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Watson v. HSU Development, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

June 5, 2015

RENEE WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HSU DEVELOPMENT, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE JARROD HAZEL, District Judge.

This is a sex discrimination case brought by Plaintiff Renee Watson ("Watson") against her former employer, HSU Development, Inc. ("HSU"), for purported violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq. [1] This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address HSU's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 41. A hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (Md.). For the reasons stated below, HSU's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. Watson's complaint is therefore dismissed with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

HSU is a full service construction company engaged in government and private contracting since 1994. See ECF No. 39 at ¶ 5. Watson was hired by HSU on July 18, 2008 as an unskilled laborer, notwithstanding her qualifications as a carpenter. See ECF No. 41-7 at 4[2]; see also ECF Nos. 48-1 at ¶¶ 4, 10 & 48-5. Watson was never told that she was interviewing for a carpenter position. See ECF No. 48-1 at ¶¶ 10-12. In fact, neither Watson nor HSU ever discussed a carpenter position during the interview; however, Watson "assumed that the position for which [she] was hired was a carpenter's position." Id. at ¶ 12.

When Watson was hired as a laborer, she was paid an hourly wage of $14.06. See ECF Nos. 41-10 at 2 & 41-7 at 6. Around the same time Watson was hired, HSU also hired three male laborers at the same hourly rate of $14.06. See ECF No. 41-10. For a period of time, Watson and these three men worked together at one of HSU's projects at the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital. See ECF No. 41-4 at ¶ 7.

After three months on the job, Watson had her first performance review during which she was given high marks. As a result, Watson received a wage increase to $19 per hour ( see ECF No. 41-15 at 2), which gave her a higher hourly wage than seven other male employees within her classification as a laborer. See ECF No. 41-4 at ¶ 14.[3] Watson later learned, however, that two male HSU employees, James Carr ("Carr") and Robert Jones ("Jones"), earned $22.50 per hour, despite the fact that, at times, they performed the same or similar work as her. See ECF No. 48-2 at ¶¶ 6, 8; see also ECF Nos. 48-1 at ¶¶ 18, 20-25, 40; 48-2 at ¶¶ 9-10. Watson therefore filed this lawsuit against HSU claiming violations of Title VII. Specifically, Watson contends that HSU violated Title VII by paying her lower wages than Carr and Jones and also by not hiring her as a carpenter when she was qualified to work as one. HSU has filed a motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 41. For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court will grant HSU's motion.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if there are no issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Francis v. Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 452 F.3d 299, 302 (4th Cir. 2006). A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. However, the nonmoving party "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1986). The Court may only rely on facts supported in the record, not simply assertions in the pleadings, in order to fulfill its "affirmative obligation... to prevent factually unsupported claims or defenses' from proceeding to trial." Felty v. Grave-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Strike

Prior to addressing the merits of HSU's motion for summary judgment, the Court must first address HSU's request that the Court disregard various allegations contained in Watson's amended complaint. See ECF No. 41-1 at 1-2. Although HSU's request is not formally stylized as a motion to strike, the Court will nevertheless treat it as one.

Watson originally filed her complaint on July 17, 2013. See ECF No. 1. After discovery was complete, HSU filed a motion for summary judgment on July 9, 2014. See ECF No. 22. Although HSU did not argue in its motion that the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court had concerns that it did not have such jurisdiction over this action because Watson failed to allege that she filed her complaint within ninety (90) days of receipt of the EEOC's right to sue letter - a perquisite for bringing a Title VII claim. See ECF No. 39 at ¶ 22. As such, the Court ordered Watson "to amend her complaint to include the date she received the right to sue letter." ECF No. 36. On December 1, 2014, Watson filed an amended complaint indicating that she had, in fact, filed this action within ninety (90) days of receipt of the EEOC letter. In addition to amending her complaint to include the date of receipt of the letter, however, Watson also made substantive changes. Specifically, Watson added a claim that HSU discriminated against her by failing to recall her following her layoff when, instead, it recalled male employees who had also been laid off. See ECF No. 39 at 5. Watson did not seek, nor did the Court provide, leave to amend her complaint in this fashion as is required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). HSU asks that the Court to disregard this (and other) allegations. The Court will grant HSU's request.

When the Court ordered Watson to amend her complaint in November 2014, it did so for the limited purpose of establishing the date on which she received the EEOC's right to sue letter. See ECF No. 36. It did not permit Watson to amend or reframe her complaint in light of the arguments HSU previously made in its earlier motion for summary judgment. Nor did it permit Watson to add substantive claims to her complaint, which would, with discovery having already been completed, severely prejudice HSU. Thus, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f), the Court will strike all of the changes made in Watson's amended complaint beyond the added allegation concerning the date upon which she received the EEOC's right to sue letter. See In re Keithley Instruments, Inc., Derivative Litig., 599 F.Supp.2d 908, 913 (N.D. Ohio 2009) (striking allegations in amended complaint that "exceeded the scope of leave granted by the Court" because "allowing them to stand ...


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