United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge
this Court is Defendant State of Maryland's Motion to
Dismiss Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Defendant's Motion”)(ECF
No. 20). The Court has reviewed Defendant's Motion,
related memoranda, and applicable law. No hearing is deemed
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the
reasons presented below, the Court GRANTS IN PART
Deputy Sheriff Lieutenant Maldonado filed an Amended
Complaint asserting a claim of employment discrimination
during the course of his employment with the Prince
George's County Sheriff's Office
(“PGCSO”). Am. Compl. ¶ 14, et.
seq. Plaintiff further states that he engaged in
protected activity when he made internal complaints of
discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as well as when
he made complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission and the Prince George's Human Rights
Commission. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff contends he
was subjected to retaliation when the PGCSO and Colonel
Darrin Palmer (“Col. Palmer”) of the PGCSO
subjected him to a trial board, and later still when Col.
Palmer recommended Plaintiff to be terminated. Id.
at ¶ 19. Plaintiff states that he filed a complaint with
the PGCSO after a co-worker said she wanted Plaintiff to be
sent back Puerto Rico in August 2003. The co-worker's
discipline required that she write a letter of apology to
Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 20.
relates that in July 2014, he submitted a memorandum to Col.
Palmer regarding the PGCSO's cohabitation policy for
employees while on travel. Id. at ¶ 21. In
August 2014, Plaintiff contacted the Hispanic National Law
Enforcement Association (“HNLEA”) regarding
transfers of Spanish speaking deputies; transfers which
resulted in less desirable assignments. A meeting with the
leadership of the PGCSO and representatives of HNLEA led to
new Hispanic hires in the PGCSO. Id. at ¶ 22.
following year, in May 2015, a notice was issued regarding
the promotional testing for those seeking the rank of
captain. The test was to be given in November. Plaintiff was
one of the eligible candidates. The test date was
subsequently advanced to September 2015. Col. Palmer also
changed the promotional format eliminating the testing
component, leaving only the requirement of an interview.
Plaintiff contends the new format violated the Memorandum of
Understanding which resulted in Plaintiff, the only Hispanic,
being ineligible to sit for the interview. Id. at
¶ 23. In June 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the
Department of Justice against Col. Palmer. Id. at
¶ 24. Plaintiff alleges that in retaliation, in November
2015, Col. Palmer filed charges against Plaintiff and
initiated an investigation, recommending Plaintiff's
termination. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff also
alleges that in February 2016 he was not able to participate
in the captain's selection process due to the stress of
the pending trial board.
Standard of Review
seminal Supreme Court cases of Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937
(2009) provide the essential concerns for a court considering
a motion to dismiss. Twombly made clear that
litigants cannot survive a motion to dismiss by the mere use
of “labels and conclusions” or even a
“formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action.” Twombly, 550 U.S., at 555, 127 S.Ct.,
at 1965. A claim that overcomes a motion to dismiss contains
sufficient factual information, which accepted as true,
states a claim that is “plausible.” Id.,
550 U.S., at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974.
Court is required to view the “allegations in the light
most favorable” to the non-moving party. Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683 (1974). While
the Court is bound to accept as true all of the factual
allegations, the Court is not required to accept legal
conclusions masked as such. Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 106 S.Ct. 2932 (1986). “Determining whether a
complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, . . . be
a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S., at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. A motion
to dismiss should be granted only “if it appears beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that will
entitle him to relief.” Lambeth v. Board of
Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268
(4th Cir. 2005).
employment discrimination case, it is not necessary to set
forth “specific facts establishing a prima
facie case” when using the framework of
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792
(1973); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506,
508 (2002). Requiring a plaintiff to do so, would result in a
“heightened pleading standard.” This would
normally be the case if a plaintiff possessed direct evidence
of discrimination, but the burden-shifting paradigm of
McDonnell Douglas significantly alters the analysis.
To do otherwise would create the “incongruous”
result of requiring a plaintiff to “plead more facts
than he may ultimately need to prove to succeed on the merits
if direct evidence of discrimination is discovered.”
Swierkiewicz, at 511-12. On the facts offered by way
of Plaintiff's Complaint, it is clear that Plaintiff is
proceeding under the McDonnell Douglas paradigm.
The National Origin Claim
outset, the parties agree on the law that is applicable.
First, while the claims asserted are premised on the Maryland
Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Code Ann., State Govt.
§20-606 (LexisNexis 2014), the state law is merely an
analogue of the federal law. The State of Maryland is in
lockstep with the federal law and courts in interpreting
Title VII claims and in applying the analogous state law.
Haas v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 396 Md. 469, 914 A.2d
735, 742 (2007). Second, in the absence of direct evidence of
discrimination, Plaintiff must proceed under the burden
shifting formula of McDonnell Douglas. Accordingly,
the formula and elements for the claim of discrimination on
the basis of one's national origin under federal law is
set forth in Weathers v. Univ. of N. Carolina at Chapel
Hill, 447 F. App'x 508 (4th Cir. 2011).
Specifically, a Title VII plaintiff must show that he: (1) is
a member of a protected class; (2) applied for promotion; (3)
was qualified for the position; and (4) was rejected in favor
of someone not a member of the protected group under
circumstances giving rise to an inference of unlawful
discrimination. Id. at 510.
rightly asserts that merely parroting the elements of a cause
of action will not survive a properly placed motion to
dismiss. Conclusory allegations are unavailing. Cole v.
Hillside Family of Agencies, Inc., Civ. No. PJM 10-3326,
2011 WL 2413928, at *4 (D. Md. June 9, 2011). Merely claiming
that members outside of a protected group were treated better
than a ...