United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEANA L. WARD, Plaintiff,
STG INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
working for Defendant STG International, Inc.
("STG"), Plaintiff Meana Ward, an African-American
woman, reported what she perceived as sexual harassment of
one of her subordinates by another co-worker and thereafter
experienced what she believed to be racial discrimination, a
hostile workplace, and retaliation for her reporting. Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 7-13, 46, 129, ECF No. 29. She was
terminated on June 27, 2006 and filed a claim with the
Montgomery County, Maryland Office of Human Rights
("MCOHR") on December 21, 2006, which she
cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC"), claiming retaliation. Id.
¶¶ 67, 88, 91. The administrative process
concluded on September 30, 2014, id. ¶122, and
within ninety days of receiving a Dismissal and Notice of
Suit Rights, ECF No. 1-1, but more than eight and a half
years after her termination, Ward filed suit in this Court on
December 30, 2014, alleging, inter alia, racial
discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation, in
violation of federal, state and county laws, Compl., ECF No.
1. At the time, she was unrepresented, and issues of
exhaustion of administrative remedies and timeliness were
evident on the face of her Complaint.
those bases, STG moved to dismiss. ECF No. 12. I denied the
motion without prejudice, ECF No. 26, and permitted Ward, who
had retained counsel, to file an Amended Complaint in
response to it, after I advised that any dismissal subsequent
to the amendment would be with prejudice, ECF No. 25. The
Amended Complaint includes claims of racial discrimination,
hostile work environment, and retaliation, in violation of
federal, state and county laws. Now pending is STG's
Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, ECF No.
30. Ward has abandoned her hostile
workplace claims, this Court lacks jurisdiction over
Ward's racial discrimination claims, and Ward fails to
state a claim for retaliation. Accordingly, I will dismiss
Ward's Amended Complaint with prejudice.
worked for STG "on various government contracts" as
a "team lead" under the supervision of Margaret
Cross and Reginald Hosea, two African-Americans. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 5, 7, 8, 41. On April 27, 2006, another team
lead, Johnny Holliday, also African-American, made what Ward
perceived as an "inappropriate sexual comment" to
Ward's subordinate, Christina Simmons, also
African-American, telling her "I have something for you
to choke on." Id. ¶¶ 7-13. Ward
reported the comment to management and human resources.
Id. Then, on June 6, 2006, when Ward and Holliday
and another African American team lead, Donald Beasley, were
meeting with Cross and Hosea, Ward "complained to Cross
and Hosea about Holliday's encouraging her team to slow
their work while she was on vacation" and
"criticized Holliday's meddling with her team,
including contacting them outside of work and making false
statements about her." Id. ¶¶ 44-45.
Cross then "became angry and said, 'I am tired of
this Nigger mess, '" and "told the team leads
that there was a personality conflict between Plaintiff and
Holliday and that they needed to work it out" or
"she would speak ... to Michelle Lee, STG's
president." Id. ¶ 46. Hosea
"conclude[ed] that they would not be able to resolve
their personality conflict" and "told Plaintiff
that he was reporting both her and Holliday to [Douglas]
Kuhn, " a Caucasian who supervised Cross and Hosea.
Id. ¶129. He said to Ward: "Great, now I
have to go and tell this White man that we cannot get along,
someone has to go." Id. On June 27, 2006, Ward
was terminated. Id. ¶67.
filed a claim of retaliation with the MCOHR on December 21,
2006 and cross-filed it with the EEOC, and almost two years
later, "[o]n December 9, 2008, the Commission completed
its investigation of her claims and issued a Determination of
no reasonable cause." Id. ¶¶ 88, 81,
97; see Id.¶ 114. She appealed, and five years
later, on June 23, 2014, the MCOHR affirmed the
Determination; the EEOC adopted the findings on September 30,
2014. Id. ¶¶ 116, 117, 122. Ward received
a Dismissal and Notice of Suit Rights and, within ninety
days, filed suit in this Court on December 30, 2014. By then,
more than eight and a half years had passed since her
Amended Complaint includes three claims. Count I is for
"Black on Black" racial discrimination in violation
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title
VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.,
based on her allegations that her supervisors "said,
'I am tired of this Nigger mess, '" and
"told her, 'Great, now I have to go and tell this
White man that we cannot get along, '" which in her
view "is evidence of racial animus towards Plaintiff for
reporting the harassment she suffered from Holliday[, ] a
fellow Black employee." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 126-29.
In Count II, Ward claims retaliation in violation of Title
VII. In her view, she "engaged in protected activity
when she reported Holliday for sexual harassment of a
subordinate" and later reported him "for
retaliation, hostile work environment and harassment."
