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Harris v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 2, 2016

JUNE F. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM MARTIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff June F. Harris (“plaintiff” or “Harris”) has filed a four-count complaint against Anne Arundel County, Maryland (“Anne Arundel County”) and William Martin (“Martin”) alleging race discrimination[1] in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on her non-promotion to the position of Assistant Correctional Facility Administrator at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center (“the Detention Center”) in 2013. 42 U.S.C. §§2000e-2(a), 2000e-3(a).

         Now pending before this Court are defendant Anne Arundel County's Motion to Dismiss Count II (ECF No. 7) and defendant William Martin's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9).[2] Also pending is plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11.) 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 Anne Arundel County's Motion to Dismiss Count II (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED; defendant William Martin's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9) is GRANTED; and plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         When 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).

         Plaintiff June Harris has worked at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center since October of 1988. (ECF No. 6 at ¶ 14.) In 1993, Ms. Harris was promoted to the position of Correctional Program Specialist II. (Id. at ¶ 15.) In 2004 and subsequent to her filing of an EEOC discrimination complaint, Ms. Harris was again promoted, this time to the position of Criminal Justice Program Supervisor. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.)

         This case arises out of plaintiff's unsuccessful application for the position of Assistant Correctional Facility Administrator in early 2013. (ECF No. 6 at ¶ 18.) While plaintiff applied for the position and participated in the selection process, she now alleges that she was “substantially more qualified” than the Caucasian male who was ultimately selected for the position. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-24.) Plaintiff further alleges that defendant William Martin influenced the selection process by helping to prepare the ultimately successful candidate, Michael Borgese, for the job interview and, ultimately, by providing Mr. Borgese with an unfair advantage for the interview with respect to Ms. Harris. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-43.)

         In her Amended Complaint, plaintiff alleges that her non-promotion to the position of Assistant Correctional Facility Administrator was the result of Anne Arundel County (through the Detention Center) and William Martin's discrimination against her on the basis of race (Counts I and III) and retaliation against her for engaging in protected activity when she filed her 2004 EEOC complaint (Counts II and IV).[3] (ECF No. 6.)

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Dismiss

         Under 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 citation omitted).

         In the 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).

         II. Motion for Leave to Amend

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides the general rules for amending pleadings. Specifically, Rule 15(a) requires that, after a responsive pleading is served, a plaintiff may amend his complaint “by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party.” In general, leave to amend a complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) shall be “freely” granted “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2); see Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Lance v. Prince George's County, Md., 199 F.Supp.2d 297, 300-01 (D. Md. 2002). The matter, however, is committed to the discretion of the district court, and the district judge may deny leave to amend “when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, the moving party has acted in bad ...


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