United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution in this employment case are:
(1) a motion to transfer filed by Defendant Innovative
Management Strategists, Inc. (“IMS”) (ECF No.
19); (2) a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment filed by
IMS (ECF No. 20); and a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant
Management Solutions Consulting Group, Inc.
(“MSCG”) (ECF No. 32). The issues have been
briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the
motions to dismiss or for summary judgment will be granted
for both Defendants, and IMS's motion to transfer will be
dismissed as moot.
Andrea Reed, a Virginia resident, began working as a
Logistics Coordinator for MSCG in in January 2013. (ECF No.
14 ¶¶ 13-14). MSCG is a Maryland corporation whose
principal office is in Glenn Dale, Maryland. (Id.
¶ 10). Plaintiff worked at MSCG's office in Lanham,
Maryland, which is in Prince George's County.
(Id. ¶ 15).
October 2014, MSCG President Kelly Burks talked to Plaintiff
about moving to a new role as a Logistics Coordinator for
IMS. (Id. ¶ 20). MSCG and IMS had developed a
joint venture, and IMS would be opening an office in
Woodbridge, Virginia, which was much closer to
Plaintiff's Virginia home. (Id. ¶¶
19-20). Plaintiff agreed to the transfer and, according to
her employment letter, was scheduled to start with IMS on
Monday, November 3, 2014. (ECF No. 32-3, at 2).
Friday, October 31, Plaintiff received an email from
IMS's Human Resources Consultant Joanna Vasconi stating
that information on IMS's employee benefits package would
be forthcoming. (ECF No. 14 ¶ 27). Plaintiff and her
husband wanted to start a family in the near future, and she
became concerned that the transfer to IMS would cause her to
lose more than 30 hours of paid leave that she had accrued
with MSCG, as well as maternity leave, disability benefits,
and life insurance benefits. (Id. ¶¶ 25,
26). Plaintiff emailed Ms. Burks and IMS President Latonya
Dunlow the next day asking to delay her move to IMS because
of her concerns and requesting a meeting to discuss her
benefits. (Id. ¶ 28). Ms. Dunlow set the
meeting for 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, Plaintiff's first
day with IMS, at a Panera Bread restaurant in Woodbridge, a
location where she frequently held meetings because IMS was
not yet able to move into its Woodbridge office space.
(Id. ¶¶ 29-30). At the meeting, Plaintiff
expressed concerns about losing her MSCG benefits and what
options she would have if she became pregnant. According to
the complaint, Ms. Dunlow “became visibly
concerned” and stated, “Well, are you pregnant
now? If you're not pregnant now, then there is no real
rush or worry to have the benefits right now.”
(Id. ¶ 32). Ms. Dunlow denied Plaintiff's
request to postpone her start date. (Id. ¶ 33).
began work for IMS that day, but continued to work in
MSCG's Lanham office. She alleges that she continued to
report to the same direct supervisor, MSCG's Logistics
Manager Ramona Davis. (Id. ¶ 23). On November
5, Plaintiff asked Ms. Dunlow if she could telework until the
Woodbridge office opened because all of her duties could be
fulfilled remotely and her roundtrip commute to Lanham was
between three and four hours per day. (Id. ¶
35). Although Ms. Dunlow had allowed other employees to
telework until the Woodbridge office opened, she denied
Plaintiff's request. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 37,
38). The following week, Plaintiff submitted requests to
telework on specific days during November and December to
accommodate her holiday plans. (Id. ¶ 39). Ms.
Dunlow approved some of these dates but denied others.
(Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiff asked for reconsideration
with regard to the other days she had requested because she
wanted to travel out of town, but Ms. Vasconi responded that
IMS did not have a telecommuting policy and that it was
“a benefit based on the needs of the job, work group,
and company at the time of the request.” (ECF No. 32-6,
December 9, Plaintiff took an at-home pregnancy test which
indicated that she was pregnant. (Id. ¶ 43).
She began to suffer from fatigue, nausea, and vomiting due to
her pregnancy and, on December 23, left work early because
she was feeling unwell. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46).
Linda Martin, her onsite supervisor that day, approved her
request to leave early. (Id. ¶ 46). Plaintiff
then emailed Ms. Dunlow to inform her that she had left early
and to request permission to work from home the following
day; Ms. Dunlow again denied her request. (Id.
¶¶ 47-48). Plaintiff responded to Ms. Dunlow,
stating that she felt she was being treated unfairly with
regard to teleworking. (Id. ¶ 49).
December 29, Ms. Dunlow requested a meeting with Plaintiff
later that day in Woodbridge and fired Plaintiff at that
meeting. (Id. ¶¶ 51-52). IMS has stated
that Plaintiff had been fired for leaving the office early
without supervisor permission on December 23. (Id.
¶ 53). Plaintiff maintains that Ms. Martin was her
supervisor under the terms of the IMS employee handbook and
had approved her early departure. (Id. ¶ 40).
timely filed a charge of discrimination with the United
States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”), which issued a Dismissal and Notice of
Rights on March 31, 2016. (Id. ¶ 6). She filed
the instant suit on June 29, alleging claims under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., for (1) discrimination
on the bases of her sex and pregnancy and (2) retaliation for
engaging in protected activity. (ECF No. 1). After Plaintiff
filed an amended complaint to add counts under the Prince
George's County Human Rights Ordinance for (1)
discrimination based on her sex, (2) discrimination based on
her familial status, and (3) retaliation (ECF No. 14), IMS
filed the pending amended motions to transfer and to dismiss on
September 15, and Plaintiff responded on October 3. (ECF Nos.
19; 20; 28; 29). MSCG filed its pending motion to dismiss on
October 17; Plaintiff responded and MSCG replied. (ECF Nos.
32; 33; 34).
Title VII Claims
Standard of Review
MSCG (together, “Defendants”) both have filed
motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose
of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the
sufficiency of the complaint. See Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir.
2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the
standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). At this
stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be
considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be
construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176
F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint,
however, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted.
See Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d
870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). “Rule 8(a)(2)
still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket
assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007). That
showing must consist of more than “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or
“naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual
enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). Legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations are insufficient,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see
United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847
(4th Cir. 1979).
Failure to State a Claim ...