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Bales v. Maryland Judiciary

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 21, 2016

JAMES H. BALES
v.
MARYLAND JUDICIARY/ ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS

          MEMORANDUM

          J. Frederick Motz United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff James H. Bales (“Bales”) brings suit against his former employer, the Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”), [1] alleging the AOC discriminated against him based on his age and disability status. He brings claims for, inter alia, hostile work environment, retaliation, failure to accommodate, and constructive discharge, pursuant to §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794 et seq. (“Rehabilitation Act”), and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't. § 20-602, et seq. Now pending is the AOC's motion to dismiss Bales' first amended complaint, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 17). The motion is fully briefed, and no oral argument is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted and Counts 1 through 11 are dismissed

         BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, this 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). Plaintiff Bales is a resident of the State of Maryland, and his address is 1430 Dundalk Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland, 21222. (ECF No. 13, ¶ 3). Defendant AOC, located in Annapolis, Maryland, is a court-supporting agency that “oversees and implements court policies established by the Chief Judge, the Court of Appeals, and the General Assembly.” Id. at ¶ 4. The AOC's Judicial Information Systems (“JIS”) department hired Bales in 1994, and he worked at JIS in varying capacities until his early retirement in July 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 299. Throughout his period of employment, Bales alleges he was subjected to discrimination and harassment due to his age, disability status, and his engagement in protected activity. Bales' factual allegations, which are numerous, can be separated into three distinct periods of employment: Bales' time at JIS Annex (January 1998 to February 2009), Bales' relocation to JIS Riva (February 2009 to May 2013), and Bales' reassignment to a new position at JIS Riva and his subsequent retirement (May 2013 to July 2014).

         JIS Annex (January 1998 to February 2009)

         Prior to 1998, Bales alleges he was promoted several times, eventually reaching the title of “Information Specialist X” in JIS's LAN Department. Id. at ¶ 12. Bales alleges he was “at all times a model employee who met or exceeded his employer's legitimate performance expectations in these positions, which included receiving a letter of commendation.” Id. at ¶ 13. In January of 1998, Bales was transferred to the JIS Annex, located at 2004 Industrial Drive, Maryland, where he continued working as an Information Specialist X. Id. at ¶ 14. At the Annex, Bales worked with, inter alia, Robert Hannon (“Hannon”) and Jason Thomas (“Thomas”). Bales' immediate supervisor was Jim Butler (“Butler”), a Senior Manager in LAN Administration, who in turn reported to Phillip Braxton (“Braxton”), Executive Director of JIS. Id. at ¶¶ 14-17. It was at the Annex where Bales alleges he “became the ongoing victim of office bullying and pranks, primarily at the hands of Messrs. Thomas and Hannon, who came to be his primary tormentors.” Id. at ¶ 18. For example, Bales alleges his coworkers would throw pennies in his direction and play various pranks on him including sabotaging his computer equipment, unplugging his keyboard, removing the ball from his computer mouse, and switching network wires on files servers. Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.

         Eventually, Bales alleges he started complaining, sometimes on “a daily basis, ” to his immediate supervisor, Butler. Id. at ¶ 21. However, Bales alleges the conduct did not stop; rather, the nature of the conduct escalated and Butler “would himself engage in very inappropriate conduct.” Id. at ¶ 22. For example, Bales contends he was “continually ridiculed about his age with demeaning comments about his sight, hearing, and alleged diminished mental capacity, along with repeated ageist comments that he was ‘old.'” Id. at ¶ 23. Furthermore, Bales alleges “Thomas and others would gleefully have farting and belching contests and, on one occasion, deliberately farted on Mr. Bales.” Id. at ¶ 24. “On other occasions, Mr. Thomas and others would proceed to lick each others' hands in a perverted manner in an attempt to disgust and provoke Mr. Bales, and further made sexually derogatory comments about Mr. Bales' daughter.” Id. at ¶ 25.

         By 2004, Bales alleges he was experiencing serious physical and mental complications because of his work environment. Id. at ¶ 29. In response, he allegedly “repeatedly emailed, spoke with and notified” Braxton, Butler's superior, of the “harassing and intolerable behavior taking place at the JIS Annex.” Id. Bales alleges he asked to “be relocated out of this antagonistic environment, ” but Braxton failed to take remedial action or relocate Bales away from the Annex. Id. at ¶¶ 32-33. In March of 2005, Bales claims he sought medical treatment with Dr. Jerome Rubin, PhD, who diagnosed Bales with Chronic Stress Disorder (“CSD”), allegedly resulting from Bales' work environment. Id. at ¶¶ 34-35.

