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Goffe v. Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 2, 2015

PAULA GOFFE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNS HOPKINS HEALTH SYSTEM CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's, Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation ("JHHSC"), Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff Paula Goffe brings this action against her former employer, JHHSC, alleging employment discrimination based on her race, religion, and "health status" and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (2012) (Count I), wrongful termination (Count II), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count III). (ECF No. 2). The Motion is ripe for disposition. Having considered the Motion and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2014). For the reasons outlined below, JHHSC's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Goffe, a resident of Maryland, is formerly an employee of JHHSC, a Maryland corporation. On February 26, 2013, Goffe filed a worker's compensation claim for an unspecified injury and was on leave from that date until May 28, 2013. When Goffe returned to work on May 29, 2013, Goffe found that her direct manager was Jeff Ostrow. Goffe is a Seventh-Day Adventist and did not drink alcohol or go to bars with her co-workers. Ostrow made comments that he was "God, " teased her for listening to gospel music, and stated there would be no more worker's compensation claims. Goffe was required to move to a new office isolated from the co-workers in her department and used as a storage area for chairs and trash cans. While she was moving her items in a cart to the new office, Ostrow said she might be homeless. She was followed by her co-workers who documented her arrival and departure times. She alleges these events occurred because she filed a worker's compensation claim.

On February 21, 2014, Goffe met with Ostrow for a performance evaluation. During the evaluation, Ostrow informed Goffe that she needed improvement in several areas. Goffe alleges that her white co-workers were not given similar evaluations when they failed to perform their duties. When Goffe challenged the evaluation, Ostrow tore it up and stated he would redo it. Since Goffe could not sign the evaluation, she was told to submit to a Fitness for Duty Evaluation or be terminated immediately. To complete the evaluation, Goffe states she scheduled several appointments and met with several evaluators. It is unclear from the Complaint whether Goffe completed the Fitness for Duty Evaluation. Goffe alleges that her white co-workers were not required to complete a Fitness for Duty Evaluation. At an unspecified time, Goffe filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and received a right to sue notice.

On February 15, 2015, Goffe initiated this action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. (ECF No. 2). On March 12, 2015, JHHSC removed the action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2012). (ECF No. 1). On March 19, 2015, JHHSC filed a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 6). On March 23, 2015, Goffe filed a response to the Motion.[2] (ECF No. 8). On April 9, 2015, JHHSC filed a reply to Goffe's response. (ECF No. 11).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not state "a plausible claim for relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id . (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)) (internal quotation marks omitted), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 F.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)).

B. Analysis

1. Employment Discrimination

The Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss regarding Goffe's claim for employment discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that "[i]t shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer... to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (2012). To survive a motion to dismiss a claim for discrimination, Goffe must allege that she was terminated or otherwise treated less favorably "because of" her race or religion.[3] See § 2000e-2(a).

Here, Goffe alleges she was treated differently by being assigned to a new office that was separate from her department and used to store chairs and trash cans, and followed by her co-workers who documented her arrival and departure times. She alleges, however, she was treated differently in retaliation for filing a worker's compensation claim.[4] She also states in her Response to the Motion that JHHSC "acted in retaliation for her filing a Workers Compensation claim" when she was terminated. (ECF No. 8). Additionally in her Response, she states JHHSC "wrongfully terminated her based ...


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