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Phillips v. University of Maryland Baltimore County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 4, 2016



Ellen Lipton Hollander United States District Judge

Monisha Phillips, who is self-represented, filed an employment discrimination suit against her employer, the University of Maryland Baltimore County (“UMBC”), and six UMBC employees: Amy Schneider; Christopher Murphy; Linda Baker; Eva Dominguez; Valerie Thomas; and Elmer Falconer. In addition, Phillips sued Tammi Spence, a “State employee” (ECF 1 at 2) identified as an “AFSME Union Rep.”[1] ECF 1 ¶ 30(hh). In particular, Phillips alleges that she suffered discrimination based on race (failure to promote) and was subjected to retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”). ECF 1 at 1, 3. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, money damages for “pain & suffering, ” “medical fees, ” and “back pay” owed to her due to the denial of promotion. Id. at 4-5. The Complaint is accompanied by a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. at 14-16.

Spence has filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF 7), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6), accompanied by a memorandum of law (ECF 7-1) (collectively, the “Motion”). Phillips opposes the Motion (ECF 13, “Opposition”). Spence has not replied and the time to do so has expired. See Local Rule 105.2.

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.

I. Factual and Procedural Background[2]

Plaintiff, who is African-American (ECF 1 ¶ 3), was hired by UMBC in 1996. Id. ¶ 1. In 2008, she began work as a part-time administrative assistant in UMBC’s Psychology Department. Id. Plaintiff allegedly experienced a “hostile work environment” (ECF 1 ¶ 4), typified by a litany of racially charged conflicts with coworkers and supervisors. See, e.g. Id. ¶¶ 1-4. Plaintiff maintains that her coworkers and supervisors, inter alia, made racially insensitive remarks and treated her less favorably than similarly situated “Caucasian employees” (id. ¶ 8), because of her race. See, e.g., Id. ¶¶ 1-4.

Beginning in 2010, Phillips assumed additional responsibilities but, in contrast to her “Caucasian” (id. ¶ 8) coworkers, she received neither additional compensation nor a job title commensurate with her new duties. See Id. ¶¶ 5-9. Plaintiff repeatedly complained to her departmental and university supervisors about the preferential treatment that similarly situated “Caucasian” (id. ¶ 8) coworkers received, but obtained no relief. See Id. ¶¶ 10-22. Phillips contends that, because of discrimination on the basis of race, and in retaliation for her complaints about the disparate treatment of African-American employees, she was denied several job promotions (see, e.g., Id. ¶ 9) and was “functionally demoted.” Id. ¶ 13.

During August 2013, Phillips “filed a grievance with the AFSCME Union due to concerns about policies and procedures, questionable changes/alternations due to personal beliefs, which are outside standard UMBC protocol.” Id. ¶ 23. Between September 10, 2013 and September 18, 2013, plaintiff met repeatedly with Mr. Poovan, [3] a UMBC employee and AFSCME representative (id. ¶ 24; see Id. ¶¶ 24-25), who represented her at meetings concerning her grievance with UMBC administrators. See Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

On September 24, 2013, plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC “because [she] was being subjected to unequal terms and conditions of employment, harassment, and a hostile work environment because of [her] race (African-American) and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity in violation of Title VII . . . .” Id. ¶ 27; see Id. at 4. Phillips alleges that, after she filed her Charge of Discrimination, a multitude of “retaliatory events happened.” Id. ¶ 30.

In particular, as to Spence, Phillips alleges, id. ¶ 30(aa): “Grievance not considered and denied by AFSME Union, unreturned phone calls, vague responses to my questions.” She also contends, id. ¶ 30(hh): “AFSME Union Rep (Ms. Spence) offered little or no guidance, tone often unprofessional, rude, had to send numerous emails to get a response. Days before my transfer, Ms. Spence said to me ‘UMBC didn’t owe me anything’, in an unprofessional rude tone.”[4]

Plaintiff was “transfer[red] to another department” on January 26, 2015. Id. at 12.

On April 15, 2015, the EEOC issued plaintiff a “Notice of Right to Sue” (id. at 14-16), which states, in relevant part, id. at 14 (bold, underlined, and emphasis in original): “Your lawsuit under Title VII . . . must be filed in a federal or state court WITHIN 90 DAYS of your receipt of this notice . . . .” Phillips filed suit on July 15, 2015. ECF 1.

II. Failure To State A Claim

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