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Mattison v. Maryland Transit Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 18, 2016

CHARLES MATTISON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION, MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Charles E. Mattison, Jr. (“Plaintiff” or “Mattison”) brings this action against Defendants Maryland Transit Administration, Maryland Department of Transportation (“MTA”), the State of Maryland (the “State”), and Mohammad Quraishi (“Quraishi”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq.; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111, et seq., as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008; the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t §§ 20-601, et seq.; and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501, et seq. Plaintiff claims that, as an employee of the MTA (and thus, of the State), he suffered discrimination, retaliation, and other injuries due to his disability-diverticulitis.

         Presently pending is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 24). This Court held a hearing on the pending Motion on May 16, 2016. For the reasons that follow, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 24) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. In sum, Count I will proceed solely against the MTA and the State; Counts II and III will proceed against the MTA and the State only for injunctive relief; Count IV will proceed against the MTA and the State; and Count V is dismissed as to all Defendants. Plaintiff’s claims are dismissed in their entirety as to Defendant Quraishi.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff Charles Mattison, Jr. is currently an employee of the Maryland Transit Administration (“MTA”) and was originally hired as an A Cleaner at the MTA’s Bush Maintenance Division on May 20, 2011.[2] Amended Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 41. Less than a year later, he was promoted to C Repairman with a commensurate increase in compensation to $13.35 per hour. Id. ¶ 13. As a C Repairman, Plaintiff was tasked with refueling and cleaning the MTA buses. Id. ¶ 23. He claims that he consistently performed in a competent and satisfactory manner. Id. On May 20, 2012, he received another increase in compensation to $14.23 per hour (plus evening compensation). Id. ¶ 14.

         Subsequently, on June 17, 2012, Mattison claims that he was wrongfully demoted to an A Cleaner at a pay rate of $11.45 per hour. Id. ¶ 15. After a hearing to discuss his demotion, [3] he was restored to the position of a C Repairman at the end of June 2012, with a pay rate of $14.23 per hour. Id. ¶ 16. He then succeeded in obtaining an A Repairman position on October 21, 2012 and was compensated at a rate of $17.09 per hour. Id. ¶ 17. Mattison alleges that this pay rate and the ensuing increases, however, remain less than the rate to which he is allegedly entitled as an A Repairman. Id. ¶¶ 17-20. Another A Repairman, Austin Breckinridge, III (“Breckinridge”), was hired nearly a year after the Plaintiff at a “top” pay rate of $27.63 per hour. Id. ¶ 18. Mattison’s pay rate has not surpassed $20.72, which remains his current hourly wage. Id. ¶ 20. He alleges that he is entitled to the same compensation as Breckinridge, but has been denied that pay due to his discriminatory demotion. Id. ¶ 19.

         Plaintiff claims that his demotion and unequal compensation stem from Defendants’ discrimination and retaliation against him due to his disability. He suffers from diverticulitis, an inflammation of the digestive tract. Id. ¶ 25. Although Mattison has had surgery to address his condition, he experiences periodic debilitating “flare-ups” of severe pain in his abdomen, constipation, infection, and fever. Id. ¶ 27. During a flare-up, Plaintiff’s pain is “sufficiently severe so as to prevent the ability to pursue normal life functions, . . . necessitate[ing] time off and bedrest.” Id. ¶ 28. To prevent flare-ups, he follows a high fiber diet that requires frequent use of the bathroom. Id. ¶ 29. Given his condition, Plaintiff applied for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in May 2012. Id. ¶ 31. He alleges that the MTA, MDOT, and Quraishi, Plaintiff’s supervisor, were aware and on notice of his disability and request for FMLA leave. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Plaintiff’s request was approved on June 4, 2012. Id. ¶ 33.

         After Mattison filed for leave under the FMLA, he claims that Quraishi began a consistent campaign of harassment and intimidation. Id. ¶ 35. Prior to his request for leave, Mattison alleges that he performed in a satisfactory manner and did not receive any discipline of any kind. Id. ¶ 34. On June 3, 2012, Quraishi created a report reprimanding Mattison for taking over two hours for lunch. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff claims that this report was part of Quraishi’s effort to demote him to an A Cleaner. Id. ¶¶ 37, 40. He was indeed demoted to an A Cleaner on the basis of the “patently untrue” report, an action that continues to affect his compensation today. Id. ¶¶ 15, 19, 42. Even further, he claims that Quraishi assigned him larger work quotas than his peers, made frequent comments about his disapproval of unplanned absences, ridiculed Mattison for his frequent bathroom use, and generally “hyper scrutinize[d]” Mattison’s performance, among other alleged forms of harassment. Id. ¶¶ 35, 36, 38, 39, 49, 51. Plaintiff alleges that this discrimination and harassment continue to this day. As recently as February 21, 2015, Quraishi allegedly authored a false report of Plaintiff’s “absence without justification.” Id. ¶ 50.

         Mattison filed the present action on June 3, 2015 solely against the MTA and the State. See Compl., ECF No. 1. After the MTA and the State collectively moved to dismiss (ECF No. 13), this Court allowed the Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 41), in which Quraishi was named as an additional defendant. Mattison asserts five claims against the Defendants: violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“§ 504”), 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Count I); the “self-care” provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq. (Count II); Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111, et seq., as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (Count III); the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t §§ 20-601, et seq. (Count IV); and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501, et seq. (Count V). Defendants collectively moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and (12)(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         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). 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 Indon., 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Sharafeldin v. Md. Dep’t of Pub. Safety & Corr. Servs., 94 F.Supp.2d 680, 684-85 (D. Md. 2000). A plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).

         B. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         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 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 Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated “[t]wo working principles” that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in the complaint, the court is not so constrained when the factual allegations are conclusory or devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979). Moreover, a court need not accept any asserted legal conclusions drawn from the proffered facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. (stating that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim); see also Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (“Although we are constrained to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a “plaintiff need not plead the evidentiary standard for proving” her claim, she may no longer rely on the mere possibility that she could later establish her claim. McCleary-Evans v. Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration, 780 F.3d 582, 584 (4th Cir. 2015) (emphasis omitted) (discussing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002) in light of Twombly and Iqbal). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While the plausibility requirement does not impose a “probability requirement, ” id. at 556, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) (“A complaint need not make a case against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only allege facts sufficient to state elements of the claim.” (emphasis in original) (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, 680 F.3d at 365 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint on numerous grounds. For the sake of clarity, this Court will address Defendants’ arguments in the following order. First, this Court will consider Defendants’ immunity arguments: (a) the MTA and the State are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. XI, with respect to Mattison’s FMLA and ADA claims for monetary relief; and (b) Quraishi is entitled to immunity with respect to Mattison’s § 504, FMLA, and ADA claims. Second, this Court will address the various statute of limitations issues raised against Plaintiff’s § 504, ADA, and MFEPA claims. Finally, this Court will address whether Mattison has stated a plausible hostile environment claim under either § 504 or the ADA.[4]

         A. Immunity

         i. Sovereign Immunity-the MTA and the State

         In moving to dismiss Counts II and III, Defendants contend that they are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. XI. As such, this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff’s claims arising under the “self-care” provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Court recognizes that “the ultimate guarantee of the Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting States may not be sued by private individuals in federal court.” Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001) (citing Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 73 (2000)). Given this guarantee, Congress may abrogate a state‚Äôs Eleventh Amendment sovereign ...


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