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Jordan v. Maryland Transit Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 2, 2017

KENDRICK A. JORDAN Plaintiff
v.
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION, ET AL. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

          Marvin J. Garbis, United States District Judge

         The Court has before it Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 9] and the materials submitted related thereto. The Court finds no need for a hearing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Kendrick A. Jordan (“Jordan” or “Plaintiff”) sues Defendants Maryland Transportation Administration (“MTA”) and Colonel John Gavrilis, Chief, Maryland Transportation Administration Police Force (“Gavrilis”). Jordan asserts claims for alleged racial discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, and for alleged violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983.

         By the instant motion, Defendants seek dismissal of all claims.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss under Rule[1] 12(b)(1) raises the fundamental question as to whether this Court has jurisdiction to adjudicate the claims presented. The Plaintiff has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists when a defense is raised pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

         Unlike a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), which confines the Court's analysis to the allegations in the pleadings, a motion challenging subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) allows consideration of evidence outside the Complaint. Id. In ruling on a 12(b)(1) motion, a court must “apply the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment, under which the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material facts exists.” Id.

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. A complaint need only contain “‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (citations omitted). When evaluating a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are accepted as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. However, conclusory statements or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not [suffice].” Id. A complaint must allege sufficient facts “to cross ‘the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557)).

         Inquiry into whether a complaint states a plausible claim is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). Thus, if “the well-pleaded facts [contained within a complaint] do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Alleged Facts[2]

         Jordan, an African-American male, was hired by the MTA Police Force in 1999 as a Probationary Police Officer. Compl. ¶ 8.[3] He was promoted to the rank of Corporal in 2006 and to the rank of Sergeant in 2009. Id. He alleges that the MTA Police Force, and Gavrilis as Chief, engaged in several actions violative of his rights.

         1. Denial of Promotion to Lieutenant

         In or about the summer of 2011, Jordan took the Lieutenant's promotional exam, achieving the fourth-highest score. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. The top four ranked candidates were African-American and the sixth was Caucasian. Id. at ¶ 10. In August 2011, the first- and second-ranked candidates were promoted to Lieutenant and the third-ranked candidate declined the promotion. Id. at ¶ 11. In January 2012, Gavrilis promoted the fifth- and sixth-ranked candidates, passing over Jordan. Id. at ¶ 13. In January 2012, shortly after being denied the promotion, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint, presumably alleging that he had been passed over for promotion because of his race. Id. at ¶ 14.

         Jordan's factual allegations regarding his denial of the promotion consist of the conclusory statement:

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff was denied promotion to the rank of Lieutenant based upon his race and/or color and his internal complaints of discrimination.

Id. at ¶ 15.

         2. Performance Evaluation Lowered

         In February 2012, Jordan's performance evaluation - that had initially stated his performance exceeded expectations - was revised by Gavrilis to indicate that his performance did not exceed expectations. Id. at ¶ 16.

         3. Demotion and Reprimand

         In March 2012, Plaintiff was administratively charged with two infractions, one “serious” and one “minor.” Id. at ¶ 17. He was found not guilty of the major infraction but guilty of the minor one with a recommendation of the loss of three days of leave. Gavrilis, however, increased the sanction to a demotion of two ranks from Sergeant to Police Officer, loss of ten days of leave, and issued a severe letter of reprimand. Id. at ¶ 20. This was a more severe punishment than that recommended by the board that considered his infraction charges, and was more severe than that typically given to departmental members for the same or similar infractions. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 21.

         4. Denials of Promotion to Corporal

         In January 2013, Plaintiff took the exam for promotion to the rank of Corporal. Id. at ¶ 22. He was not promoted, despite being the only candidate eligible for the promotion. Id. at ¶ 24. In August 2013, Plaintiff inquired as to why Gavrilis had not promoted him and was told that Gavrilis “did not feel like he deserved to be promoted.” Id. at ¶ 27. In October 2013, Plaintiff again took the Corporal's promotional exam and once again was the only eligible candidate for promotion. Id. at ¶ 29. Again, Gavrilis did not promote him, and the promotional list expired in March 2014. Id. at ¶ 31.

         B. Procedural Steps

         On September 25, 2013, or December 13, 2013, [4] Jordan filed a charge with the EEOC asserting claims for racial and retaliatory discrimination stating:

I am currently employed as a Police Officer under the supervision of Sergeant Jackson.
On October 15, 2012, I received a demotion of two ranks from Sergeant to Officer, a 10 day suspension, and a letter of reprimand for a minor infraction. Officer Donalie Anderson (White) however, only received a 35 day suspension and 10 days of lost leave for an egregious infraction. On August 23, 2013, I was denied a promotion to Corporal despite being the only eligible candidate.
I was told I would not be promoted because Colonel John Gaurius, (sic) Chief of Police, did not feel I deserved it. No explanation was provided for Respondent's other actions.
I believe I have been discriminated against because of my race (Black) and retaliated against for engaging in protected activity with respect to demotion and promotion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

EEOC Charge, Ex. A to Defs.' Mem. [ECF No. 9-1] at 29.

         On July 27, 2015, Jordan received a “right to sue letter” and, on October 23, 2015, filed the Complaint [ECF No. 1] asserting claims in three ...


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