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Dennie v. Medimmune, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 10, 2017

MEDIMMUNE, INC., et al., Defendants.


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         In this employment discrimination action, the parties move to stay the proceedings pending arbitration. ECF No. 9. Defendant Anthony Williams also moves to compel arbitration as to Count Nine of the complaint, which brings suit against him exclusively for intentional infliction of emotional distress. ECF No. 11. 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 joint motion to stay is granted in part and denied in part. Defendant Williams' motion to compel arbitration is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On November 28, 2011, Defendant MedImmune, LLC (“MedImmune”) hired Plaintiff Shanequa Dennie (“Dennie”) as a Production Tech 3 and placed her in the company's manufacturing center in Frederick, Maryland. Dennie signed an “Employee Agreement” in connection with working for Defendants. The Agreement contains an arbitration clause which states, in pertinent part:

I understand and agree to have resolved by arbitration any and all disputes arising from or relating to my employment with Company, my application for such employment, my termination of such employment or post-employment issues with Company. These include:
(A) claims relating to any discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, retaliation, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation or any other claim of employment discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.); Article 49B of the Maryland Annotated Code; or any other federal, state or local prohibition against discrimination in the above protected or similar categories;
(C) claims for breach of an express or implied contract or tort claims.

Employee Agreement, ECF No. 11-1 at 2-3.

         Jeremiah Howe served as Dennie's immediate supervisor who in turn reported to the center's Associate Director, Defendant Anthony Williams. See Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 5. Williams and Dennie began a romantic relationship a couple years into Dennie's employment. Over the course of their relationship, Dennie alleges that Williams sent her sexually suggestive text messages and often asked Dennie to leave her night shift early to join him at his apartment. Dennie later learned that Williams was in romantic relationships with other MedImmune employees. So, on April 27, 2015, Dennie informed Williams that she was ending the relationship and requested a transfer to another department at a different location. Dennie alleges that Williams retaliated by launching an investigation into her timesheets, knowing that Dennie often left work before the end of her shift to be with him. The investigation ultimately led to Dennie's resignation on May 15, 2015.

         On November 4, 2016, Dennie filed her nine-count Complaint in this Court. ECF No. 1. Counts One through Eight allege MedImmune violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-606, et seq. Specifically, in Counts One and Two, Dennie alleges that MedImmune, through its agent, Williams, subjected Dennie to disparate treatment and quid pro quo sexual harassment in violation of Title VII. In Count Three, she alleges Williams' sexual advances, sexual behavior with other MedImmune employees, and threatening remarks created a hostile work environment and that MedImmune failed to take corrective action in violation of Title VII. Count Four against MedImmune claims retaliation for Williams' role in the investigation into Dennie's timesheets. In Counts Five through Eight, Dennie alleges violations of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act. Count Nine is a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against Williams for his inappropriate behavior and for his initiation of the timesheet investigation which led to Dennie's resignation.

         On December 15, 2016, Dennie and Defendants MedImmune, Inc. MedImmune LLC, MedImmune Biologics Inc., AstraZenaca LP, and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, submitted a joint motion to stay the court proceedings pending arbitration of Counts One through Eight pursuant to the arbitration clause in Dennie's Employee Agreement. ECF No. 9. However, the parties did not agree to arbitrate Count Nine, the only claim against Williams. Thus, on December 22, Williams filed a motion to compel arbitration of Count Nine pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 11.


         Motions to dismiss in connection with a valid arbitration agreement are typically brought under Rule 12(b)(6) because “‘the existence of a valid arbitration clause does not technically deprive the Court of subject matter jurisdiction.'” Cheraghi v. MedImmune, LLC, No. 8:11-CV-01505 AW, 2011 WL 6047059, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 5, 2011) (quoting Liveware Publ'g, Inc. v. Best Software, Inc., 252 F.Supp.2d 74, 78 (D. Del. 2003)); see also Schwartz v. Coleman, 833 F.2d 310, at *2 (4th Cir. 1987) (Table). “It instead requires the Court to forego the exercise of jurisdiction in deference to the parties' contractual agreement to address in another forum those disputes which fall within the scope of the agreement to arbitrate.” Liveware, 252 F.Supp. 2d. at 78-79. Therefore, the Court will construe Williams' motion one seeking dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) rather than 12(b)(1).

         However, the propriety of arbitration turns on construing the scope of the arbitration clause in Dennie's Employment Agreement which is not part of Dennie's complaint.[2] Rule 12(d), therefore, compels the Court to treat Williams' Motion to Dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see also Nationwide Ins. Co. of Columbus, Ohio v. Patterson, 953 F.2d 44, 47 n.1 (3d Cir. 1991) (holding that Rule 56 governs the dismissal of actions that an arbitration agreement covers when the court considers matters beyond the pleadings). In so doing, the court must give the nonmoving party a reasonable opportunity to present all material pertinent to the motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). As ...

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