         From 2005 to 2007, Bales alleges the harassment continued and he repeatedly complained to superiors and asked to be relocated to a different office at JIS Riva. Id. at ¶¶ 36-50. However, Bales alleges his complaints and requests to be transferred out of JIS Annex to JIS Riva were largely ignored and his coworkers continued their pattern of harassment. Id. For example, on one occasion in November of 2005, Thomas “wildly scratch[ed] his crotch” and then “immediately and purposely touched [] Bales with his crotch scratching hand.” Id. at ¶ 44.

         On December 18, 2008, finally “[e]xasperated by . . . inactions, ” Bales claims he filed a written “Grievance” with Braxton asking again to be “relocated to JIS Riva.” Id. at ¶¶ 51-54. The grievance also reiterated the conduct Bales had been subjected to at JIS Annex, specifically noting he had suffered “personal attacks, bullying, discredit, personal disrespect, judiciary disrespect, ridicule, provocation, . . . personal family commentary, farting at [his] desk, body slamming, perverted acts of licking each other's hands, equipment and project sabotage, selective persecution, false accusation and antagonism[, ] . . . harassment, age commentary, [and] racial commentary.” Id. at ¶¶ 54-55. Bales claims, in response to his “Grievance, ” Braxton sent him a memorandum dated January 15, 2009, indicating Braxton “concluded that [he does] not have adequate ‘verifiable' information about these occurrences to reach an informed decision.” Id. at ¶ 61. Accordingly, Braxton advised Bales to consider contacting the Office of Fair Practices (“OFP”) to investigate his “stress-related physical problems.” Id. at ¶ 62.

         Bales, instead, escalated his complaint to Human Resources on January 22, 2009, notifying Lee Robinson, manager of the Office of Employee Relations in the Human Resources Department. Id. at ¶ 67. Bales also made “an unusual plea directly to Frank Broccolina, ” who was the head of the AOC, requesting that Bales be moved to JIS Riva. Id. at ¶ 70. As a result of his complaints, Bales alleges he was subjected to increased scrutiny and false accusations including, inter alia, allegations he was “cursing” at work when he claims he was not, and being limited to a thirty-minute lunch period, “despite the fact that other employees at the JIS Annex routinely enjoyed an hour or more for lunch each day and numerous breaks during the day.” Id. at ¶ 79. Bales alleges he reported these incidents to the Human Resources Department, expressing his concerns these actions were “retaliatory because of recent complaints and grievances.” Id. at ¶ 80.

         JIS Riva (February 2009 to May 2013)

         In February of 2009, the Department of Human Resources transferred Bales to JIS Riva while OFP continued its investigation into Bales' claims. Id. at ¶ 81. Unfortunately for Bales, OFP advised him on May 18, 2009 its investigation was complete and it did “not substantiate [his] claim of discrimination.” Bales alleges these were “sham” findings and, as a result, he “was subjected to continued harassment, discrimination and retaliation from after from the latter parts of 2009 up through the time he was compelled to retire” in 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 82-84. For example, Bales claims the relocation from JIS Annex to JIS Riva was “held against him in his performance evaluations” in 2009 and 2010. Id. at ¶¶ 82-84 And on January 6, 2012, Bales suffered a heart attack allegedly “stemming from the ongoing constant harassment and hostile work environment that exacerbated his underlying anxiety and stress disorder.” Id. at ¶ 89.

         Bales alleges the harassment continued at an off-site training in March 2012 that was also attended by Thomas from JIS Annex. Id. at ¶ 94. During the course of the class, Bales claims Thomas repeatedly harassed him by, inter alia, revealing personal information pertaining to his divorce, making “numerous ageist comments to Mr. Bales[, ] . . . sarcastically suggesting that he lacked the mental capacity to complete very basic tasks and assignments discussed at the class, ” and repeatedly slamming his desk chair into Bales' desk. Id. at ¶¶ 92-102. Bales complained about this incident, but the AOC found no evidence to support Bales' claim of discrimination at the training. Id. at ¶¶ 106, 109.

