United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.
se Plaintiff Phaedra Olivette Garnes
(“Plaintiff” or “Garnes”) originally
brought this action against Defendants State of Maryland,
Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit
Administration (“MTA”), Maryland Transit
Administration Police Force (collectively,
“Defendants”) and fourteen individual police
officers, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e,
et seq., and Maryland Humans Relation Act, referred
to as the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
(“FEPA”), Md. Code, State Gov't §§
20-601, et seq. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Currently pending
before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the
Amended Complaint.(ECF No. 16.) The parties' submissions
have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF
No. 16) is GRANTED.
reviewing a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the
facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. See Aziz
v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (2011). Plaintiff
worked as a police officer at the Maryland Transit
Administration (“MTA”) Police Force from February
19, 2010 through April 5, 2016. (ECF No. 15 at
At the time she completed her field training, there was
another detective, Eric Smith, who was assigned to providing
Closed Circuit Television footage during the evening shift.
(Id. at 9.) Det. Smith often requested Garnes to
view the footage in his office rather than at the designated
work station. (Id.) After Plaintiff began believing
that Det. Smith was using the time to “analyz[e]
[Garnes] for personal reasons, ” Garnes expressed to
her supervisor at the time, Sergeant Ronald Johnson, that she
would rather view the footage at the designated area.
(Id.) Sgt. Johnson complied with her request.
(Id.) Afterwards, Plaintiff claims that Det. Smith
stopped speaking to her. (Id.)
time after,  Det. Smith was promoted to Corporal and he
and Garnes were assigned to the same unit. (Id.)
Despite acquiring this supervisory role, Plaintiff claims he
still refused to speak to her. (Id.) In addition, he
gave her written reprimands. (Id.) During this time,
Garnes also claims that Sgt. Johnson “repeatedly
expressed interest” to see her before work.
(Id. at 10.) When she did not reciprocate his
advances, he began calling her at home repeatedly and at late
hours of the night. (Id.) Eventually Garnes wrote a
memorandum to her captain, who said that he would submit a
document to Human Resources on her behalf. (Id.) In
response, Plaintiff claims that Sgt. Johnson became irritated
and annoyed with her, and her “work place was very
stressful and hostile.” (Id.) Corporal Smith
also continued to direct “negative behaviors” at
Plaintiff, including ridiculing her. (Id.) When she
advised her lieutenant about Corporal Smith and Sgt.
Johnson's behavior, Sgt. Johnson was transferred to
another unit. (Id. at 10-11.) The lieutenant then
questioned Corporal Smith in front of Plaintiff about her
complaint, and he denied everything. (Id. at 10.)
Smith was then promoted to Sgt. Smith, and thereafter became
“vague and less confrontational.” (Id.
at 11.) The negative reviews decreased significantly, and
eventually he and Garnes were reassigned to different units.
(Id.) Plaintiff believes that “actions were
silently taken to quell the discrimination. But the incidents
were not properly addressed by the Maryland Transit
Administration to prevent further discrimination or
retaliation.” (Id.) When Plaintiff began a new
assignment with the Southern District, her new supervisor
advised her that Sgt. Smith had personally called him and
stated negative comments about her. (Id.) A year and
a half later, Sgt. Smith was also assigned to the Southern
District. (Id.) Because their last encounter had
allegedly resulted in her being labeled “difficult,
” Plaintiff “chose to remain quiet to avoid any
further aggravation and to avoid appearing
problematic.” (Id.) However, “the
hostile work environment began again” with Sgt. Smith
expressing “differences” about Plaintiff to
another lieutenant and ridiculing her. (Id.)
January of 2016, Plaintiff was transferred back to the
Northern District. (Id. at 12.) Unbeknownst to her
at the time, she was the subject of four cases with Internal
Affairs, one of which was investigated by the MTA Police
Executive Officer to the Chief of Police. (Id.) That
case allegedly related to Plaintiff's error in a daily
log. (Id.) The Agency found against Plaintiff.
(Id.) Plaintiff subsequently appealed the prior
Agency decision in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City,
which affirmed. (Id.)
February 11, 2016, Garnes filed a Charge of Discrimination
with the EEOC, alleging that she was discriminated against
based on her sex. (ECF No. 15 at 8; ECF No. 16-2.) One year
later, Plaintiff received a notice that the EEOC had
investigated her claim and determined that it was
“unable to conclude that the information obtained
establishes violations of [Title VII].” (ECF No. 1-1.)
Accordingly, the notice gave her the right to file a suit
within ninety days under federal law in federal or state
24, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant suit using a pro
se Complaint for Employment Discrimination form,
claiming she was discriminated against because of her sex.
(ECF No. 1.) Further, she alleges that as a result of an
incident that occurred while she was under Sgt. Smith's
supervision on December 22, 2014, she was
ultimately retaliated against by being discharged almost one
year and four months later on April 5, 2016.
