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Garey v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 25, 2016

SHEILA GAREY Plaintiff
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP Defendant

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

Marvin J. Garbis United States District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 20] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary.

In this case, Plaintiff Sheila Garey ("Garey") presents, in the Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 15] ("SAC"), claims against her former employer, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP ("Walmart") under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA") and the equivalent Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, Maryland State Government Article § 20-601, et seq. ("MFEPA").

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Garey, faced with a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 5], superseded her Complaint [ECF No. 1] with the First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 7]. The Court granted Walmart's Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 10]. In the Memorandum and Order Re: Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 14], the Court permitted Garey to file "a Second Amended Complaint that clearly and adequately sets forth the precise claims that she is asserting." Id. Garey has filed the SAC.

By the instant motion, Walmart seeks dismissal of the SAC, contending that Garey lacks standing to sue and, even if she did have standing, she did not adequately plead a plausible claim.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Facts[1]

In 1992, Garey began working for Walmart as an associate in the toy department of Walmart's Easton, Maryland store. SAC ¶ 5. In May 2006, Garey was promoted to assistant manager of the Cambridge, Maryland store. Id. ¶ 11.

"Over time, [Garey] developed problems with her knees which caused swelling, grating and substantial pain requiring a course of therapy and injections and ultimately, Plaintiff required knee replacement surgery." Id. ¶ 13.

In or around April 2012, Walmart agreed to give Garey four weeks of leave for knee surgery. Id. ¶ 15. An additional four weeks of leave related to her knee surgery was granted in or about June 2012. Id. ¶ 16. As a result of continued "knee pain and swelling" and "difficulty standing for long periods of time, walking long distances, bending and lifting, " id. ¶ 18, Garey was granted extended leave from late September 2012 through the end of May 2013. Id. ¶ 19.

"In or about January 2013, " Garey's doctor determined that she "would be able to return to work."[2] Id. ¶ 20. Even though she had been granted extended leave through May 2013, Garey returned to work "for a short period of time, despite her continuing knee problems." Id. ¶ 22. Then, in March 2013, Garey's doctor[3] notified her that she would require knee-replacement surgery and that "she should not work until her knee replacement surgery was completed and then she would be out of work for 4-6 months, after which time she could return to work with restrictions on her mobility and ability to bend and lift." Id. ¶ 23. Garey informed Walmart of the change in her medical status and stopped working. Id. ¶ 24.

At the expiration of the extended medical leave, [4] Walmart informed Garey "that she could not return to work unless she could return without any restrictions." Id. ¶ 25. Garey "sought [a further] extension of her medical [leave] to allow her to have knee replacement surgery on June 25, 2013, undergo 8-12 weeks of physical therapy and return to work at the end of the physical therapy." Id. ¶ 26. Walmart denied Garey's request. Id. ¶ 28.

On or around June 6, 2013, Garey filed a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On July 9, 2013, Walmart terminated Garey's employment. Id. ¶ 29. Garey received a Right to Sue letter from the EEOC on December 18, 2014. Id. ¶ 34.

B. Garey's Standing to Sue

Walmart seeks dismissal, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), [5]asserting that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. When a defendant asserts a defense pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

The ADA and MFEPA follow the procedural requirements of Title VII. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a); Baird ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d 462, 470 (4th Cir. 1999). "[F]ederal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over Title VII claims for which a plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies." Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 406 (4th Cir. 2013).

"Before a plaintiff has standing to file suit under Title VII, he must exhaust his administrative remedies by filing a charge with the EEOC." Bryant v. Bell Atl. Md., Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2002). "The EEOC charge defines the scope of the plaintiff's right to institute a civil suit." Id.

"Only those discrimination claims stated in the initial charge, those reasonably related to the original complaint, and those developed by reasonable investigation of the original complaint may be maintained in a subsequent Title VII lawsuit." Chacko v. Patuxent Inst., 429 F.3d 505, 506 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation omitted). The "same standard applies to administrative exhaustion under Maryland law." Thompson v. Golden M Co., Civ. No. WDQ-14-3254, 2015 WL 3888753, at *3 (D. Md. June 22, 2015).

Allegations in an administrative charge are not "reasonably related" to the allegations in the complaint where they do not "implicate the same time frame, actors and discriminatory conduct." Johnson v. Balt. City Police Dep't, Civ. No. ELH-12-2519, 2014 WL 1281602, at *11 (D. Md. Mar. 27, 2014); Chacko, 429 F.3d at 511 (finding no administrative exhaustion and noting that "the administrative charges . . . dealt with different time frames, actors, and conduct than the central evidence at trial").

1. The EEOC Charge

On or about June 6, 2013, while still employed by Walmart, Garey[6] filed her Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC (the "EEOC Charge"). SAC ¶ 31. The EEOC Charge[7] states that Garey was discriminated against because of her age and disability. ECF No. 20-2 at 4. A notation on the first page of the EEOC Charge indicates that the earliest discrimination occurred in 2007 and that the latest occurred at some unspecified time in 2013, necessarily prior to the June 6, 2013 filing date. Id.

A document entitled "Particulars" - attached to the EEOC Charge - states that the bases of the discrimination claim were:

• Disability - knee injury, wrist injury, ...

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