         On April 25, 2012, Bales was diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), which Bales alleges stemmed “from the stress and anxiety attributable to [his] working environment.” Id. at ¶¶ 116-17. After this diagnosis, Bales engaged in discussions with the Office of Legal Counsel regarding “a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.” Id. at ¶ 118-20. On June 7, 2012, while on approved Family and Medical Leave (“FMLA”), the AOC's Employee Relations Officer notified Bales he was being referred to the State Medical Director for a medical evaluation, the purpose of which was “to receive advice regarding Mr. Bales' functional abilities and limitations pertaining to his position duties with or without a reasonable accommodation.” Id. at ¶ 135-39. Bales alleges he was “taken aback” by this request because he was “already under the treatment of his own medical providers.” Id. at ¶ 137. He claims he attended the medical examination, despite believing the evaluation was in violation of federal and state disability laws, because he was “threat[ened with] discipline.” Id. at 143. Despite Bales' reluctance to attend the medical examination, the State Medical Examiner eventually confirmed the PTSD diagnosis, but he also referred Bales to another physician for a psychological examination. Id. at ¶¶ 146-49.

         Upon returning to work at JIS Riva, Bales claims he was again targeted by Butler and Hannon despite the fact they were still assigned to JIS Annex. Id. at ¶ 150. For example, in July 2012, Bales claims he was asked to complete daily reports, even though other System Administrators were not require to submit such reports. Id. at ¶ 151. When Bales asked about why he had to complete these reports, he was informed “it was because he was working at JIS Riva Road.” Id. at ¶ 152. On September 6, 2012, Bales filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC and Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (“MCCR”) asserting age, disability discrimination, and retaliation. (Id. at ¶ 155; see also ECF No. 17, Ex. 2, Attachment A).

         In September 2012, despite the fact he has been transferred to JIS Riva, Bales was informed he would need to attend weekly in-person meetings with Thomas, Hannon, and Butler, all three of which he had previously complained about. (ECF No. 17, ¶¶ 156-58). Bales alleges he suffered a severe panic attack while at work at the prospect of having to participate in the meetings with these coworkers. Id. at ¶ 160. On at least one occasion, Bales missed a meeting “due to illness, ” and thereafter all email strings contained the message “attendance is required for Jim Bales.” Id. at ¶ 158 (emphasis in original). Bales claims this was “simply another way to harass and torment” him. Id. On September 17, 2012, Bales, through counsel, made a written request to attend these meetings via telephone conference. Id. at ¶ 162. Bales alleges his “stress and anxiety” became so pronounced he began treatment and psychotherapy on September 21, 2012. Id. at ¶ 163.

         On October 1, 2012, the AOC advised Bales they would not agree to the telephonic meetings until he underwent a second medical evaluation because the “AOC deemed Dr. Lyons' first evaluation to be incomplete.” Id. at 164. Bales contends this request was unreasonable and perhaps in violation of EEOC guidelines, “given that Mr. Bales had already submitted the requisite medical documentation from his physicians.” Id. at ¶ 165. Bales further alleges that “in retaliation for Mr. Bales' having requested an accommodation, for having filed an EEO charge, and for having complained about discrimination generally, ” the AOC threatened in a letter from their counsel that Bales' failure to cooperate with the medical evaluation would result “in adverse consequences, potentially severe.” Id. at ¶¶ 167-68. Bales claims when he requested to change the date of the medical evaluation scheduled for October 9, 2012, the “AOC, through its counsel, continued to retaliate and harass Mr. Bales over [his] request.” Id. at ¶¶ 171-72.

         Bales further alleges he was subjected to ongoing harassment and scrutiny from late November 2012, id. at ¶ 183, and “increased scrutiny, retaliation, harassment, and disparate treatment almost over every facet of his employment” throughout Winter and Spring of 2013, id. at 196. During this time period, he alleges that despite multiple requests to be exempted from in-person interactions with Thomas, Hannon, and Butler, emails were sent regarding meetings with these individuals. Id. at 194. Soon thereafter, however, Bales was allowed to attend these meetings telephonically. Id. at 195. But this did not resolve the situation; in April of 2013, Bales continued to be singled out on group email notices for meetings, which would contain the words “Attendance required for Jim Bales” on the email to the entire group, “causing him humiliation, embarrassment and stress over being singled out in such a fashion and to be looked at by his co-workers in a poor light.” Id. at 200 (emphasis in original).

