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Rai Chowdhuri v. SGT, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 16, 2017

PARTHA A. RAI CHOWDHURI, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT, INC., CYBERDATA TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Pending in this employment discrimination case is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by Defendant Cyberdata Technologies, Inc. (“Cyberdata”) (ECF No. 22) and two motions for leave to file a surreply filed by Plaintiff Partha A. Rai Chowdhuri (“Plaintiff”) (ECF Nos. 90, 91). 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 Defendant's motion is denied and Plaintiff's motions for leave to file a surreply are denied as moot. Also pending is Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See ECF No. 68. Because Plaintiff appears to be indigent, this motion shall be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On April 27, 2015, Defendant SGT, Inc. (“SGT”) hired Plaintiff as a Software Engineer III. Plaintiff was assigned to SGT's Weather and Climate Computing Infrastructure Services (“WCCIS”) contract, under which SGT served as a subcontractor to Defendant Cyberdata. See Amend. Compl., ECF No. 19 at 4.[2] Carmen Jenkins, a Cyberdata employee, headed the committee that interviewed Plaintiff and recommended his hiring for the WCCIS contract. Id.

         Although SGT was Plaintiff's employer, Plaintiff alleges that Cyberdata maintained significant control over his work including supervision of his day-to-day activities, issuing work assignments, and conducting performance evaluations. Cyberdata also approved Plaintiff's requests for leave, maintained his time and attendance records, and furnished Plaintiff his work space and equipment. Id.

         In September 2015, Plaintiff approached Jenkins and an SGT manager, Rexford Bowling, to complain that one of Plaintiff's colleagues, Jonas Okwara, had been given an unreasonable performance review and was ultimately fired because he is African-American. ECF No. 19 at 5. Jenkins responded by criticizing Plaintiff's poor spoken English and telling Plaintiff that he would be “placed in performance appraisal.” Id.

         Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendants deliberately implemented a plan to exclude non-caucasian code developers. By the fourth quarter of 2015, all of the non-caucasian developers had been discharged except for Plaintiff. Id. The discharged non-caucasian employees had comparable or higher qualifications than their similarly-situated caucasian employees. Prior to termination, Defendants had given the discharged non-caucasian employees unreasonable workloads and unsubstantiated poor performance reviews.

         After Plaintiff complained about the above-described unfair treatment, Cyberdata subjected Plaintiff to multiple additional performance reviews from October 2015 through April 2016. Id. at 7. Plaintiff also found himself in “an unbearable and hostile employment environment, ” marked by false and disparaging commentary regarding his interactions with co- workers and his work abilities; hurtful jokes about his medical condition; and purposely confusing instructions regarding work assignments. See Id. at 6-7.

         On January 7, 2016, Plaintiff notified SGT that he planned to file a discrimination suit against it. Around that same time, he informed both SGT and Cyberdata that he was suffering from medical issues for which he would need leave from work for treatment. The Defendants, in response, increased his work load and performance evaluations, and falsely accused him of taking leave without permission. Id. at 7.

         On January 22, 2016 and April 18, 2016, Plaintiff notified both Defendants that he filed administrative charges of discrimination against them with the Prince George's County Human Relations Commission and the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. In response, Defendants escalated the unreasonable performance reviews, and tightened deadlines on Plaintiff's work assignments. Id. at 7-8. SGT then notified Plaintiff in writing on April 25, 2016 that he was terminated. Id. at 8. Although SGT claims that it removed Plaintiff from the WCCIS contract “at the customer[] [Cyberdata's] request, ” Plaintiff maintains that Cyberdata had no legitimate basis to fire him. Id. Plaintiff was then replaced with a white employee. Id. at 8.

         On June 14 and 15, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued Plaintiff two right-to-sue letters. Id. at 3. Plaintiff filed his complaint in this Court on September 12, 2016 which he amended on December 8, 2016. ECF Nos. 1, 19. Plaintiff brings claims of retaliation and discrimination on account of his race, national origin, and color, as well as hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq.; 42 U.S.C. §1981; the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-601; and § 2-222 of the Prince George's County Code. See ECF No. 19.

         On December 20, 2016, SGT answered the amended complaint. Cyberdata filed its motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on December 22. See ECF No. 22. Plaintiff's counsel withdrew her appearance on January 23, 2017. See ECF No. 28. Plaintiff, now proceeding pro se, responded to the motion. See ECF No. 78. Plaintiff has also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, see ECF No. 68, and two Motions for Leave to File a Surreply, ECF Nos. 90, 91. The Court addresses each motion in turn.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendant Cyberdata styles its motion as one to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment and attaches exhibits to its motion. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), materials beyond the four corners of the complaint may be considered only if the motion to dismiss is treated as a motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff is given an opportunity to respond. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Whether to convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment is a matter within the Court's “complete discretion.” Sager v. Hous. Comm'n of Anne Arundel Cty., 855 F.Supp.2d 524, 542 (D. Md. 2012). The Court's discretion, however, “should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights.” Id. (quoting 5C Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 149 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.)). “In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material ‘is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, ' and ‘whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure' ...


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