United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sergeant Sheila Breck ("Sgt. Breck") is a former
employee of Defendant Maryland State Police
("MSP"), which she is suing for gender
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (2012).
Pending before the Court is the MSP's Motion to Dismiss.
Having reviewed the pleading and the briefs, the Court finds
no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART.
Breck began her career with the MSP in 1991. By 2011, she was
a sergeant in the MSP's Prince Frederick Barrack. For the
majority of her career, Sgt. Breck received uniformly
positive performance reviews. In her capacity as a sergeant,
she was required to complete evaluations of her subordinates.
Sgt. Breck's subordinates were all men, including Trooper
Everett West. In January 2011, Sgt. Breck was approached by
the Barrack Commander, Lieutenant ("Lt.") Randolph
Stephens, and her immediate supervisor, First Sergeant
("First Sgt.") David Ruel, who
"pressured" her to rewrite her evaluations. Compl.
¶ 6, ECF No. 1. Lt. Stephens and First Sgt. Ruel told
Sgt. Breck that she had been harder on her subordinates than
her male counterparts had been. Sgt. Breck refused to rewrite
response to Sgt. Breck's refusal, Lt. Stephens and First
Sgt. Ruel began to retaliate against her. Sgt. Breck's
requests for leave were rejected while those of male
colleagues were granted, and Sgt. Breck was punished for
arriving late due to inclement weather when male colleagues
were not disciplined for the same infraction. In February
2011, Sgt. Breck complained to Lt. Stephens that she was
being mistreated because of her gender and warned him that
she was considering filing a complaint with MSP's Fair
Practices Office ("FPO"). After this conversation,
her supervisors' conduct became openly abusive, including
berating her in a manner not used on male colleagues and
other forms of "hazing and harassment."
Id. ¶ 10.
abusive atmosphere "culminated" in an incident in
November 2011. Id. While Sgt. Breck was on leave,
the deadline passed for the Barrack to submit a report about
Driving While Intoxicated incidents. When Sgt. Breck returned
to duty, First Sgt. Rule informed her of the missed deadline.
Trooper West volunteered to submit the report. After the
report was submitted, however, First Sgt. Ruel cited Sgt.
Breck for filing a false report because, unbeknownst to her,
Trooper West had not been on duty during the reporting
period. In January 2012, Sgt. Breck was suspended, formal
disciplinary charges were instituted, and she was temporarily
reassigned to the Facilities Management Division.
March 2012, Sgt. Breck filed a complaint with the FPO
alleging gender discrimination and harassment. In October
2012, the FPO found her complaint groundless but did not
provide its reasons for that determination. That same month,
Sgt. Breck's transfer from the Prince Frederick Barrack
to the Facilities Management Division was made permanent.
hearings were held on Sgt. Breck's disciplinary charges
in May and June of 2012. In February 2013, Sgt. Breck was
informed that the Hearing Board had found her not guilty of
four alleged infractions and guilty of one, on the basis that
she bore some responsibility for the false report because she
was Trooper West's supervisor. The Hearing Board
recommended that Sgt. Breck lose some of her leave, that a
fine be imposed, that she be transferred, and that she be
made ineligible for promotion for an unspecified period.
Despite that recommendation, that same month, the MSP
Superintendent informed Sgt. Breck that, unless she resigned,
she would be terminated in May 2013. For his part in the
filing of the false report, Trooper West was docked two days
of vacation leave.
Breck was not terminated in May 2013, nor did she resign at
that point. Instead, over the ensuing three years, she
pursued a series of challenges to the results of the February
2013 disciplinary decision. During those three years, Sgt.
Breck was passed over for promotion. Meanwhile, on April 19,
2013, Sgt. Breck filed a Charge of Discrimination with the
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC") and the Maryland Commission on Civil
Rights. In that Charge, she asserted that she had been
discriminated against on the basis of sex, that she had been
subjected to retaliation, that the discrimination was a
continuing action, and that the action had started on January
1, 2011 and continued to February 14, 2013. Although the
Charge contained a few additional details about the
disciplinary process and recommended sanctions, it largely
tracks the allegations she now makes in her Complaint. On
March 18, 2016, the EEOC issued Sgt. Breck a right-to-sue
letter. On May 1, 2016, Sgt. Breck retired in order to avoid
being terminated. As a result of her forced early retirement,
she was unable to maximize her retirement benefits, resulting
in a loss of $300, 000 to $400, 000.
14, 2016, Sgt. Breck filed suit in this Court, alleging two
causes of action, (1) gender discrimination, in violation of
Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and (2) retaliation, in
violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. MSP now
moves to dismiss one of Sgt. Breck's claims under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and seeks to dismiss her remaining claims under
Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
subject matter jurisdiction, MSP argues that any constructive
discharge claim arising from Sgt. Breck's May 2016
retirement has not been administratively exhausted because
Sgt. Breck's EEOC Charge, filed in 2013, makes no
reference to that May 2016 retirement. Under the precedent of
the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a
failure to exhaust administrative remedies under Title VII
should be addressed by way of a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule
12(b)(1). Jones v. Calvert Grp., Ltd., 551
F.3d 297, 300-01 (4th Cir. 2009). On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion,
a defendant may assert either (1) a facial challenge that the
allegations as stated in the complaint are not sufficient to
establish subject matter jurisdiction, or (2) a factual
challenge that the allegations establishing jurisdiction are
not true. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d
642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999); Kerns v. United States,
585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). MSP asserts a factual
challenge, arguing that Sgt. Breck did not, in fact, exhaust
her administrative remedies.
to Rule 12(b)(6), MSP argues that Sgt. Breck's claims are
untimely because the events about which she complains all
took place more than 300 days before Sgt. Breck filed her
Charge with the EEOC. See Edelman v. Lynchburg
Coll., 300 F.3d 400, 404 (4th Cir. 2002) (holding that
the question whether an administrative claim was timely filed
with the EEOC is not jurisdictional). Alternatively, MSP
argues that Sgt. Breck fails to allege sufficient facts to
state a claim for either gender discrimination or
retaliation. To defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough
facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible
when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or
conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. The Court
must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual
allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the
factual allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268
(1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm 'rs of Davidson
Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).
Exhaustion of ...