United States District Court, D. Maryland
W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
5, 2016, Kesslyn Brade Stennis (“Brade Stennis”),
a former professor at Bowie State University (“Bowie
State”), filed a Complaint alleging unlawful
retaliation under Title VII, Title IX, and Maryland's
Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA” or
“Title 20”). She alleged that her supervisor, Dr.
Andre Stevenson, retaliated against her after she voiced the
concerns of certain students that they were being
discriminated against on the basis of their gender and sexual
orientation, and that these allegedly retaliatory acts
negatively impacted her tenure application and professional
standing. On October 14, 2016, Bowie State moved to dismiss
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
and for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. ECF No.
6. A motions hearing was held on January 12, 2017. ECF No.
14. For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss
will be granted.
February 2009 and August 2014, Brade Stennis was an Assistant
Professor in the Department of Social Work
(“DSW”), within Bowie State's College of
Professional Studies. ECF No. 1 ¶ 11. Her immediate
supervisor was Dr. Andre Stevenson, chair of the DSW.
Id. ¶ 12. In Spring 2013, Brade Stennis relayed
to Dr. Stevenson that certain students felt they were being
unfairly treated by certain members of the faculty.
Id. ¶ 17. At Dr. Stevenson's direction,
Brade Stennis spoke with members of the Social Work Club and
learned that some students felt that Dr. Stevenson was
discriminating against them on the basis of their gender and
sexual orientation. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. In
Summer 2013, Brade Stennis typed up a report and assessment
of Dr. Stevenson in which she described the concerns
expressed during the meeting of the Social Work Club, and she
forwarded this Assessment to Dr. Stevenson. Id.
she submitted this Assessment, Dr. Stevenson reacted
“extremely negatively.” ECF No. 1 ¶ 22.
Brade Stennis began receiving “threatening and
intimidating” e-mails from Dr. Stevenson, and was
questioned by him and the Dean of the College of Professional
Studies, Dr. Jerome Schiele. Id. ¶ 23-24. At
this meeting, her “credibility was questioned.”
Id. ¶ 24. Brade Stennis then met with Elizabeth
Stachura, a human resources officer, about her meeting with
Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Schiele, but Ms. Stachura took no
action. Id. ¶ 25. On October 11, 2013, Brade
Stennis submitted her tenure application. Id. ¶
26. Dr. Stevenson criticized her application's
organization and “erect[ed] barriers to her
application” by “raising inaccurate claims about
her professionalism and her advisement of students.”
Id. ¶¶ 26-30. Brade Stennis then received
a “disturbing and disrespectful e-mail” from Dr.
Stevenson about her purported mis-advisement of students-an
e-mail that allegedly “confirmed Dr. Stevenson's
retaliatory animus.” Id. ¶¶ 29-30.
From this e-mail, it “appeared that Dr. Stevenson's
concerns about [mis]advisement were baseless.”
Id. ¶ 30. Brade Stennis then again met with Ms.
Stachura to express her concern about the “mounting
paper trail” that was accumulating after she relayed
the concerns of gay and female students. Id.
¶¶ 29-31. In late Fall 2013, Brade Stennis
“learned that her teaching duties and department roles
were being reduced by Dr. Stevenson, affecting her
professional standing.” Id. ¶ 35. He also
“removed departmental duties and committee
responsibilities from Plaintiff.” Id.
December 9, 2013, the DSW Faculty Review Committee voted not
to recommend Brade Stennis for tenure-a decision supported by
Dr. Stevenson and Dean Schiele. Id. ¶ 37.
Nevertheless, on July 1, 2014, Brade Stennis was informed
that she had received tenure. Id. ¶ 38.
Subsequent to her receiving tenure, the “hostile and
offensive and abusive environment” created by Dr.
Stevenson continued until August 15, 2014, when Brade Stennis
was “forced to resign her position at BSU, ”
which Brade Stennis alleged amounted to a constructive
discharge. Id. ¶ 39. Brade Stennis then
obtained employment as a professor at Coppin State
University, another institution within the University System
of Maryland. Id. ¶ 40.
Stennis filed an Intake Questionnaire with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)
alleging unlawful retaliation on March 11, 2014. ECF No. 12
Ex. 1. On March 17, 2014, Brade Stennis' attorney sent a
letter to Bowie State advising that Brade Stennis was
engaging in EEO protected activities and that he was
authorized to file a charge on her behalf. ECF No. 12 Ex.
Brade Stennis filed her formal charge of retaliation on
August 20, 2014. ECF No. 6 Ex. 2, EEOC Charge No.
531-2014-01210. Bowie State received notice of this charge on
September 24, 2014. ECF No. 13 Ex. A.
5, 2016, Brade Stennis filed a Complaint alleging unlawful
retaliation in violation of § 704 of Title VII, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-3 (Count I), unlawful retaliation in
violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, 20 U.S.C.
§ 1681(a) (Count II), and unlawful retaliation in
violation of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
(“FEPA”), Md. Code Ann. State Gov't. Art.
§ 20-606(f) (“Title 20”) (Count III). ECF
No. 1. On October 14, 2016, Bowie State filed a Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the grounds that
(1) Counts I and III were procedurally defaulted, (2) Brade
Stennis did not adequately allege that she engaged in
protected activity with regard to Counts I and III, and (3)
she did not adequately allege that she suffered an adverse
employment action for all three counts. ECF No. 6.
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is
“to test the sufficiency of a complaint.”
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th
Cir. 1999). The Supreme Court has further articulated the
standard applicable to Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Rule 8
“requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket
assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556 n.3. To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must put forth “plausible claim[s] for
relief.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186,
192 (4th Cir. 2009). While the court “must take all
factual allegations as true, ” it is “not bound
to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal
citation and quotation marks omitted). And “where the
well-pleaded facts 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. at
679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
State alleges that Count I must be dismissed because the
discrete acts of retaliation alleged in the Complaint
occurred more than 300 days before Brade Stennis filed her
charge with the EEOC on August 20, 2014. ECF No. 6 at 14
(citing Mezu v. Morgan State Univ., 264 F.Supp.2d
292, 294 (D. Md. 2003), aff'd, 75 Fed. App'x
910 (4th Cir. 2003) (“In Maryland, a deferral state, a
Title VII charge of discrimination must be filed with the
EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory
conduct.”)). However, as Brade Stennis explains, the
pertinent date is March 11, 2014, when she filed her Intake
Questionnaire. ECF No. 12 at 19-20. An Intake Questionnaire
satisfies the requirements of an EEOC charge when “the
EEOC receives from the person making the charge a written
statement sufficiently precise to identify the parties, and
to describe generally the action or practices complained
of.” Scott v. Md. Dep't of Pub. Safety
Servs., Civ No. CCB-14-3695, 2015 WL 5836917, at *4 (D.
Md. Oct. 2, 2015) (holding that the intake questionnaire
submitted to EEOC was sufficient to serve as a charge for
purposes of establishing limitations period). The filing must
also “be reasonably construed as a request for the
agency to take remedial action to protect the employee's
rights or ...