Count II); " Age Discrimination" under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); " Retaliation" under Title VII (Count IV), and various state law claims (Counts V to VII). Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety on the grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims because she failed to first exhaust her administrative remedies before filing suit and, if those federal claims are dismissed, the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.
Because the failure to exhaust administrative remedies deprives a federal court of subject matter jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claims, the exhaustion argument must be analyzed under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300--01 & n. 2 (4th Cir. 2009). Generally, " questions of subject matter jurisdiction
must be decided 'first, because they concern the court's very power to hear the case.'" Owens--Illinois, Inc. v. Meade,186 F.3d 435, 442 n.4 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting 2 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30 (3d ed. 1998)). The plaintiff always bears the burden of demonstrating that subject matter jurisdiction properly exists in federal court. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp.,166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate, however, " only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute" and the defendant is " entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Id. In its analysis, the court should " regard the pleadings as mere ...