United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.
Gala Abraham (“Plaintiff” or
“Abraham”) has brought this action against
Defendant Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of the United States
Department of Health and Human Services
(“Defendant” or “HHS”), alleging
violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. In particular,
Plaintiff alleges that HHS retaliated against her for
engaging in protected behavior.
pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss, or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF
No. 34.) The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions
and determined that no hearing is necessary. See
Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2014.) For the reasons stated
below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 34) is
GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 33)
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). From December
2003-July 2014, Plaintiff Gala Abraham was employed by HHS as
a Management Specialist at the Food and Drug Administration
(“FDA”). (Am. Compl., ECF No. 33 at ¶¶
4-6.) On December 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed a discrimination
complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
(“EEO”) office against her immediate supervisor,
Raya McCree (“McCree”), and second level
supervisor, ShaAvhree Buckman. (Id. at ¶ 7.) In
her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Ms. McCree rejected
Plaintiff's application for a vacant job position because
of her age, race, and gender. (Id.) In July 2013, an
Administrative Law Judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) issued a final order
dismissing Plaintiff's 2010 discrimination and 2011
retaliation complaints. See ECF No. 34 at 8.
Plaintiff's EEO complaint was before the EEOC, Ms.
Abraham continued to work at HHS, serving on a temporary
detail at the FDA's Office of Compliance under the
supervision of Colin Figueroa from April 2011 through
September 2011. (ECF No. 33 at ¶¶ 9-10.) During
this temporary assignment, the Office of Internal Affairs
(“Internal Affairs”) held several meetings with
Plaintiff as part of an investigation into her alleged
inappropriate conduct in the workplace. (ECF No. 33.) At the
first meeting, in April 2011, Plaintiff received an
“Administrative Warning” for her alleged
involvement in spreading rumors about Ms. McCree and a male
colleague. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 14.) In May and
June of 2011, Plaintiff attended two additional interviews
with Internal Affairs, where she received further
“Administrative Warnings” for her behavior.
(Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.) During the final
interview, in September 2011, Internal Affairs informed
Plaintiff that she was suspected of sending a pornographic
video and sexually explicit letter to Ms. McCree and the
aforementioned male colleague. (Id. at ¶ 15.)
Later that month, Plaintiff received notice of a proposed
12-day suspension. (Id. at ¶ 17.)
the summer of 2011, while the investigation was ongoing,
Plaintiff applied for another vacant job position. (ECF No.
33.) Ms. McCree rejected Plaintiff's application in
September 2011. (Id. at ¶ 17.) On October 31,
2011, Plaintiff filed her second EEO complaint alleging
unlawful retaliation for her prior EEO activity.
(Id. at ¶ 18.)
a four-month investigation into Plaintiff's conduct,
Defendant ordered Plaintiff's 12-day suspension effective
on February 12, 2012. (ECF No. 33 at ¶ 33.) Subsequent
to her May 2012 return, however, Plaintiff was placed on
administrative leave based on new allegations of misconduct.
(Id. at ¶ 32.) On November 14, 2012, Plaintiff
filed her third EEO complaint asserting unlawful
discrimination and retaliation. (Id. at ¶ 29.) On
January 3, 2013, Defendant issued an amended proposed removal
notice, citing four grounds for Plaintiff's termination.
(Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.) In February 2013, a
Deciding Official for HHS sustained all four charges and
affirmed Plaintiff's termination. See ECF No. 34
subsequently filed an appeal of her removal to the Merit
Systems Protect Board (“MSPB”) in August 2013.
(ECF No. 33 at ¶ 46.) On November 7, 2014,
Administrative Law Judge Styles affirmed Plaintiff's
termination, with an effective date of December 12, 2014.
filed the pending action in this Court on January 12, 2015.
(ECF No. 33 at 9-10.) The sole count asserted in the
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is for unlawful retaliation
against Plaintiff for her prior EEO activity, in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq. (Id. at 9.)
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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of
a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule
12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and
not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of
a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley
v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir.
ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court
is guided by the Supreme Court's instructions in Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), which
“require complaints in civil actions be alleged with
greater specificity than previously was required.”
Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir.2012)
(citation omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court
articulated “[t]wo working principles” that
courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to
dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations
contained in the plaintiff's complaint, legal conclusions
drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference.
Id. (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice” to plead a claim; see also Wag More
Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012)
(“Although we are constrained to take the facts in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept
legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.”). Second, a
complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a
plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 679. A
claim is considered 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.” McCleary-Evans v. Maryland
Department of ...