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Amenyah v. Randolph Hills Nursing Care, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 23, 2016



          THEODORE D. CHUANG, District Judge.

         On October 8, 2015, Plaintiffs Charlotte Amenyah, Anne Duliepe, Bernadette Lundy, Saba Mahari, Ana Mazoriego, Ghidey Menghisteab, Fikadu Mengistu, Amparo Orellana, Yamileth Orellana, Suyapa Ramírez, Silvia Peñ Rosales, Marco Rodríguez, and Filemon Tungcod (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a Complaint against Defendants Randolph Hills Nursing Care, Inc. ("Randolph Hills Nursing Care"), Randolph Hills Adult Day Care Center, Inc. ("Randolph Hills Adult Day Care"), Apex Health Management LLC ("Apex"), Randolph Road LLC ("Randolph Road"), NMS Healthcare of Silver Spring LLC ("NMS Silver Spring"), Neiswanger Management Services LLC ("Neiswanger Management"), and New Management Services LLC (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants discriminated against them on the basis of age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (2012), and the Montgomery County Human Rights Act, Montgomery County Code § 27-19 (2015); made negligent misrepresentations; and failed to pay wages in violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501-09 (West 2016). Presently pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss, filed by Randolph Hills Nursing Care, Randolph Hills Adult Day Care, and Apex (collectively, "the Randolph Hills Defendants") on October 23, 2015. The motion is ready for disposition, and a hearing is unnecessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.


         Plaintiffs worked at NMS Healthcare of Silver Spring ("the Center"), formerly known as Randolph Hills Nursing Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. The Center was owned and operated by Randolph Hills Nursing Care and Randolph Hills Adult Day Care (collectively, "Randolph Hills"), and Apex managed personnel matters and provided executive management assistance. Plaintiffs allege that the Randolph Hills Defendants were an "integrated enterprise" owned and controlled by Jung Hee Lee, that they shared management staff and had a common purpose of operating the Center, and that they shared responsibility for managing the Center's employees. Compl. ¶ 104. All but one of Plaintiffs worked at the Center as either a laundry aide, housekeeping aide, dietary aide, or kitchen aide. Rodríguez was a director of environmental services, a position that entailed supervising dietary aides, housekeeping aides, laundry aides, and maintenance assistants. By the time that Plaintiffs were terminated, each of them had worked for different periods of time, ranging from Amenyah, who worked at the Center for more than 30 years, to Peñ Rosales, who had worked at the Center for approximately six months. Plaintiffs were all full-time employees who liked their jobs and worked together as a team.

         Plaintiffs' circumstances began to change in early November 2013, when Matthew Neiswanger, the Chief Executive Officer of Neiswanger Management who introduced himself as a representative of NMS Silver Spring, met with Plaintiffs to announce that he would become the new owner of the Center. At the meeting, Neiswanger promised that when NMS Silver Spring took control of the Center in December 1, 2013, Plaintiffs would keep their jobs, earn the same hourly rates, and receive the same vacation and sick leave benefits, and that any accrued leave would carryover. More broadly, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants made false statements that Plaintiffs would be retained once NMS Silver Spring, Neiswanger Management, and New Management began operating the Center, that Plaintiffs would retain the same leave benefits that they received under Randolph Hills and Apex, and that their accrued leave would carry over. Throughout November 2013, NMS Silver Spring and Neiswanger Management representatives worked out of the same office as the Randolph Hills Defendants and gave orders to Plaintiffs. During this period, the Randolph Hills Defendants made recommendations on whether NMS Silver Spring should retain or terminate Center employees once it bought the Center.

         At two other meetings, NMS Silver Spring managers had Plaintiffs fill out personnel paperwork, had their pictures taken for new NMS Silver Spring identification cards, instructed them to purchase clothing as part of their new uniforms, and promised that they would "retain their jobs for at least 90 days after the change in ownership. One NMS Silver Spring manager told Amparo Orellana that she could not use any of her accrued vacation time before December 2013, or she would lose her job. Orellana postponed her vacation plans, believing that she would keep her job once NMS Silver Spring purchased the Center. Indeed, several Plaintiffs claim that they would have used their vacation leave in November 2013 but for the promises made by NMS Silver Spring that they would keep their jobs and that their sick and vacation leave would carry over. In addition, Plaintiffs refrained from seeking alternative employment during November 2013 based on Defendants' statements that they would retain their jobs.

         On November 28, 2013, pursuant to an agreement with Randolph Hills, Randolph Road became the owner of the Center and the employer of Plaintiffs. Three days later, on December 1, 2013, Randolph Road leased the Center to NMS Silver Spring, which then identified itself as Plaintiffs' employer as of that date. On December 2, 2013, Amenyah, Lundy, Mazoriego, Amparo Orellana, Yamileth Orellana, Peñ Rosales, Ramírez, and Rodríguez reported for their morning shifts. Shortly after 8:00 a.m., Mark Yost, the general counsel and vice president of legal and regulatory affairs for Neiswanger Management, and Melissa Kammer, vice president of human resources for Neiswanger Management, informed them that they were no longer employed at the Center and that the police would be called if they did not leave the premises immediately. Menghisteab, Mengistu, and Mahari all began their shifts before they were also informed of their termination. Also on December 2, 2013, Kammer called Duliepe to tell her not report to work because she no longer had a job at the Center.

         On December 2, Tungcod was on previously scheduled paid vacation leave. When he returned a few days later, he was informed that he had been terminated. Tungcod asserts that he was not paid for the three weeks of vacation leave he took with the permission of his supervisor.

         Plaintiffs allege that the Randolph Hills Defendants told them that regardless of any written policy, they would compensate Plaintiffs for accrued sick leave and vacation leave upon termination. Plaintiffs further allege that although Apex's employee handbook contained a provision stating that accrued vacation and sick leave would not be paid upon termination, the Randolph Hills Defendants had never adequately notified them of this provision. They claim that several Plaintiffs never received the handbook, and other Plaintiffs never had the contents explained to them in a language in which they were sufficiently conversant.

         When they were fired, all but one of the Plaintiffs was over 40 years old. As they were leaving after being fired, several Plaintiffs observed replacement housekeeping workers who appeared to be under 40 years old arriving at the Center to take their jobs. NMS Silver Spring personnel records reveal that as of December 2, 2013, 17 of the 22 employees in the housekeeping, kitchen, and laundry departments were either over 40 years old or, in one case, would tum 40 within a month. Of these employees, 16 were terminated before January 31, 2014, including the 13 Plaintiffs. NMS Silver Spring retained five employees from these departments who were under 40. During the same time period, the NMS Defendants hired 19 new employees in the same departments, 18 of whom were under 40.


         The Randolph Hills Defendants offer three grounds to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against them: (1) they were not Plaintiffs' employer at the time of their termination, so they could not be liable under the ADEA or the Montgomery County Human Rights Act; (2) Plaintiffs' negligent misrepresentation claim is conclusory and fails to allege an actionable duty of care or false statement; and (3) Plaintiffs' MWPCL cause of action fails to state a claim because the Randolph Hills Defendants were not Plaintiffs' employer at the time of their termination, the employee. handbook does not provide for accrued sick and vacation leave upon termination, and Tungcod has not alleged that wages were owed to him. The Court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

         I. Legal Standard

         In order to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible 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. In assessing whether this standard has been met, the Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of ...

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