         Reassignment and Resignation (May 2013 to July 2014)

         On May 7, 2013, Bales alleges he filed an amended charge with the EEOC after experiencing “continued harassment, ridicule, discrimination and retaliation from employees of the AOC.” Id. at 205. Roughly one month after filing his amended charge, the AOC notified Bales he was being reassigned to a newly created position within the Information Security Unit, “Information Security Administrator II, ” with “comparable salary, duties, responsibilities and technical experience to his prior position.” Id. at ¶¶ 208-09. Bales claims, however, this new position was a “de facto demotion” because he suggests the new position “did not require a similar level of expertise, had far less visibility, was lower level in stature and nature, did not offer the opportunity to continuing working in the engineering group as promised and, as a result, offered no meaningful opportunity for career advancement.” Id. at ¶ 231. Specifically, Bales contends his new tasks were not as technical in nature, as he had been assured they would be, but rather “predominantly administrative in nature.” Id. at ¶ 235. Furthermore, Bales alleges he was notified of a potential move from a private office to a cubicle in November 2013, which was “indicative of a demotion.” Id. at ¶¶ 238-39. Bales further alleges that in late December 2013, Thomas informed Bales he was using his systems access to continually watch and monitor Bales' computer usage. Id. at ¶ 246. The “de facto” demotion, request to potentially move to a cubicle, and Thomas' suggestion he was monitoring Bales' computer usage, combined to caused “Mr. Bales' PTSD to worsen” and he “experienced nightmares, sleeplessness and panic, along with increasingly high blood pressure.” Id. at ¶¶ 247-48.

         On January 30, 2014, Bales and other members of his department attended a Workplace Bullying presentation at the AOC. Id. at ¶ 249. Bales alleges that as he watched the presentation he was “overwhelmed with sadness” because he had to re-live the torment he had endured for years at the AOC. Id. at ¶¶ 249-55. Bales “began to get teary” and he abruptly left the presentation. Id. at ¶ 255. Immediately thereafter, Bales contacted his physician who instructed him to seek medical attention. Id. at ¶ 256. Accordingly, Bales requested leave for the remainder of the day to seek treatment for his “severe panic attack, recurring migraine and chest pains.” Id. at ¶¶ 255-56. The next day, the AOC placed Bales on administrative leave, citing Bales' “outburst, use of profanity and loss of emotional control” at the presentation as justification. Id. at ¶¶ 262-63. Bales contends this decision was retaliatory in nature. Id. at ¶ 262. He claims he did not use profanity, but even if he did, it would be no grounds for placing him on leave because he alleges his coworkers regularly used profanity “freely in the workplace without any repercussion from AOC management.” Id. at ¶ 267.

         Bales further contends that “[i]n a blatant act of ongoing harassment, ” the AOC's Employee Relations Officer required him to sign a “Consent for Release of Medical Records, ” and to submit to a medical evaluation with the State Medical Director scheduled for February 25, 2014, in order to assess Bales' “ability to perform the essential functions of his position.” Id. at ¶¶ 270-75. The medical evaluation was rescheduled for March 2014 after Bales' counsel requested clarification of the reasons for the referral; Bales alleges he eventually complied and underwent examination “[u]nder threat of discipline” on March 12, 2014. Id. at ¶ 280.

         Bales alleges on April 4, 2014, he was advised the AOC was compelling him, under further “threats of discipline to include termination, ” to once again submit to an evaluation by the State Medical Director. Id. at ¶ 285. Bales, through counsel, pushed back on these additional requests. Id. at ¶¶ 290-91. On June 23, 2014, Bales was advised the AOC had scheduled a meeting for June 25, 2015, to address the “current situation, ” which he would be required to attend. Id. at ¶¶ 292-93. On June 25, 2014, Bales informed the AOC he would not attend the scheduled meeting that day because he was taking previously approved FMLA leave. Id. at ¶¶ 295-96.

         On July 25, 2014, Bales submitted paperwork for early retirement, effective July 1, 2014. Id. Bales contends he was forced to apply for early retirement to protect “both his physical and mental well-being” after the “continuing harassment, discrimination and retaliation” he was subjected to at the AOC. Id. at ¶¶ 298-99. Bales further contends he receives less in early retirement benefits than he did as an employee or if he had remained an employee until Spring 2015, when he would have been eligible for full State retirement benefits. Id. at ¶ 301.