Id. ¶¶ 146-47. She alleges that, in
retaliation, her supervisors "made unfounded complaints
to STG upper management regarding Ward" and
"recommended or encouraged STG upper management to
discharge Ward." Id. ¶¶ 156-57. She
claims (albeit in Count I) that she was terminated
"because she complained about a fellow Black
employee." Id. ¶ 140. Ward also claims
hostile workplace in violation of Title VII in Count II,
although the relevant allegations appear in Count I. She
alleges that, through their racially-charged comments and
their treatment of her, "Defendant had created a work
environment that a reasonable person would find hostile
and/or abusive, " and that Ward personally found
"hostile and abusive." Id. ¶¶
137-38. In Count III, Ward claims hostile workplace, race
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Montgomery
County Human Rights Act, Montgomery Cnty. Code § 27-19,
and Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
("MFEPA"), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't
§§ 20-601 et seqShe alleges that "STG
management racially discriminated and retaliated against
Plaintiff and ultimately terminated her." Am. Compl.
moved to dismiss Ward's initial complaint, ECF No. 12,
which she filed pro se, and Ward retained counsel
and filed a motion for leave to amend, ECF No. 21. I held a
telephone conference on September 16, 2015, in which I
afforded Ward the opportunity to amend but cautioned that any
subsequent dismissal would be with prejudice. ECF No. 25. Now
pending is STG's second Motion to Dismiss.
motion to dismiss based on a plaintiffs alleged failed to
exhaust administrative remedies is a motion to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus.,
Inc., Ill. F.3d 401, 406 (4th Cir. 2013). When a
defendant argues that the allegations in the complaint are
untrue, '"the Court may . . . consider matters
beyond the allegations in the complaint.'"
Fianko v. United States, No. PWG-12-2025, 2013 WL
3873226, at *4 (D. Md. July 24, 2013) (quoting Fontell v.
MCGEO UFCW Local 1994, No. AW-09-2526, 2010 WL 3086498,
at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 6, 2010)). In this instance, the Court
'"regard[s] the pleadings' allegations as mere
evidence on the issue, " and its consideration of
additional evidence does not "convert[ ] the proceeding
to one for summary judgment.'" Id. (quoting
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Ry. v. United
States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)). But, if the
defendant contends instead that the complaint simply does not
allege that the plaintiff exhausted administrative remedies,
"the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be
true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same
procedural protection as he would receive under a 12(b)(6)
consideration." Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213,
1219 (4th Cir. 1982); see Lutfi v. United States,
527 F.App'x 236, 241 (4th Cir. 2013); Fianko,
2013 WL 3873226, at *4.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the
dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted." Velencia v.
Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md.
Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose "'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.'" Id. (quoting
Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480,
483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind
the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, 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), and must state "a plausible claim
for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678-79. See Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4
(discussing standard from Iqbal and
Twombly). "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
courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over Title VII claims
for which a plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative
remedies." Balas, 711 F.3d at 406. Therefore,
to bring a Title VII employment discrimination claim in
federal court, a plaintiff must first "exhaust his [or
her] administrative remedies . . . ." Van Durr v.
Geithner, No. 12-2137-AW, 2013 WL 4087136, at *4 (D. Md.
Aug. 12, 2013) (quoting Bryant v. Bell Atl. Md,
Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2004)); see Jones
v. Calvert Grp., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). To
do so, a plaintiff must file a timely administrative
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(l).
Balas, 711 F.3d at 406; Jones, 551 F.3d at
300; Krpan v. Bd. of Educ. of Howard Cnty., No.
ELH-12-2789, 2013 WL 4400475, at *5 (D. Md. Aug. 15, 2013). A
plaintiff only exhausts her administrative remedies as to
'"those discrimination claims stated in the initial
charge, those reasonably related to the original complaint,
 those developed by reasonable investigation of the
original complaint, ' and those contained in official
amendments to the EEO complaint." Vann Durr v.
Lew, No. DKC-12-2137, 2014 WL 4187821, at *1 (D. Md.
Aug. 22, 2014) (quoting Jones, 551 F.3d at 300);
see Addison v. Dep 't of the Navy, No.
DKC-13-846, 2015 WL 1292745, at *4 (D. Md. Mar. 20, 2015)
(same); Krpan, 2013 WL 4400475, at *5-6 (granting
motion to dismiss count for discrimination based on national
origin because plaintiff "did not include such a claim
in his complaint to the EEOC"); Bryant, 288
F.3d at 132-33 (affirming summary judgment on claims of color
and sex discrimination, because EEOC charge only alleged race
discrimination). This means that "so long as 'a
plaintiffs claims in her judicial complaint are reasonably
related to her [administrative] charge and can be expected to
follow from a reasonable administrative investigation, '
she 'may advance such claims in her subsequent civil
suit.'" Sydnor v. Fairfax Cnty., Va., 681
F.3d 591, 594 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Smith v. First
Union Nat'l Bank, 202 F.3d 234, 247 (4th Cir.
2000)). In establishing and applying this rule, the Fourth
Circuit has "sought to strike a balance between
providing notice to employers and the [agency] on the one
hand and ensuring plaintiffs are not tripped up over
technicalities on the other." Id.
Ward, who sues for racial discrimination, retaliation, and
hostile workplace, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 135-38, 146-47,
174, alleges that she "timely filed a charge with the .
. . MCOHR" and "timely informed the MCOHR that
she was 'terminated from her employment on the basis of
race and in retaliation for her opposition
to being harassed, " id. ¶ 3 (emphasis
added). STG contends that Ward failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies with regard to her racial
discrimination and hostile workplace claims, because her
MCOIFR claim only raises retaliation as the basis for her
claim. Def.'s Mem. 13. Thus, as for Ward's racial
discrimination claim, STG argues that Ward's allegations
of presenting this claim to ...