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Walker v. Glaxosmithkline (GSK)

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 11, 2016




         On July 13, 2015, Desiree Walker, acting pro se, filed a Title VII complaint alleging that her former employer, GlaxoSmithKline LLC (“GSK”) discriminated against her on the basis of race and color. ECF No. 1, at 1. Walker claims that her supervisor at GSK transferred her to another group with different hours, removed her from job duties, isolated her from co-workers, and verbally harassed her. Id. at 2. She further alleges that she was turned down for two positions and was told that GSK would not promote black people. Id. at 3. GSK filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim on October 14, 2015. ECF No. 10. The issues have been briefed, and no hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, GSK’s Motion shall be granted, and Walker’s Complaint shall be dismissed.


         In her Response, [1] Walker alleges that that she began working for GSK in July 2012 after it acquired her employer, Human Genome Services. ECF No. 14-1, at 2. Despite being content in her current position and having a good relationship with Grace Hu, her supervisor, Walker applied unsuccessfully for other positions. Id. at 2-3. Walker concedes that out of the two positions for which she applied, she was unqualified for one and the other was turned into a volunteer position. Id. at 3, 8. Walker contends that after she applied for the positions, her relationship with Hu deteriorated, allegedly because Hu “was not happy that [Walker] was seeking to leave the group.” ECF No. 14-1, at 3. Walker asked Hu’s manager for permission to shadow another employee. Id. She attempted to shadow during her lunch period or before work, but Hu allegedly reprimanded her “for abandoning [her] team” and “for trying to steal company secrets.” Id.

         Walker alleges that Hu “began to verbally harass [her] . . . slap [her] back or []arm [, ] say [she] was lazy or being a bad influence, ” insinuating that she did not believe that Walker had allergies to specific chemicals or legitimate doctor appointments, and that she was gay. Id. at 4. Walker also alleges that she was no longer given additional responsibilities, other employees were receiving credit for her work, and she was being accused of not completing all of her work. ECF No. 14-1, at 4. Walker went to Hu’s supervisor, Sue Currie, to report how Hu was treating her. Id. Walker alleges that soon after Currie spoke to Hu, Hu cursed at Walker and told her she “was not ready for the position [she was applying for] and that GSK would not promote black people so why [did she] keep trying.” Id. Walker alleges that Hu also said “the person that was going to hire for the position that [she] was attempting to shadow, was not going to hire me as he did not like black people at all.” Id. Walker confronted the hiring supervisor.[2] Id. He immediately denied the allegation, but stated that he had previously heard of Hu alleging this and would address this issue with Currie. ECF No. 14-1, at 5.

         Walker also complains that Hu gave two of Walker’s white co-workers preferred job assignments but due to their lack of experience and her knowledge she would complete their work. Id.; ECF No. 18, at 4. She further alleges that these same co-workers were not reprimanded for doing similar things for which she was reprimanded, but she does not allege that any supervisor saw the other co-workers do the similar acts. ECF No. 14-1, at 8. Additionally, Walker alleges that at some point before she was transferred, Hu had a meeting with Walker and another co-worker during which Hu stated that she understood that both women had children and could not work the scheduled hours or days at “LSM, ”[3] so she would send someone else. Id., at 4, 8, 11. Despite this meeting, Walker was transferred to LSM. Id. at 4. After the transfer, Walker again went to Currie to enter a complaint regarding Hu’s treatment toward her and her transfer to LSM. Id. In response, Currie replied, “that she would allow [Walker] to work the same schedule but she did not care what was going on and she didn’t have to let [her] do anything.”[4] Id. at 4-5. After this meeting, Walker spoke to a Human Resources representative. ECF No. 14-1, at 5. The representative spoke to both Hu and Currie, after which neither individual spoke to Walker again. Id. Walker resigned from GSK soon after. Id. Since her resignation, Walker alleges that she has applied to multiple companies in the biotech industry but has been “blacklisted.” Id. at 12.


         In February 2014, Walker filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for events that occurred during her employment with GSK from June 2013 to August 2013. ECF No. 1, at 4. On August 8, 2014, the parties agreed to a Mediation Hearing but did not reach an agreement. ECF No. 14-1, at 2. On April 21, 2015, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. Id.

         Walker filed her complaint in this Court, claiming GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§2000 et. seq., by discriminating against her based on race and color. ECF No. 1. GSK filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim on October 15, 2015. ECF No. 10.[5] After her Motion for Extension of Time to File a Response was granted, Walker filed a Response on December 1, 2015, ECF Nos. 13, 14, along with a Request for Counsel, which was denied. ECF Nos. 15, 16. GSK replied to Walker’s Response on December 17, 2015. ECF No. 18.


         I. Standard of Review

         a. Pro Se Standard

         A federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that a court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint in order for it to survive a motion to dismiss. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         b. Motion to Dismiss ...

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