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Cobb v. Towson University

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 10, 2015

DARCEL COBB, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWSON UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Darcel Cobb, a self-represented former employee of defendant, Towson University ("Towson"), filed suit against Towson on June 27, 2014, alleging that she was unlawfully terminated on June 29, 2010. ECF 1 at 2.[1] Cobb, who is African American (ECF 1 at 2 ¶ 6), alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Id. at 5. In particular, on the form Complaint (ECF 1), plaintiff alleges that she was "Retaliated for filing EEOC charge, " id. at 2 ¶ 4, and that defendant's conduct was discriminatory because it was based on race. Id. at 2 ¶ 5.

In a typewritten, one-page attachment to the form Complaint, plaintiff asserts that she was employed by Towson as a "Library Technician for many years, and was treated less favorably than a non-African American coworker." Id. at 5 ¶ 2. She also claims that she was reprimanded frequently and "accused of poor job performance despite... overwhelming evidence to rebuttal [sic] this false claim." Id. Yet, her coworker's poor job performance was "ignored." Id. In addition, plaintiff asserts that beginning January 3, 2006, and continuing through her termination in June 2010, she suffered "harassment." ECF 1 at 3 ¶ 8; id. at 5 ¶ 1. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, back pay, monetary damages in the amount of $400, 000, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. Id. at 3-4.

Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, a pre-discovery motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rules 12(d) and 56. ECF 15 ("Motion"). The Motion is supported by a legal memorandum, ECF 15-1 ("Memo"), and four exhibits. I will refer to the Motion and the Memo collectively as the "Motion." Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the Motion. See ECF 17 ("Opposition"). Her Opposition is supported by fifty exhibits, most of which were filed in paper format only. See ECF 17 (docket text noting that Exhibits 1-50 were filed in paper format only). However, six of the exhibits were refiled electronically. See ECF 21-1 through ECF 21-6 (electronic copies of Exhibits 12, 28, 30, 21, 44, 47). Thereafter, Towson filed a reply. ECF 23 ("Reply").

The Motion has been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary to resolve the issues. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the Motion, but I will also grant plaintiff leave to amend her Complaint.[2]

I. Factual Summary[3]

In July 1989, Towson hired Cobb to work as a Library Technician. Ex. 2 to plaintiff's Opposition (Charge of Discrimination filed Nov. 17, 2010). According to the Complaint, "[h]arassment began January 3, 2006[, ] the next day after [Cobb's] African American supervisor resigned...." ECF 1 at 5 ¶ 1.

Cobb alleges that she "was accused of over spending for library materials", id. at 2 ¶ 6, and that she was "[r]etaliated against for filing EEOC charge." ECF 1 at 2 ¶ 4. With respect to plaintiff's claim that Towson discriminated against her based on race, Cobb alleges that she was treated differently than her "non-African American coworker Emiko Ortega, " another Library Technician. ECF 1 at 5 ¶ 2. She states, id.: [4]

2) I was the only African American in my department, one of three employees. I was employed 16 years in the department, 21 years in the department. My non-African American coworker Emiko Ortega and I were both library technicians. We were treated different, she was treated better. I was daily reprimanded and accused of poor job performance despite my overwhelming evidence to rebuttal this false claim. Ortega poor job performance and work for months and years was ignored. I provided documentation of this as well as she daily cancelling request for library materials available and on the shelves. She filed a false report of me verbally assaulting her. Her student employee the only eye witness provided an affidavit to her false statement in support of my account. Ortega's statement was accepted with no witnesses and I was reprimanded. Complaints about her poor job performance were ignored.
Additionally, Cobb alleges, id. ¶ 3:
3) My outstanding job performance written acknowledgements of my outstanding performance were ignored. My supervisor Sharon Mollock of eleven yrs. statements on my behalf were dismissed. She resigned Jan 2, 2006. I received below overall performance rating while she received above overall rating. I was daily harassed while she [was] praised despite evidence of her poor performance. Race was obviously the major factor for the daily mistreatment.

According to Cobb, the events in issue occurred between January 3, 2006, and June 29, 2010. ECF 1 at 3 ¶ 8. The gist of the allegations seems to be that after Mollock resigned, Cobb was treated differently from Ortega. As noted, Cobb states that she "was the only African American in [her] department of 3." ECF 1 at 2 ¶ 6.

Cobb alleges she filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on November 10, 2009 (ECF 1 at 3 ¶ 9), and that she received a right to sue letter on March 27, 2014. Id. ¶ 10. Cobb filed a copy of the alleged Charge of Discrimination ("EEOC Charge") and the right to sue letter ("RTS Letter") as exhibits to her Opposition. See Ex. 2 (EEOC Charge); Ex. 3 (RTS Letter, dated Mar. 27, 2014). The EEOC Charge itself shows that it was filed on November 10, 2010, rather than November 10, 2009. See Ex. 2; see also Opposition, ECF 17 at 2-3 (indicating Ex. 2 is the EEOC Charge referenced in the Complaint); Ex. 3 (RTS Letter matching EEOC Charge No. in Ex. 2).

In the EEOC Charge, Cobb claimed that Towson discriminated against her based on race and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. Ex. 2. The earliest date of discrimination is listed as June 25, 2010, and the latest incident was October 31, 2010. Id. The "particulars" of the charge are as follows:

I. I was hired by the above named employer on July 5, 1989 as a Library Technician. I have filed multiple charges of discrimination against my employer. On June 25, 2010, I was placed on paid administrative leave. In October 2010, I received notice of my employer's intent to discharge me.
II. My employer stated I was placed on administrative leave and discharged because of alleged performance problems. A similarly situated non-Black, non-protesting employee (Emiko Ortega) has worse performance than I, but no adverse employment action was taken against her.
III. I believe I was discriminated against with respect to administrative leave and discharge because of my race (Black) and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity in violation of ...

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