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Miller v. Kramon & Graham PA

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 16, 2016

ANGELA M. MILLER, Plaintiff,
KRAMON & GRAHAM, P.A., Defendant



         Tn this action, Plaintiff Angela M. Miller alleges various claims of employment discrimination under federal and state law against her former employer. Defendant Kramon & Graham, P.A. See ECF No. 14. Now pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 21. No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion will be granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff is a Caucasian female who, as of the time of her filing of the November 15, 2015 Complaint (the "Operative Complaint"), was fifty-three years old. ECF No. 14 ¶ 1. From 1986 to 1988, then again from 1999 to January 31, 2012, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as an Administrative Assistant where she worked under the direction of Catherine Marks, the office manager. Id. ¶¶ 11-14. According to the Operative Complaint, Plaintiff was viewed positively as an employee; she had no negative performance reviews and received praise from Defendant attorneys on at least two occasions.[2] See Id. ¶¶ 15-20. Plaintiff received annual increases and bonuses for her performance during the course of her second stint at Defendant up until 2010. Id. ¶16.

         In the summer of 2011, members of Defendant's office and support staff, excluding Plaintiff, received annual pay increases. Id. ¶ 21. When Plaintiff approached Marks about not receiving a pay increase. Marks told her "the management team feels that under the budget [she had) capped out." Id. ¶ 22. Subsequently, Marks represented to Plaintiff that she was lobbying Defendant's management to approve Plaintiffs annual raise, id. ¶ 27, but Plaintiff never received one. Id. ¶ 29, On January 31, 2012, Marks summoned Plaintiff to her office and terminated her employment. Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant replaced her with Ashley Humes, a woman "in her 20s." Id. ¶ 35.

         In August 2012, Plaintiff filed a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC. Id. ¶ 5. More than two years later, during the EEOC investigatory process in November 2014. Plaintiff learned that, upon receiving notice that they would be terminated. Defendant's similarly situated African-American employees were allowed to keep their jobs while looking for new employment. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff was not afforded such an opportunity, having been immediately terminated. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff subsequently filed a second EEOC charge of age and race discrimination against Defendant within 300 days of discovering Defendant's more favorable treatment toward African-American employees. Id. ¶ 6.

         Plaintiff first initiated this action on April 14, 2015, and the case was assigned to Judge J. Frederick Motz. On November 6, 2015, Judge Motz administratively closed the case because the original complaint was not timely served on Defendant. ECF No. 12. Judge Motz instructed Plaintiff to refile and noted that the Operative Complaint would be deemed to be served on April 14, 2015, the date of the original complaint. Id. The Operative Complaint was filed on November 15, 2015. ECF No. 14.

         In the Operative Complaint, Plaintiff raises claims against Defendant of age discrimination pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C, § 621 et seq. (Count I) and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act ("MFEPA"), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-601 et seq. (Count IV), as well as claims of race discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq. (Count II), 42 U.S.C. §1981 (Count III), and the MFEPA (Count V). See Id. She seeks relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. Id. ¶ 73. On January 28. 2016, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 21."[3] Plaintiff filed a response to the Motion, ECF No. 22, and Defendant filed a reply. ECF No. 23.


         When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, " and "draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'' E.l. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Pursuant to 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). But to survive a motion to dismiss invoking Rule 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face., :; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544; 570 (2007)). The factual allegations must be more than "labels and conclusions .... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . .. ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also 5 C. Wright & A. Plaintiff, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, 235-36 (3d ed. 2004) ("IT]he pleading must contain something more .. . than ... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action")- A complaint will not survive Rule 12(b)(6) review where it contains "naked assertion[Yp devoid of "further factual enhancement." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. "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 663. "But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not:show[n]r-'that the pleader is entitled to relief/" See Id. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).


         In its Motion, Defendant raises multiple arguments attacking each of Plaintiff s claims. Specifically, Defendant argues that the statute of limitations bars Plaintiffs claims enumerated in Counts II, IV, and V; and that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted concerning Counts I and III. The Court will consider these arguments in turn.

         A. Statute of Limitations

         1. Title VII Race ...

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