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Ferebee v. Department of Human Relations Commission

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 5, 2018

RENEE FEREBEE, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION and MR. LYLES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Renee Ferebee, who is self-represented, has filed suit against the Prince George's County Department of Human Relations Commission (the “Commission”) and its Executive Director, Michael Lyles. She alleges that the Commission's staff discriminated against her on the basis of age and defamed her. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Having reviewed the pleadings and briefs, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary to resolve this Motion. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arose out of Ferebee's application for employment with the Lexy Corporation (“Lexy”), which operates a retail store in the Iverson Mall in Prince George's County, Maryland. Ferebee alleges that a Lexy employee called her “old” when she applied, and that the store refused to hire her because of her age. Compl. Ex. 1 at 3, ECF No. 1-1. In response, Ferebee filed a complaint with the Commission, which is authorized to investigate alleged discrimination in Prince George's County. See Prince George's Cty. Code § 2-193. Ferebee later sued Lexy in this Court for a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (2012), a case that was dismissed because Lexy does not have a sufficient number of employees to trigger the ADEA's protections. See Ferebee v. Lexy Corp., No. PWG-13-3931, 2014 WL 1682015, at *3 (D. Md. Apr. 28, 2014).

         Ferebee filed her original complaint with the Commission on January 24, 2012. Lyles, the Commission's Executive Director, assigned a staff member, whom Ferebee identifies only as “Ms. Leslie, ” to investigate her case. Compl. Ex. 1 at 10, 13. Ferebee accuses Leslie of “purposefully mishandling” and sabotaging the case by lying to Lyles about her findings. Compl. at 1, ECF No. 1. Ferebee also found Leslie to be rude and sarcastic and believes that Leslie disliked her personally.

         On February 19, 2013, the Commission issued its determination, finding that “[b]ased on the Agency's investigation, there is insufficient evidence to support [Ferebee's] allegation that [Lexy] discriminated against her because of age (age 56).” Compl. Ex. 1 at 9. Ferebee asked for a re-investigation, arguing that Leslie had “acted unprofessionally” and therefore may not have fully investigated the case. Compl. Ex. 1 at 8. Lyles then appointed two new investigators, Jose Villegas and Charles Floyd, but they failed to find any new evidence of age discrimination, a result that Ferebee blames on Villegas's discriminatory and dishonest behavior. Thus, in a March 28, 2013 letter, Lyles notified Ferebee that the Commission's original decision would stand.

         Ferebee filed suit against the Commission in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland on May 3, 2013, alleging that the Commission sabotaged her case against Lexy.[1] That lawsuit was dismissed on August 29, 2013, and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals dismissed her appeal on January 28, 2016. She filed her Complaint in this Court 10 months later, on November 28, 2016, alleging age discrimination, defamation, and two claims she calls “sabortagement” and “false investigati[on]” based on the investigators' behavior. Compl. at 1. She seeks $2 billion in damages.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants seek dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). First, they argue that the Commission is not a legal entity subject to suit. Second, although Ferebee's age discrimination cause of action makes no mention of the law on which she bases her claim, Defendants construe it as an ADEA claim, and argue that it must be dismissed because they were never her employer. Finally, they argue that her defamation claim was filed outside the statute of limitations, and that her remaining claims are not causes of action under Maryland law.

         Although Defendants claim that the Commission is not a legal entity, they cite Prince George's County Code § 287(a), which establishes the Commission as a statutorily created County entity with members appointed by the County Executive. Thus, even if the Commission is not a separate legal entity subject to suit, Ferebee's Complaint could be construed, or amended, to be against the County itself. Accordingly, the Court will address Defendants' remaining arguments.

         I. Legal Standard

         To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow “the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). Documents attached to the complaint or motion may be considered if “they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). The court may also take judicial notice of matters of public record, such as state court proceedings. Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).

         II. Age Discrimination

         Ferebee alleges that the Commission investigators assigned to her case discriminated against her on the basis of age. She provides no specifics about this discrimination, asserting only that they were rude to her and that she believes they “purposefully mishandl[ed]” her case. Compl. at 1. Ferebee does not clarify whether she is asserting a claim under the ADEA, as Defendants assume, or under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 470-71 (1991) (stating that governmental discrimination on the basis of age that lacks a rational basis violates the Equal Protection Clause). Even assuming ...


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