         Bales filed his second amended charge with the EEOC on February 13, 2015. Id. at 302. He then filed his original complaint with this court on October 28, 2015 (ECF No. 1), and after the AOC filed its motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 10), Bales filed his first amended complaint on May 13, 2016. (ECF No. 13). The amended complaint alleges the AOC subjected Bales to discrimination and harassment due to his age and disability status in violation of §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794 et seq. (“Rehabilitation Act”) and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't. § 20- 602, et seq. Specifically, Bales' amended complaint asserts eleven count of discrimination. Pursuant to § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Counts 1-4 allege disability discrimination as follows: “Discrimination in the Terms and Conditions of Employment” (Count 1); “Retaliation in the Terms and Conditions of Employment” (Count 2); “Failure to Reasonably Accommodate” (Count 3); and “Constructive Discharge” (Count 4). Id. at ¶¶ 312-65. Pursuant to MFEPA, Counts 5-8 allege disability discrimination as follows: “Discrimination in the Terms and Conditions of Employment” (Count 5); “Retaliation in the Terms and Conditions of Employment” (Count 6); “Failure to Reasonably Accommodate” (Count 7); and “Constructive Discharge” (Count 8). Id. at ¶¶ 366-95. Pursuant to MFEPA, Counts 9-11 allege age discrimination as follows: “Discrimination in the Terms and Conditions of Employment” (Count 9); “Retaliation in the Terms and Conditions of Employment” (Count 10); and “Constructive Discharge” (Count 11). Id. at ¶¶ 396-418.

         STANDARD

         The AOC has filed a motion to dismiss Bales' first amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). I consider this motion as one to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).[2] To adequately state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint, relying on only well-pled factual allegations, must state at least a “plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The “mere recital of elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012). In order to determine whether Bales' complaint has crossed “the line from conceivable to plausible, ” the court must employ a “context-specific inquiry, ” drawing on the court's “experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680. When performing this inquiry, the court accepts “all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in weighing the legal sufficiency of the complaint.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009).

         ANALYSIS

         The AOC moves to dismiss all eleven counts in Bales' first amended complaint on the grounds of (I) various jurisdictional and procedural issues, and (II) Bales' failure to allege facts sufficient to support his claims. (ECF No. 17, pp. 1-2). I consider these in turn.

         I. Jurisdictional and procedural issues

         The AOC argues Bales' claims are barred by various jurisdictional and procedural issues. I consider: (a) whether a two- or three-year limitations period applies; (b) whether Bales sufficiently exhausted administrative remedies; (c) whether Bales needed to exhaust any remedies for his retaliation claims; (d) whether the “continuing violation theory” can revive stale claims; (e) whether laches bars any of Bales' claims; and (f) whether Bales needed to first file a tort claim notice in compliance with the Maryland Tort Claims Act prior to bringing his MFEPA claims.

         A. Applicable limitations period

         Claims brought under MFEPA are subject to a two-year statute of limitations period. Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-1013(a)(3) (the civil action must be “filed within 2 years after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred”). Regarding claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act, however, the parties disagree over the applicable limitations period. Bales urges this court to apply a three-year limitations period (ECF No. 22, p. 22), while the AOC argues a two-year period applies. (ECF No. 17, p. 12) Despite Bales' suggestions the law is “settled in regards to this issue” and Maryland courts “apply the three-year limitations period governing civil actions to ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims” (ECF No. 22, p. 23), I find a two-year limitations period applies.[3]

         The ADA and Rehabilitation Act do not provide a statute of limitations. Accordingly, courts “borrow” the most appropriate or analogous state statute of limitations and apply it to the federal cause of action. A Soc'y Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 347 (4th Cir. 2011) (“We therefore borrow the state statute of limitations that applies to the most analogous state-law claim.”). Accordingly, the applicable limitations period depends on the most analogous state-law claim or statutory scheme. The AOC argues, under Maryland law, the most analogous statutory scheme is MFEPA (Title 20 of the State Government Article), which has a two-year limitations period. Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-101 et seq. I concur.

