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Wallace v. Board of Education of Calvert County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 31, 2017

TEBA LESHAWN WALLACE, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CALVERT COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Pending in this employment discrimination case is Defendants' motion to dismiss or in the alternative motion summary judgment (ECF No. 8). 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, Defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a substitute bus driver, was employed through two transportation contract companies-Reid's School Bus Services (“Reid”) and Alvin Freeland (“Freeland”) (collectively, “Contractors”)-to provide transportation services to the Calvert County Public Schools. Under the contracts, the Contractors provide the school system buses and drivers to transport its students to and from school. ECF No. 8-4 at 2; see also Exhibit B, ECF No. 8-4 at 15-62. The Contractors supervise the bus drivers, retain hiring and firing authority, and are responsible for monitoring and disciplining the drivers. The Contractors also pay the drivers and process all income tax, social security, workers' compensation, and other financial paperwork related to the drivers' employment. Id. Contractors are likewise responsible for ensuring the drivers undergo the state-required mandatory training pursuant to COMAR 13A.06.07.09, and are in compliance with all safety standards.

         Plaintiff alleges that while she was a substitute driver assigned to a Calvert County school district bus route, parents of white students harassed Plaintiff about her performance. The school would routinely investigate these complaints to include pulling the camera footage from the bus and questioning Plaintiff about her interactions. As a result, Plaintiff needed to take time off work “because [she] was under so much stress and anxiety.” ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff then claims to have “made threats to get a lawyer to remove me from the bus, ” ECF No. 1 at 8, which prompted her supervisors to switch her bus route and replace her with a white driver. As a consequence of this alleged discrimination, Plaintiff is claiming back pay, vacation pay, and compensation for pain and suffering.

         After exhausting administrative remedies on her race-based and retaliation claims, Wallace filed her complaint in this Court against the Defendant Board of Education (the “Board”) as well as Defendants Edward Cassidy, Chuck Baker and Anthony Navarro. ECF No. 1. Wallace also properly served defendants and moved to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF Nos. 1, 5. On November 25, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, or alternatively for summary judgment in its favor. Plaintiff has failed to respond, and the deadlines for doing so have long passed. Plaintiff has also failed to heed this Court's repeated advisement in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d. 309 (4th Cir. 1975) to respond or risk the Court ruling in the face of Plaintiff's silence. ECF Nos. 12, 15. Accordingly, the Court has determined that Defendants' Motion is ripe for resolution and for the following reasons will be granted.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Before the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The non-moving party may object to the court construing the motion as one for summary judgment by attesting, via affidavit or declaration, to the need to take additional discovery before resolving the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 326 (1986). Here, Defendants styled their motion as one to “Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment” and attached exhibits for court consideration, which gave Plaintiff reasonable notice and opportunity to respond the propriety of summary judgment. See Laughlin v. Metropolitan Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants' motion or submitted an affidavit attesting to the need for additional discovery. Thus, the Court will treat this motion as one for summary judgment and consider the additional documentary evidence submitted by Defendants.

         A court may enter summary judgment only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). Conversely, summary judgment is inappropriate if any material fact at issue “may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); JKC Holding Co. LLC v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Dismissal of Defendants Cassidy, Baker and Navarro

         As an initial matter, Defendants rightfully point out that claims against the individual defendants Cassidy, Baker and Navarro cannot be sustained as a matter of law because Title VII does not provide for suits against individual supervisors. See Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 181 (4th Cir. 1998). Title VII provides that “it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer” to engage in race based discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). Title VII further defines “employer” as “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees and “any agent of such person.” Id. Although the statute itself does not define “agent, ” the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has reasoned that “the linkage between the size of the employer and the amount of available relief clearly indicates a congressional intent to limit plaintiffs' remedies to suits against employers.” Lissau, 159 F.3d at 181. Consequently, the Fourth Circuit has joined numerous other Circuits in holding that “supervisors are not liable in their individual capacities for Title VII violations.” Id. Cassidy, Baker and Navarro, therefore, must be dismissed as a matter of law.

         B. Title VII Discrimination Claims against the Board

         The Board, as the remaining Defendant, primarily argues that it cannot be held liable because the Contractors and not the Board were Plaintiff's employers. Defendants are correct. More than one entity may be considered for Title VII purposes as an “employer” if the entities “jointly” employ the Plaintiff and each exercises significant control over Plaintiff. See Butler v. Drive Auto. Indus. of Am., Inc., 793 F.3d 404, 414 (4th Cir. 2015). More specifically, where “one employer while contracting in good faith with an otherwise independent company, has retained for itself sufficient control of the terms and conditions of ...


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