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Rollakanti v. Holy Cross Hospital

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 30, 2017

STEVEN ROLLAKANTI Plaintiff,
v.
HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DATE PAULA XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending 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.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         According 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.[2] See Dismissal and Notice of Rights, ECF No. 1-1.

         On 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”).[3] 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 race. Id.

         On 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.

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Standard of Review

         In 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).

         A 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).

         B. Analysis

         At the 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.

         Turning 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, [4] the Court is unable to conclude that the Complaint is sufficient to survive challenge. The Court addresses each of Plaintiff's claims in turn.

         Under 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] ...


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