United States District Court, D. Maryland
PAULA XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for a
more definite statement filed by Defendants Holy Cross
Hospital, William Frederick, Andrene Towsen, and Johny Niles
(ECF No. 7). The issues are fully briefed and the Court now
rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is
necessary. For the reasons stated below, the Defendants'
motion is granted.
to the Complaint, Plaintiff Steven Rollakanti
(“Plaintiff”) works as a nurse at Holy Cross
Hospital. On July 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”), accusing Defendants of race
discrimination. The EEOC issued to Plaintiff a Right to Sue
Letter on May 18, 2016. See Dismissal and Notice of
Rights, ECF No. 1-1.
August 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint
against Holy Cross Hospital (“Holy Cross” or the
“Hospital”) as well as three Hospital employees:
Andrene Towsen, Johny Niles, and William Frederick (the
“Individual Defendants”). Plaintiff brings his
Complaint pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title
VII”), and generally alleges that the Defendants
discriminated and retaliated against him on account of race.
ECF No. 1 at 4. Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendants
created a hostile work environment and failed to promote
Plaintiff to another position in the Hospital because of his
October 25, 2016, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss
or, in the alternative, motion for more definite statement.
ECF No. 7. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion
to dismiss is granted.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Standard of Review
ruling on a 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. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
“However, conclusory statements or a ‘formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
[suffice].'” EEOC v. Performance Food Grp.,
Inc., 16 F.Supp.3d 584, 588 (D. Md. 2014) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“‘[N]aked assertions of wrongdoing necessitate
some ‘factual enhancement' within the complaint 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).
federal district court is charged with liberally construing a
complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the
development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Nonetheless, liberal
construction does not mean that a court can ignore a clear
failure in the pleadings to allege facts setting forth a
cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings
means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to
state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it
should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a
complaint to ensure that it survives a motion to dismiss.
See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278
(4th Cir. 1985).
outset, the Court notes that Plaintiff's Complaint names
not only the Hospital as a defendant, but also the Individual
Defendants who maintain supervisory positions at Holy Cross.
It is well-established that supervisors or employees cannot
be held liable under Title VII in their individual
capacities. See Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159
F.3d 177, 180-81 (4th Cir. 1998) (holding that supervisors
cannot be held liable in their individual capacities under
Title VII because they do not fit Title VII's definition
of employer); Lewis v. Baltimore City Bd. of Sch.
Commissioners, 187 F.Supp.3d 588, 594 (D. Md. 2016);
Jarallah v. Thompson, 123 F.Supp.3d 719, 726 (D. Md.
2015), aff'd, 627 F. App'x 185 (4th Cir.
2015). For this reason, the Court will dismiss with prejudice
Plaintiff's claims against the Individual Defendants.
to the merits, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts that Holy
Cross discriminated against him on the basis of his race and
gender in violation of Title VII. He alleges that the
Defendants engaged in four forms of violative conduct: 1)
race and gender discrimination, 2) retaliation, 3) failure to
promote, and 4) hostile work environment. Here, when the
Court liberally construes Plaintiff's pro se
Complaint and even considers the facts alleged in his
opposition to the Defendants' motion to dismiss,
Court is unable to conclude that the Complaint is sufficient
to survive challenge. The Court addresses each of
Plaintiff's claims in turn.
Title VII, an employer may not “fail or refuse to hire
or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate
against any individual with respect to his compensation,
terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of
such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII also
makes it an “unlawful employment practice for an
employer to discriminate against any of [their] employees . .
. because [the employees] ha[ve] opposed any practice made an
unlawful employment practice by [Title VII], or because [the
employees] ha[ve] ...