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Brown v. Target, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 20, 2015

INGRID M. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
TARGET, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.

In an Amended Complaint (ECF 13), plaintiff Ingrid M. Brown alleges that her former employer, Target, Inc. ("Target"), [1] discriminated against her on the basis of age and race, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 ("ADEA"), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ECF 13. Brown is an African American woman who, at all relevant times, was over the age of forty years old. Id. She asserts that defendant discriminated against her when it scheduled her to work fewer hours than younger, white employees; when it denied her "training and promotional opportunities" in favor of younger, white employees; and when it scheduled her to work fewer hours and denied her training and promotional opportunities in retaliation for her engagement in civil rights activities protected under Title VII. Id.

Now pending is Target's motion to dismiss (ECF 14, "Motion"), filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 14-1, "Memo") and a copy of the Charge of Discrimination submitted by plaintiff to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). ECF 14-2 ("EEOC Charge"). Target contends that Brown failed to exhaust administratively her claims based on retaliation, as well as her claims that Target scheduled her to work fewer hours and denied her training opportunities based on her age or sex. ECF 14-1 at 5-7. In other words, Target argues that Brown failed to exhaust all of her claims except those pertaining to denial of "promotional opportunities" on the basis of her age or sex. Additionally, Target asserts that Brown has not alleged facts sufficient to state any claims at all. Id. at 8-14.

Brown opposes the Motion. ECF 15. She has submitted a memorandum in opposition (ECF 15-1, "Opposition") and four exhibits, as follows: her own Affidavit (ECF 15-2), with statements pertaining to her claims and to the EEOC's administrative processing of her claims; an Intake Questionnaire she submitted to the EEOC (ECF 15-3); a letter to her from the EEOC responding to her Intake Questionnaire (ECF 15-4); and a copy of the EEOC Charge that was also submitted by Target with its Motion (ECF 15-5). Target has replied. ECF 16 ("Reply").

The Motion has been fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the Motion. But, I will grant plaintiff leave to amend her Amended Complaint, with respect to her promotion-related claims only.

I. Factual Background[2]

In November 2007, Target hired Brown "as a full time store clerk on the stocks team." Amended Complaint, ECF 13 ¶ 7. At the time, Brown was over the age of forty. Id. Plaintiff "performed her duties and responsibilities in an exemplary, commendable, and satisfactory manner." Id. Target recognized her work with "numerous commendable feedbacks" and, in May 2010, a "Great Team Hero" award. Id.

"[E]arly in her employment" with Target, Brown "experienced a number of incidents with her supervisors and managers, which [she] believed were in violation of Defendant's customer service and employee relations policies." Id. ¶ 8. Specifically, she asserts that "executive team leader Roy Herring repeatedly" called her "trouble.'" Id. In response, "in early 2008, " Brown called "Defendant's hotline and reported" Herring's behavior. Id. "Almost immediately after this incident, Plaintiff's supervisor, Jen Reedy cut Plaintiff's work hours from forth (40) [sic] per week to about nineteen (19) hours per week." Id. ¶ 9. "A short time thereafter, Ms. Reedy hired two store clerks, in their late teens or early twenties, who immediately began getting scheduled form [sic] more work hours than Plaintiff." Id. Brown "questioned Jen Reedy about Ms. Reedy's actions" and "complained" that she (Brown) "believed that Ms. Reedy's actions were discriminatory." Id. After that, Brown "was never scheduled for more than twenty hours per week on average...." Id. Brown asserts that, even after she received the Great Team Hero award in May 2010, her "supervisors and managers continued to deny [her] work hours, and deny [her] other work opportunities, including training and promotions." Id. ¶ 10.

On September 20, 2010, Brown "initiated a charge of discrimination against [Target] with the EEOC, " ECF 13 ¶ 10, by filing an "Intake Questionnaire" form. See Affidavit of Ingrid Brown, ECF 15-2 ("Brown Aff.") ¶ 2. In her Affidavit, Brown avers that she "attached to the Questionnaire a 10-page statement of the reasons for discrimination...." ECF 15-2 ¶ 2; see also ECF 15-3 ("Intake Questionnaire") (undated, completed form referring reader to attachments).

Sometime after September 20, 2010, Brown "made [Target's] HR representative aware that Plaintiff had taken the action of going to the EEOC...." ECF 13 ¶ 11. Thereafter, Brown's "supervisors and managers... continued to deny [her] work hours, and reduced Plaintiff's work hours to as low as five (5) hours per week, while younger white store clerks were... hired and scheduled more hours than Plaintiff." Id. Specifically, Brown's "supervisors and managers reacted [to her EEOC activity] by drastically reducing [her] work hours to five (5) hours per week in October 2010." Id. at ¶ 24. After September 20, 2010, and through "the remainder of the year 2010, " Brown submitted correspondence to the EEOC "at least eleven" times regarding her concerns. ECF 13 ¶ 12.

"On or about January 15, 2011, Plaintiff signed the EEOC prepared Charge of discrimination against Defendant, which is date stamped as filed on January 18, 2011." ECF 13 ¶ 13; see also EEOC Charge, ECF 14-2 and ECF 15-5. On a document labeled "EEOC Form 5" and titled "Charge of Discrimination, " plaintiff checked boxes indicating she believed she had been discriminated against on the basis of race and age. ECF 15-5. She explained the particulars of her charge as follows, id.:

I. I began working for the above employer [Target] on November 6, 2007, as an In stock Associate. My present position is an In stock/Sale Floor Associate. I have been passed over for promotions since September 20, 2010. There have been positions available (Guest Service Team Leader and Guest Service Assistant) that I have been qualified for, but was not selected for either position. My employer has hired younger White employees from the outside that were not qualified for these positions. I have been placed in the majority of the positions in the store as a fill in when needed. There are no Black Team Leaders in this store.
II. My employer has not given me a reason for not promoting me.
III. I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my race (Black) in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended and because of my age (44) in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), with respect to promotion.

After filing her EEOC Charge, Brown continued to send supplemental information to the EEOC throughout 2011, 2012, and 2013. ECF 13 ¶¶ 13, 14. In 2011, she submitted twenty-one items of "correspondence" to the EEOC. Id. ¶ 13. In 2012 and 2013, she "submitted at least fourteen (14) and eleven (11) correspondence, respectfully...." Id. ¶ 14. The supplemental information amounted to approximately one hundred fifty-six "single lined spaced" pages. Id. ¶¶ 12 n.1, 13 n.2, 14 n.3. In May 2013, "Plaintiff ended her employment with Defendant." Id. ¶ 13.

The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue letter to plaintiff on or about December 27, 2013. ECF 13 ¶ 6. Plaintiff initiated this action in March 2014. ECF 1 (Complaint). In July 2014, Target filed its first motion to dismiss (ECF 6), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing in a supporting memorandum (ECF 6-1) essentially the same points it argues in its Memo on the pending Motion. ECF 6-1 at 5-13.[3] In response to Target's first motion to dismiss, Brown filed an Amended Complaint, ECF 13, which is currently the operative pleading. See ECF 10 (motion for leave to file amended complaint); ECF 12 (order granting leave to amend).

II. Discussion

As stated, Target argues that Brown has failed to exhaust administratively most of her claims. Memo, ECF 14-2 at 5-7. Although Target does not rely on Rule 12(b)(1) for its exhaustion claim, this contention constitutes a challenge to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 407 (4th Cir. 2013); Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). Target also argues under Rule 12(b)(6) that Brown has ...


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