(Id. at 13; ECF No. 15 at 12.) After Defendants
filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9), Plaintiff filed an
Amended Complaint (ECF No. 15). Defendants subsequently filed
a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 16.)
motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative
remedies is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1), which requires dismissal when the court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction. Khoury v. Meserve, 268
F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003); Clarke v. DynCorp
Intern. LLC, 962 F.Supp.2d 781, 786 (D. Md. 2013). The
plaintiff bears the burden to show that subject matter
jurisdiction exists. Piney Run Preservation Ass'n v.
Cnty. Comm'rs of Carroll Cnty., 523 F.3d 453, 459
(4th Cir. 2008). A motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim is governed by Rule 12(b)(6), which 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); see also Goines v.
Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir.
2016). The sufficiency of a complaint is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), which
provides that 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). To survive a
motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts
sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl., Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). Further, a pro
se plaintiff's pleadings are “to be liberally
construed” and are “held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007);
Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., No. 17-1249,
___ Fed App'x ___, 2017 WL 4415771 (4th Cir. Oct. 5,
2017). However, even a pro se litigant's
complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a
“plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679.
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
in ruling on Defendants' 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.”
brings retaliation, discrimination, and hostile work
environment claims pursuant to both 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 (“FEPA”), Md. Code,
State Gov't §§ 20-601, et seq. Claims
under FEPA are interpreted consistently with Title VII.
Williams v. Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Dept., 86
F.Supp.3d 398, 419 (D. Md. 2015) (citing Chappell v. S.
Md. Hosp., 320 Md. 483, 578 A.2d 766 (1990)).
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint
argues that (1) Plaintiff fails to allege that the State of
Maryland and the Maryland Department of Transportation acted
as her “employers” under Title VII and FEPA, (2)
the Maryland Transit Administration Police Force is not a
legal entity subject to suit, (3) Plaintiff's Title VII
claims are time-barred, (4) certain claims are barred by her
failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and (5) Plaintiff
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The
Reply to Plaintiff's Response to the Motion to Dismiss
further asserts that Garnes' Response was untimely and
that it did not respond to all of the above arguments,
thereby waiving any opposition to dismissal on those grounds.
Court begins with Defendants' assertions that first,
Plaintiff's Response to the Motion to Dismiss was
untimely, and second, that by not responding to all of the
arguments raised in its Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff
abandoned any opposition to those arguments. Specifically,
Defendants' arguments that the MTA Police Force is not a
legal entity, her claims are time barred, she failed to
exhaust all the necessary administrative remedies, and she
has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor the Local Rules of
this Court require a party to file a response in opposition
to a motion to dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12; L.R.
105(a) (providing a 14-day response deadline but not
requiring opposing party to file a response); Pueschel v.
United States, 369 F.3d 345, 353-54 (4th Cir. 2004)
(interpreting the United States Eastern District of
Virginia's local rule that the “opposing party
shall file a response brief” as entitling, but
not requiring, the district court to dismiss suit on
“uncontroverted bases” asserted in unopposed
motion to dismiss). An opposition that is untimely or
non-responsive in some fashion therefore does not require a
district court to dismiss the suit by treating the motion to
dismiss as unopposed. See United States v. Sasscer,
Civ. No. Y-97-3026, 2000 WL 1479154, at *2 n.6 (D. Md. Aug.
25, 2000). Rather, it is within the trial court's
discretion to decide whether to reach the merits of a motion
to dismiss. See Pueschel, 369 F.3d at 354. Garnes, a
pro se litigant, filed a Response one day after the
briefing deadline. The Response lays out additional
facts and concludes that she “wish[es] to
continue with this civil action.” (ECF No. 19 at 3.) In
light of the Plaintiff's pro se status and in
exercising its sound discretion, this Court declines to adopt
Defendants' waiver argument. This Court now turns to the
merits of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
Claims against the State of Maryland and Maryland Department
VII prohibits employers from discriminating against an
individual because of that individual's race, color,
religion, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a). Accordingly, “[o]ne must be an
‘employer' within the meaning of Title VII in order
to be held liable under th[e] statute.” Bradley v.
Balt. Police Dep't, 887 F.Supp.2d 642, 645 (D. Md.
2012). The only employer Plaintiff references in the Amended
Complaint is the Maryland Transit Administration Police
Force. She alleges no facts regarding the State
of Maryland or Maryland Department of Transportation,
including how there is a direct employment relationship
between her and these Defendants, or any facts for this Court
to find an employment relationship under the
“integrated employer test.” See Glunt v. GES
Exposition Services, Inc., 123 F.Supp.2d 847, 874 (D.
Md. 2000) (explaining that in the absence of a direct
employment relationship, courts apply the “integrated
employer test” to determine whether a defendant is an