United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.
Juanita Gaines (“Plaintiff” or
“Gaines”) brings this action against John W.
Anderson (“Defendant” or “Anderson”),
in his official capacity as Sheriff of Baltimore City,
alleging that he retaliated against her in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000-e et
seq. Anderson asserts that res
judicata bars this action because this Court dismissed
with prejudice Gaines' prior Title VII claims against
various defendants including Anderson. See Gaines v.
Martin, No. JKB-12-1126, 2014 WL 1622316 (D. Md. Apr.
23, 2014) (“Gaines I”). Anderson further
asserts that this Court should deny Plaintiff's Motion to
File a Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13) because even if
amended, res judicata bars her suit. The
parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For
the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF
No. 6) is DENIED and Plaintiff's Motion to file a Second
Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13) is GRANTED.
reviewing a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the
facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. See Q
Intern. Courier Inc. v. Smoak, 441 F.3d 214, 216 (4th
Cir. 2006). When a defendant moves to dismiss on the ground
of res judicata, a court may also take judicial
notice of facts from a prior judicial proceeding so long as
the res judicata defense does not raise disputed
issues of fact. Id. (citing Andrews v. Daw,
201 F.3d 521, 524 n. 1 (4th Cir. 2000)). Plaintiff Gaines
began working as a Deputy Sheriff with the Baltimore City
Sheriff's Office (“BCSO”) on September 27,
2001. (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 13-1 at ¶ 2.) On July
9, 2010, Gaines filed a Charge of Discrimination with the
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) against Anderson and Baltimore City,
alleging that she was passed over for a promotion and denied
overtime because she was a female (“First
Charge”). (Id. at ¶ 18.) The First Charge
further alleged that she was retaliated against for following
complaint protocols. (Id.)
February 4, 2011, Gaines reported to work wearing dark pants,
a white collared button-down shirt, hooded jacket, and vest.
(Id. at ¶ 21.) Gaines asserts that she had worn
similar clothes before, and as recently as that day, her
supervisor did not object to her attire. (Id. at
¶¶ 21-22.) Later that day, however, Gaines'
captain sent her home for violating dress code. (Id.
at ¶ 23.) Gaines alleges that other male employees with
similar assignments and wearing similar attire were not sent
home. (Id. at ¶ 24.) When she left work, Gaines
went to the EEOC office to incorporate what happened that day
into her First Charge. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Four days
later on February 8, 2011, her Captain sent her home again
for violating dress code. (Id. at ¶¶
29-34.) After leaving work, Gaines again went to the EEOC
office to update her Charge. (Id. at ¶ 36.) On
February 17, 2011, she was placed on a performance
improvement plan and kept on probationary status through the
fall. (Id. at ¶ 38.) On August 8, 2011, she was
“notified of formal internal affairs charges against
her for unsatisfactory performance, conduct unbecoming a
Sheriff's Deputy, failure to obey orders, unauthorized
absence, and insubordination; all relating to what transpired
at work on February 4 and 8, 2011.” (Id. at
January 13, 2012, Gaines received a Right to Sue letter from
the EEOC related to her First Charge, indicating that the
EEOC was unable to conclude that there was reasonable cause
to believe discrimination occurred. (Id. at ¶ 42.)
On April 12, 2012, Gaines filed suit in this Court against
the State of Maryland, Anderson, and three other individual
defendants, alleging violations of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, and the Fourteenth Amendment (“Gaines
I”). (Id.; Gaines v. Martin, No.
JKB-12-1126, 2014 WL 1622316 (D. Md. Apr. 23, 2014)). The
complaint alleged conduct going back to 2008 when the
Plaintiff was working as a Deputy Sheriff in the Special
Operations Unit. Gaines, 2014 WL 1622316 at *1. On
September 15, 2008, she was involved in the execution of a
search warrant where a fellow deputy sheriff was shot in the
face. Id. at *1. Although an investigation into the
incident concluded that the deputy was shot by the subject of
the warrant, Gaines developed reason to believe that he had
been shot by a fellow deputy. Id. The complaint then
asserted that her supervisors intended to remove her from the
Special Operations Unit because of her contention that the
deputy had been shot by a fellow deputy. Id. at *2.
From these facts, Plaintiff brought, among other claims, a
claim for retaliation under Title VII, asserting she was
retaliated against “for among other things complaining
about adverse personnel and disciplinary actions, complaining
to the Inspector General and filing a charge of
discrimination with the EEOC.” Id. at *5.
days after Gaines filed her suit, on April 17, 2012, she was
notified that she needed to attend an internal trial board
hearing for charges relating to the dress code incidents that
had occurred over a year before on February 4 and 8, 2011.
