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Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 30, 2015

KHALILAH JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, and TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 355 Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Khalilah Johnson ("Ms. Johnson" or "Plaintiff") brings this action against Defendants United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS"), International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("International Union"), and Teamsters Local Union No. 355 ("Local 355") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Code Ann., State Gov't, § 20-606, and various state law claims sounding in contract. Plaintiff claims that, as an employee of UPS, she suffered discrimination and retaliation by UPS and the Baltimore chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 355.

Currently pending before this Court are Defendant International Union's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8); Defendant Local 355's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10); Defendant UPS's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13); and Defendant UPS's Corrected Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, Defendant International Union's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) is GRANTED; Defendant Local 355's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10) is GRANTED; Defendant UPS's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13) is MOOT;[1] and Defendant UPS's Corrected Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, UPS's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Counts I-VI, and DENIED as to Count VII.

BACKGROUND

In a ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. See, e.g., Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999).

On May 28, 2008, Defendant UPS hired Plaintiff Khalilah Johnson, an African-American woman, as a part-time ("temp") driver. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 67, 91, ECF No. 3. At some point thereafter, Ms. Johnson became a full-time driver. Id. ¶ 11. As an employee of UPS, Ms. Johnson also joined Defendant Local 355, the Baltimore chapter of Defendant International Union. Id. ¶¶ 9, 16. Like all members of Local 355, a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between UPS and Local 355 governed the terms of Ms. Johnson's employment. Id. ¶ 12. The CBA, which was effective from December 19, 2007 through July 31, 2013, covered, inter alia, "discrimination, seniority and grievance and arbitration procedures between the parties[.]" Id.

The subject action arises from a series of alleged incidents of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by Defendants.[2] Id. ¶¶ 18-24. Plaintiff claims that she was assigned difficult and overloaded driving routes, id. ¶¶ 42-44; denied pay raises appropriate for her seniority, id. ¶¶ 60-67; sent sexually explicit images, id. ¶ 95; sexually harassed by male colleagues, id. ¶¶ 92-94; and denied an accommodation for her religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. Id. ¶¶ 104-108. Ms. Johnson also alleges that unknown coworkers placed bags of tampons and a bag of urine in her truck in an effort to harass and ridicule her. Id. ¶¶ 97, 100.

In response to this alleged harassment, Ms. Johnson claims that she has filed sixteen grievances since March of 2013, all of which remain unheard. Id. ¶ 135. During the course of filing the grievances, Ms. Johnson alleges that Local 355 representatives warned other employees to "be careful around [Plaintiff], " as "no one should get involved with Plaintiff, especially other Black females." Id. ¶¶ 127-128. Despite this alleged discrimination, Plaintiff asserts that she continued to perform her duties satisfactorily. Id. ¶ 17.

Ms. Johnson filed her first charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on April 3, 2013 (the "2013 Charge"), alleging sex discrimination related to UPS's denial of a raise on March 25, 2013. Pl.'s Resp. in Opp. to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss Ex. 3, 2, ECF No. 25-3. On February 7, 2014, Ms. Johnson filed a second charge with the EEOC (the "2014 Charge").[3] Pl.'s Resp. in Opp. to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss Ex. 4, ECF No. 25-4. The 2014 Charge levied failure to accommodate and retaliation claims related to Ms. Johnson's religious beliefs. Id. at 2. The EEOC issued "Right to Sue" Notices for both charges on June 25, 2014. Pl.'s Resp. in Opp. to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss Exs. 3-4, ECF Nos. 25-3, 25-4.

Plaintiff filed the subject action on June 16, 2014 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Compl., ECF No. 2. Three months later, she filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 3) in state court. Defendants jointly removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[4] Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Defendants subsequently filed separate Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 8, 10, 14), asking this Court to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Motions are fully briefed and ripe for consideration.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a court's authority to hear the matter brought by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). This challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting "that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true." Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). A plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).

With respect to a facial challenge, a court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction." Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799. Where the challenge is factual, "the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction." Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. "[T]he court may look beyond the pleadings and the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.'" Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003) (citation omitted). The court "may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Velasco v. Gov't of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Sharafeldin v. Maryland Dept. of Public Safety & Correctional Services, 94 F.Supp.2d 680, 684-85 (D. Md. 2000).

B. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

The Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). In the employment discrimination context, this pleading standard should not be "onerous." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 764 (4th Cir. 2003). The Supreme Court has indicated that an employment discrimination plaintiff need not plead particular facts conclusively satisfying each element of a prima facie case. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506 (2002).[5] Swierkiewicz, however, did not abrogate the requirement that the plaintiff allege "facts sufficient to state all the elements of her claim." Bass, 324 F.3d at 765 (emphasis added); see Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (explaining that Swierkiewicz does not nullify the heightened pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal ); Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002) ("[T]he Supreme Court's holding in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema did not alter the basic pleading requirement that a plaintiff set forth facts sufficient to allege each element of his claim." (internal citation omitted)).

Even with the degree of flexibility arguably given to employment discrimination plaintiffs, the court must consider whether plaintiff's complaint has met the plausibility requirement of Twombly and Iqbal. See Miller v. Carolinas Healthcare System, 561 F.Appx. 239, 241 (4th Cir. 2014) (explaining that, in the Fourth Circuit, " Swierkiewicz left untouched the burden of a plaintiff to allege facts sufficient to state all elements of her claim." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In making this assessment, a court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. "At bottom, a plaintiff must nudge [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible to resist dismissal." Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

ANALYSIS

Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss, yet their arguments for dismissal reflect common themes. Given this general unity of opinion, this Court will consider each Count of the subject Amended ...


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