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Gray-Koyier v. Gladding Chevrolet, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 30, 2017

LEVIKA GRAY-KOYIER, Plaintiff,
v.
GLADDING CHEVROLET, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Levika Gray-Koyier (“Plaintiff” or “Gray-Koyier”), an African-American female practicing the Jewish faith, originally filed a five-count complaint against Defendant Gladding Chevrolet, Inc. (“Defendant” or “Gladding”), Plaintiff's former employer, for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md. Code, State Gov't §§ 20-266(a), and wrongful discharge. Gray-Koyier is now proceeding pro se.[1] Currently pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count I, alleging race, sex, and gender discrimination, and Count III, alleging failure to provide reasonable accommodation.[2] (ECF No. 4.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 4) is GRANTED and Plaintiff Gray-Koyier's claims are DISMISSED.

         BACKGROUND

         When reviewing a Motion to Dismiss, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (2011). Although Plaintiff Levika Gray-Koyier was initially represented by counsel when she filed her Complaint, she now is proceeding pro se and this Court accords her pleadings liberal construction. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).[3] In November of 2011, Gray-Koyier, an African-American female practicing the Jewish faith, became employed as a Customer Relations Manager at Gladding Chevrolet at the J.B.A. Infinity Facility. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 7, 12.) In addition to Gray-Koyier, there was another employee at Gladding practicing the Jewish faith, Rich Robbins (“Robbins”), who is a Caucasian male. (Id. at ¶¶ 19, 20.) During her employment, Gray-Koyier reported directly to the General Manager at Gladding, Dan Maytsek (“Maytsek”). (Id. at ¶ 17.) “All time off requests were submitted to Mr. Maytsek.” (Id.)

         Gray-Koyier requested leave for October 1, 2012, to observe the first day of Sukkot.[4](Id. at ¶ 21.) She subsequently did not come to work on that day. (Id. at ¶ 22.) When Gray-Koyier returned to work on October 2, 2012, she received a formal written reprimand for failing to come to work. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Although Robbins also did not go to work on October 1, 2012, he did not receive a written reprimand. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) When Gray-Koyier asked why she was treated differently, she was told not to worry about other employees. (Id. at ¶ 25.) Gray-Koyier alleges that even though she offered to make up any missed hours for times she observed Jewish holidays, her hours were reduced and she received verbal reprimands and other disciplinary measures. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27.) Grey-Koyier was allegedly told that as a Christian owed company, Gladding only observed Christian holidays. (Id. at ¶ 28.)

         Over one year later, on or around November 1, 2012, Gray-Koyier was fired by Maytsek. (Id. at ¶ 29.) Almost ten months later, on August 26, 2013, Gray-Koyier filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that Gladding discriminated against her based on her race, religion, and gender (the “Charge”).[5](Id. at ¶ 14.) On June 26, 2014, the EEOC mailed Gray-Koyier a Dismissal and Notice of Rights stating that the EEOC was “unable to conclude that the information obtained established violation of the statutes” and informing Gray-Koyier that she had the right to file suit within ninety days of receiving the notice. (ECF No. 8-2 at 6.) Shortly thereafter, the EEOC sent Gray-Koyier a letter indicating that it was reopening her investigation, Id. at 9, and another letter asking Gray-Koyier to resubmit her Charge, Id. at 11.[6] Gray-Koyier then resubmitted her Charge. (Id. at 13.) On February 16, 2017, the EEOC mailed Gray-Koyier a second Dismissal and Notice of Rights. (Id. at 19.) On May 22, 2017, Gray-Koyier filed the instant action. (ECF No. 1.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

         To satisfy Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint need not include “detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, a plaintiff must plead more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must set forth “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action, “even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. at 556 (internal quotations omitted).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “‘must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint'” and must “‘draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).

         While ruling on motion to dismiss, a court's evaluation is generally limited to allegations contained in the complaint. Goines v. Calley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 166-67 (4th Cir. 2016). However, courts may also consider documents explicitly incorporated into the complaint by reference. Id. at 166 (citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322, 127 S.Ct. 2499 (2007)). In addition, a court may “consider a document submitted by the movant that was not attached to or expressly incorporated in a complaint, so long as the document was integral to the complaint and there is no dispute about the document's authenticity.” Id. (citing Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Nav. Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007)). A document is “integral” when “its ‘very existence, and not the mere information it contains, gives rise to the legal rights asserted.'” Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611 (D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted) (emphasis omitted). Considering such documents does not convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015).

         Accordingly, in ruling on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, this Court will consider Plaintiff's EEOC Charge and related documents. See Stennis v. Bowie State Univ., 236 F.Supp.3d 903, 907 n. 1 (D. Md. 2017) (explaining that “the EEOC charge and its related documents are integral to the Complaint”); Bowie v. Univ. of Maryland Med. Sys., No. ELH-14-03216, 2015 WL 1499465, at *3 n.4 (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2015) (“Courts commonly consider EEOC charges as integral to a plaintiff's Complaint, i.e., effectively a part of the pleading, even if the EEOC charge is not filed with the Complaint.” (citations omitted)).

         ANALYSIS

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff Gray-Koyier's Title VII claims should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. As this Court has recently noted, failure to exhaust administrative remedies strips this Court of jurisdiction to resolve the claims. Sillah v. Burwell, 244 F.Supp.3d 499, 507 (D. Md. 2017) (explaining that the plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies under Title VII deprived the court of subject matter jurisdiction over her claim); Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus. Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 406 (4th Cir. 2013) (“[F]ederal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over Title VII claims for which a plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies.” (citing Jones v. Calvert Grp., Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009))). Therefore, this Court first addresses whether Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies.

         I. Administrative exhaustion

         Before bringing a Title VII discrimination claim in federal or state court, a plaintiff must meet certain statutory requirements. First, Title VII requires that a plaintiff file a “charge” of discrimination with the EEOC or appropriate agency before proceeding to court. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). The charge must be filed within a specified time “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” Id. In Maryland, a deferral state, [7] a Title VII claim of discrimination must be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory action. EEOC v. R & R Ventures, 244 F.3d 334, 338 n.1 (4th Cir. 2001). If the EEOC dismisses the charge, a plaintiff has ninety days from receiving his or her notice of dismissal and right to sue letter to file an action in court. 42 U.S.C. § e-5(f)(1). Finally, a plaintiff's suit is limited to the grounds asserted in the underlying EEOC charge. Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). This Court addresses whether Plaintiff met these requirements in turn.

         A. Plaintiff timely filed her EEOC Charge

         In Maryland, a plaintiff must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); R&R Ventures, 244 F.3d at 338. The record is not clear as to the exact date in August of 2013 that Gray-Koyier filed her EEOC Charge.[8]Plaintiff claims that she filed her initial charge on August 13, 2013. (ECF No. 8-1 at 1; ECF No. 8-2 at 2.) Then, on June 26, 2014, the EEOC notified Plaintiff that her charge was dismissed and she had the right to sue. (ECF No. 8-2 at 6.) A week later, on July 3, 3014, the EEOC informed Gray-Koyier that it was reopening her investigation and revoking her right to sue. (ECF No. 8-2 at 9.) In a letter purportedly mailed soon thereafter, [9] the EEOC asked Plaintiff to resubmit a copy of her original Charge. (ECF No. 8-2 at ...


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