         MFEPA prohibits discrimination based on disability, among other protected classes, in places of public accommodations, id. §§ 20-304, 20-305; employment, id. § 20-606; housing, id. §§ 20-705, 20-706, 20-707; and certain commercial enterprises, id. §§ 20-402, 20-501. The Maryland General Assembly amended its civil rights statute in 2007 to create a private right of action for employment discrimination, including for discrimination based on disability. 2006 Maryland H.B. 1034, 2006 Leg., 421st Sess., codified at State Gov't § 20-1013. Prior to 2007, MFEPA's predecessor statute, Md. Ann. Code Art. 49B, did not provide for a private right of action to challenge employment discrimination; rather, it contained an administrative remedy that provided for a six-month limitations period for filing an administrative charge of discrimination. Article 49B, § 9A. In 2009, the General Assembly of Maryland significantly expanded the rights of persons with disabilities under MFEPA by enacting specific legal protections that mirror ADA protections, including requiring the reasonable accommodation of workplace disabilities, id. § 20-606(a)(4); prohibiting an employer from retaliating against an individual for opposing discriminatory acts, id. § 20-606(f); and prohibiting discrimination because one is “regarded as” disabled or has a “record of” a disability, id. § 20-601(b)(1). 2009 Maryland Laws ch. 299, § 1 (An Act concerning Discrimination in Employment - Expansion of Disability Rights).

         I agree that MFEPA, in its current form, authorizes the same expansive relief and recovery of damages as provided under the ADA and provides specific legal protections that mirror ADA protections. Therefore, I find MFEPA is the most analogous state law to the Rehabilitation Act, and its two-year limitations period applies in the present case. Cf. Howerton v. Bd. of Educ. of Prince George's Cnty., No. TDC-14-0242, 2015 WL 4994536, at *7 (D. Md. Aug. 19, 2015) (applying MFEPA's two-year statute of limitations to plaintiff's Title VI claims); *11 Melendez v. Bd. of Educ. for Montgomery Cnty., No. DKC-14-3636, 2015 WL 3540947, at *9 (D. Md. June 3, 2015) (stating MFEPA “is the state law analogue of Title VII”)

         Accordingly, all claims brought under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and MFEPA are subject to a two-year limitations period.

         B. Administrative exhaustion

         The AOC alleges Bales “failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by filing a timely administrative charge with respect to alleged discriminatory acts occurring before August 18, 2014, six months prior to the filing of the charge.” (ECF No. 17, p.18). Bales, however, contends he exhausted his administrative remedies in a timely fashion, and because he had 300 days to file his EEOC claim, rather than 180 days as the AOC suggests, all his claims are timely. Neither party is entirely correct. Although I find Bales had 300 days to file his claim, certain alleged acts of discrimination occurred outside this 300-day period and cannot be considered for Bales' MFEPA claims.

         First, for claims brought pursuant to §504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Bales is not required to exhaust administrative remedies. “As Judge Bredar explained in N.T. v. Balt. City Bd. of School Comm'rs, Civil No. JKB-11-356, 2011 WL 3747751, at *1 (D. Md. Aug.23, 2011):

A lawsuit claiming a violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ... is conducted according to “[t]he remedies, procedures, and rights set forth in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.2000d et seq.) (and in subsection (e) (3) of section 706 of such Act (42 U.S.C.2000e-5), applied to claims of discrimination in compensation).” 29 U.S.C. § 794a(a)(2). The procedures in those other statutes, adopted by reference, do not mandate exhaustion of administrative remedies. See Neighborhood Action Coalition v. City of Canton, Ohio, 882 F.2d 1012, 1015 (6th Cir. 1989) (“Title VI litigants need not exhaust their administrative remedies before pursuing their private cause of action in federal court”).”

Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md., No. CIV.A. DKC 11-0951, 2012 WL 27241, at *3 (D. Md. Jan. 4, 2012). Accordingly, there is no exhaustion requirement for Bales' Rehabilitation Act claims.

         Under MFEPA, however, Bales is required to exhaust the administrative process. Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-1013(a); see also Thompson v. Golden M Co., No. CIV. WDQ-14-3254, 2015 WL 3888753, at *3 (D. Md. June 22, 2015) (“Federal and Maryland state discrimination claims are subject to administrative exhaustion.”). A plaintiff exhausts his administrative remedies by filing an EEOC charge and obtaining a “right-to-sue” letter; failure to do so “deprives the federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.” Golden M Co., 2015 WL 3888753, at *3 (citing Jones v. Calvert Grp., Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009)). Specifically, under MFEPA, “a complainant may bring a civil action against the respondent alleging an unlawful employment practice, if:

(1) the complainant initially filed a timely administrative charge or a complaint under federal, State, or local law alleging an unlawful ...

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