(ECF No. 13-1 at ¶ 43.) She was subsequently found
guilty of the charges and the board recommended a thirty-day
suspension. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Despite the
recommendation, on June 22, 2012, Anderson fired Gaines.
(Id. at ¶ 45.) On July 18, 2012, Gaines filed a
Second Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC (“Second
Charge”), asserting that her termination from
employment was in retaliation for her earlier claim of
retaliation in violation of Title VII. (Id. at
¶ 7; ECF No. 1-1.)
13, 2013, Gaines filed an amended complaint in Gaines
I, adding her termination as a retaliatory act.
(Gaines I, Am. Compl., ECF No. 25.) The amended
complaint did not, however, allege any facts detailing the
internal trial board hearing, the incidents on February 4 and
8, or any circumstances surrounding her termination.
(Id.) Further, the amended complaint only referenced
and attached Plaintiff's First Charge of Discrimination
and Right to Sue Notice. (Id.) The defendants moved
to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, arguing in part
that she had failed to properly exhaust her Title VII claims.
(Gaines I, Mot., ECF No. 31.) On April 23, 2014,
this Court issued a memorandum opinion dismissing all of
Plaintiff's claims with prejudice. Gaines v.
Martin, No. JKB-12-1126, 2014 WL 1622316 (D. Md. Apr.
23, 2014). The memorandum opinion only referenced
Plaintiff's First Charge filed on July 9, 2010 and did
not reference Plaintiff's termination. Id. at
*2. As to Gaines' retaliation claim, this Court found
that Gaines failed to state a claim for retaliation under
Title VII. Id. at *5. Specifically, this
Court held that Gaines' had not met the first element of
a retaliation claim, engaging in a protected activity,
Ultimately, the conduct that Plaintiff opposed was not
discrimination under Title VII. Rather, the picture that
emerges from Plaintiff's own pleadings is that she was
discriminated against for arguing that Deputy Lane was shot
by a fellow Deputy and contradicting the Sheriff
Department's conclusion that Deputy Lane was shot by a
Id. at *5.
three years after this Court's opinion in Gaines
I, on March 31, 2017, Gaines received a Letter of
Determination from the EEOC concerning her Second Charge.
(ECF No. 13-1 at ¶ 15; ECF No. 1-2.) The EEOC found that
the Sheriff's Office violated Title VII by terminating
Gaines. (ECF No. 1-2.) The EEOC then referred the matter to
the Department of Justice, which notified Gaines on June 22,
2017 that the DOJ would not be pursuing charges and Gaines
had the right to file suit under Title VII. (ECF No. 1-3.) On
September 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant suit against
Defendant John Anderson in his official capacity as the
Sheriff of Baltimore City. (ECF No. 13-1 at 2.) The Second
Amended Complaint details the 2011 incidents concerning her
dress code, her suit in Gaines I, and her
termination. She asserts that “[b]ut for [her]
complaints of discrimination and retaliation made internally
and to the EEOC, the allegations of discrimination and
retaliation under Title VII she made in the lawsuit she filed
on April 12, 2012, and her opposition to gender
discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment, Sheriff
Anderson would not have fired her, thereby escalating the
Trial Board's recommendation.” (Id. at
¶ 45.) To support her claim, Gaines alleges that there
were various other officers who committed similar or more
serious infractions than Gaines, but never filed complaints
or asserted their rights, and were not fired. (Id.
at ¶ 57.)
Motion to Amend
plaintiff may amend his or her complaint once as a matter of
course before a responsive pleading is served, or within
twenty-one days of service of a responsive pleading or motion
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b), (e), or (f),
whichever is earlier. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). While Rule 15(a)
requires that leave “shall be freely given when justice
so requires, ” id., a district court may deny
leave to amend “when the amendment would be prejudicial
to the opposing party, the moving party has acted in bad
faith, or the amendment would be futile.” Equal
Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Assocs., 602 F.3d 597, 603
(4th Cir. 2010). “Whether an amendment is prejudicial
will often be determined by the nature of the amendment and
its timing.” Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404,
427 (4th Cir. 2006). An amendment is futile “when the
proposed amendment is clearly insufficient or frivolous on
its face.” Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785
F.2d 503, 510 (4th Cir. 1986).