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Isaac v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 21, 2016

ANNETTE P. ISAAC, Plaintiff,


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Housing Authority of Baltimore City's (“HABC”) Motion to Dismiss, Motion for More Definite Statement, or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 8). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Annette Isaac, an African-American and Christian female, works for HABC as a Senior Administrative Assistant. (Am Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1-5); (see ECF No. 1-10). Isaac has worked for HABC for eight years, and she is an active union member. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2). On June 11, 2015, Isaac filed a notice of intent to file a union grievance against HABC. (ECF No. 1-8). Isaac filed the grievance on June 15, 2015, detailing several instances of what she considers verbal harassment by her coworkers. (Id.).

         On December 28, 2015, Isaac sued HABC in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland. (ECF No. 1-2). On February 9, 2016, Isaac filed an Amended Complaint, also styled as a “Motion for Summary Judgment, ” raising three claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (2012): (1) retaliatory harassment; (2) disparate treatment; and (3) religious discrimination. (Am. Compl.). The Amended Complaint also raises state claims for negligence and defamation.[1] (Id.).

         The gravamen of Isaac's allegations appears to be that HABC has refused to promote her to the positon of Energy Program Specialist “as promised.” (Am. Compl. at 6). Isaac alleges she is the only employee in her department that has not been promoted. (Id. at 7).

         Isaac's Amended Complaint also includes ancillary allegations concerning isolated incidents of what she characterizes as verbal harassment or defamation. On at least one occasion, Isaac's supervisor James Larsah told Isaac she “look[ed] like she was white . . . because of her auburn colored hair.” (Id.). On June 11, 2015, HABC's Real Estate Manager Faith Young “verbally abused” Isaac with profanity and insinuated Isaac was not a Christian. (Id. at 8). Additionally, in July 2014, one of Isaac's coworkers, Shavonne Ricketts, “intentionally attempted to defame” Isaac when she reported that Isaac “was not cooperating and [was] being difficult” at a meeting. (Id. at 9).

         On March 4, 2016, HABC filed the present Motion to Dismiss, Motion for More Definite Statement, or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 8). Isaac responded on March 24, 2016 (ECF No. 11), and HABC replied on April 12, 2016 (ECF No. 14). Isaac filed a surreply on April 25, 2016, which the Court will not consider because Isaac did not move for leave to file a surreply. See Local Rule 105.2(a) (D.Md. 2016) (“Unless otherwise ordered by the court, surreply memoranda are not permitted to be filed.”).


         A. Standard of Review

         HABC styles its Motion as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom., Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). Pursuant to Rule 12(d), when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion. First, that the “parties be given some indication by the court that it is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment” and second, “that the parties first ‘be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery.'” Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         When the movant expressly captions its motion “in the alternative” as one for summary judgment and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur. See Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md. 2005). If the nonmovant is on notice that conversion may occur, the nonmovant “cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party had made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). Rule 56(d) provides that the Court may deny or continue a motion for summary judgment “[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.” “[T]he failure to file an affidavit under Rule 56[(d)] is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.” Nguyen v. CNA Corp., 44 F.3d 234, 242 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1137 (2d Cir. 1994)).

         Here, HABC captions its Motion in the alternative for summary judgment and attaches matters beyond Isaac's Amended Complaint for the Court's consideration. Isaac has not submitted a Rule 56(d) affidavit expressing a need for discovery. Instead, she attaches her own extra-pleading material to her Opposition to HABC's Motion. (See ECF Nos. 11-1 through 11-4).[2] Accordingly, the Court will treat HABC's Motion as one for summary judgment.

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Summary judgment is proper when the movant demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A).

         Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the nonmovant has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). If the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case where she has the burden of proof, “there can be ‘no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party's case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265. A “genuine” dispute concerning a “material” fact arises when the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         B. ...

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