United States District Court, D. Maryland
GREGORY C. LAWRENCE, Plaintiff,
MARYLAND AVIATION, ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.
Gregory C. Lawrence has filed a two-count complaint against
the Maryland Aviation Administration (“MAA”)
alleging race discrimination (Count I) and retaliation (Count
II) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
(“FEPA”) based on his non-selection for the
position of Fire Chief at the Baltimore/Washington
International Airport. 42 U.S.C. §§2000e-2(a),
2000e-3(a); Md. Code, State Gov't §§ 20-266(a),
20-606(f). Now pending before this Court is Defendant
Maryland Aviation Administration's Motion to Dismiss, or
in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14)
(“Defendant's Motion”). Also pending is
Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) Motion for Stay of Consideration
of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18)
(“Plaintiff's Motion to Stay”). The
parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing
is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 16) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Specifically, the motion is GRANTED as to the retaliation
claim in Count II, but is DENIED as to the race
discrimination claim in Count I. Plaintiff's Rule 56(d)
Motion to Stay (ECF No. 18) is DENIED AS MOOT.
reviewing a Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the
facts alleged in the plaintiff's Complaint. See Aziz
v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). In
ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court reviews
the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); see also Hardwick ex rel.
Hardwick v. Heyward, 711 F.3d 426, 433 (4th Cir. 2013).
to the settlement of a 2003 race discrimination lawsuit filed
by Lawrence against MAA, he was hired as Deputy Fire Chief at
MAA's Baltimore/Washington International Airport Fire and
Rescue Department (“BWI FRD”) in January 2007.
(ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 16.) Plaintiff served as Deputy
Fire Chief from January 2007 through December 2013 and as
Acting Chief of BWI FRD from December 2013 through his March
2014 termination. (Id. at ¶¶ 20, 38.)
not directly relevant to plaintiff's claims in this case,
the events resulting in Lawrence's termination are set
forth in the Complaint and summarized herein. In July 2013,
plaintiff was involved in a minor automobile collision while
driving an official vehicle to complete a personal errand.
(ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 22, 23.) Though it is unclear
whether such use was authorized at the time, plaintiff's
supervisor, Wayne Pennell, requested an audit of
plaintiff's use of the official vehicle. (Id. at
¶¶ 24-26.) As a result of this inquiry, plaintiff
was terminated from his position as Deputy Fire Chief in
March 2014. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28.) Plaintiff
sought relief from his termination in Maryland state court,
and, pursuant to the findings of a state Administrative Law
Judge, MAA was ordered to reinstate plaintiff to his position
as Deputy Fire Chief. (ECF No. 1-8.) The ALJ's decision was
affirmed by the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County,
Maryland. (ECF No. 1-9.)
claims in this case are premised not on his termination, but,
rather, on MAA's alleged race discrimination and
retaliation in the selection of the new BWI FRD Fire
Chief/Director between November 2013 and March
2014. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 32-50.) The opening
of the this position was announced by MAA on November 19,
2013. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 36.) Interviews before a
five-person panel were conducted on January 23,
2014. (Id. at ¶ 40.) Plaintiff
alleges that despite his experience and “stellar
qualifications” for the position, he was not hired;
instead, plaintiff alleges, “[t]he person hired was a
Latino male, substantially less qualified for the position
than Mr. Lawrence.” (Id. at ¶¶
45-48.) Plaintiff asserts that his non-selection for the BWI
FRD Chief position was the result of MAA's race
discrimination and retaliation for his 2003 lawsuit.
(Id. at ¶¶ 49-50.)
Motion to Dismiss
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a plaintiff is
required to plead “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
The purpose of this requirement is to “to give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). Consequently, “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Id. (citation omitted). Similarly,
“an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation” is insufficient. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).
Rather, to withstand a motion to dismiss, “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,
” meaning the court could draw “the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct
alleged.” Id. (internal quotations and
context of employment discrimination, the Supreme Court has
clarified that pleadings need not “contain specific
facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under
the framework set forth” in McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Swierkiewicz v.
Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 (2002). However, in order
to survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiff's
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.”
McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dept. of Transp., State Highway
Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).
Motion for Summary Judgment
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court
“shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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(c). A material fact is one that “might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718
F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
summary judgment is proper “only when no
‘reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.'” Monon Corp. v. Stoughton
Trailers, Inc., 239 F.3d 1253, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2001)
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255)). When
considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's
function is limited to determining whether sufficient
evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant
submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts
and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718
F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007). However, this Court must also abide by its
affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported
claims and defenses from going to trial. Drewitt v.
Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993). If the
evidence presented by the nonmoving party is merely
colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment must be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249-50. On the other hand, a party opposing summary judgment
must “do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also In re Apex Express
Corp., 190 F.3d 624, 633 (4th ...