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Groth v. Rogers

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 5, 2017

DIANE GROTH, Plaintiff
ADMIRAL MICHAEL ROGERS, Director, National Security Agency, Defendant


          James K. Bredar United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a security engineer formerly employed by the National Security Agency (“NSA”), filed this pro se complaint against her former employer alleging that it created a hostile work environment on the basis of her age and gender. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The NSA[1] has moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 14.) That motion has been fully briefed (ECF Nos. 16, 17), and is now ripe. No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the NSA's motion to dismiss will be denied in part and denied in part without prejudice, and the alternative motion for summary judgment will be denied without prejudice. The case will be stayed awaiting the termination of the appeal currently pending before the EEOC.


         A. Standard for Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         When, on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, a party challenges the factual basis for the district court's subject matter jurisdiction, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the court has jurisdiction. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). On consideration of such a motion, the court is to regard the allegations stated in the pleadings as evidence and may consider evidence from outside of the pleadings without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Id.

         B. Standard for Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim

         In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the Twombly opinion stated, “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” 550 U.S. at 555. “A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' . . . Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. On a motion to dismiss, a court may consider documents that are explicitly incorporated into a complaint by reference and those that are attached to the complaint as exhibits. Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 166 (4th Cir. 2016). A court may also consider those documents submitted by the movant that are integral to the complaint and about which there is no debate concerning authenticity. Id.

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff was employed by the NSA as a “GG 15” information systems security engineer from March of 2008 until February of 2012. (Compl. 7-8.)[3] During her employment, she alleges that she endured the following discriminatory actions by her employer as a result of her sex:

1. She was assigned a work location where the engineers belonged to various minority groups and where she was distant from her supervisors;
2. She was not invited to certain meetings attended by her male colleagues;
3. She was not permitted to have certain engineering books on her desk, while her male colleagues were;
4. She was denied access to computer software needed to complete her assigned work, while her male colleagues were provided such software;
5. She was denied support staff that was provided to her male colleagues;
6. Her supervisors declined to assign her to work on unspecified projects, despite others requesting that she be so assigned;
7. She was not given a mentoring role over junior engineers;
8. Supervisors chastised her when customers praised her work;
9. She was assigned to draft what she deemed to be an illegal contract and, in retaliation for her refusal to do so, was denied professional opportunities and was given a low performance rating;
10. She was denied permission to participate in a graduate fellowship program that was available ...

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