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Gray-Koyier v. Baltimore County Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 27, 2018




         The Court has before it Defendant Baltimore County Public Schools' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [ECF No. 22] and the materials submitted relating thereto.[1] The Court finds that a hearing is not necessary.

         I. BACKGROUND

         a. The Parties and the Claims

         Levika Gray-Koyier (“Gray-Koyier” or “Plaintiff”), a former teacher, brings four claims against Baltimore County Public Schools (“BCPS” or “Defendant”):

1. Count I - Age and Gender Discrimination under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”),
2. Count II - Retaliation, in violation of Title VII;
3. Count III - Sexual Harassment (Hostile Work Environment), in violation of Title VII; and
4. Count IV - Disability Discrimination, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

         Gray-Koyier seeks recovery of actual damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. By the instant motion, BCPS seeks dismissal of all counts as time-barred, or, alternatively, the dismissal of the age and disability discrimination claims for inadequacy of the pleading.[2]

         b. Factual Background[3]

         In November 2014, Gray-Koyier had worked for ten years in the BCPS system as a substitute teacher, had remained in good standing, and had met all work performance requirements without any disciplinary incidents. Am. Compl. ¶ 17, ECF No. 18. Gray-Koyier's superiors had praised her “classroom management and instruction delivery” style, and the Old Court principal had told the administration that she “felt relieved and lucky to ‘finally' have Plaintiff to fill the position and stay with them.” Id. ¶ 18. In November 2014, Gray-Koyier, then forty-eight years old, was promoted by BCPS to be a long-term substitute teacher for seventh grade science classes at Old Court Middle School. Id. ¶¶ 17-19.

         When promoted, Gray-Koyier was the “oldest member of the Old Court science department.” Id. ¶ 19. Mr. Johnson (“Johnson”), the Chair of the science department, began to take an interest in her. Id. ¶ 19. Johnson would stand and watch her teach (with no formal evaluation pending), offer her rides home, and inquire about her personal life, actions which Plaintiff found to be “not typical” based on her experiences with prior supervisors and department chairs. Id. ¶ 20.

         One time, Johnson insisted that she report to a teacher education day that substitute teachers did not typically attend and were not paid for. Id. When she arrived at the school, she realized that the training would be held off-site at another location. Id. She declined Johnson's offer for a ride and rode to the training with someone else. Id. During the training, Johnson publicly asked her to be his “assistant, ” which she found “odd, at best, and humiliating, at worst.” Id. He asked her to hold up props and constantly occupied her attention throughout the training day. Id. Afterwards, Johnson insisted that she help him in the library after most of the other teachers had gone home. Id.

         Gray-Koyier did not appreciate these actions, which she considered to be unwanted advances. Id. ¶ 73. She began to “seek[] out other colleagues” for support with her tasks instead of seeking out Johnson. Id. ¶ 21. Johnson then allegedly began to verbally harass her, berate her in front of her students, and withhold information that she needed to perform her job. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. When she did ask for his assistance on a student testing matter, Johnson berated her in front of her students, yelling “Are you kidding me, you are an educated person and you don't know how to do this.” Id. ¶ 21. At one point, Johnson “stood outside her classroom during her lunch period, watched her, and then demanded a conversation and refused to leave the room when Plaintiff asked him to.” Id.

         Gray-Koyier complained about Johnson to the school principal and assistant principal. Id. On February 6, 2015, she raised several of her concerns at a meeting with the principal, assistant principal, and Johnson. Id. ¶¶ 21-23.

         One portion of the meeting related to a disability request. Around this time, Gray-Koyier was recovering from injuries suffered in a September 2014 automobile accident. Id. ¶ 32. As a result, she wore, on a daily basis, bilateral ankle, foot, wrist, and back braces. Id. ¶¶ 32, 92. Gray-Koyier alleges that she could perform all the essential functions as a substitute teacher despite these disabilities, and had already done so for several months. Id. ¶¶ 89, 96.

         Pursuant to a doctor's note, Gray-Koyier requested “reasonable accommodations” in light of her injuries, including a 32-hour work week and other accommodations. Id. ¶¶ 32-34, 84. The school principal replied “no problem” and also proposed to relieve her from bus duty and release her from other coverage duties. Id. ¶¶ 84-85. The school principal instructed the assistant principal to immediately implement the discussed changes. Id. However, these accommodations were allegedly withdrawn when Gray-Koyier was later asked over the announcement system to perform those very same coverage duties. Id. ¶¶ 85-86.

         Another portion of the meeting related to Johnson's behavior. During the meeting, Johnson stated his inability to work with Gray-Koyier and announced “it was [either] him or the Plaintiff.” Id. He “dominated the conversation” and announced “he could not work with ‘this women[, ] [sic] . . . [s]he's just a battered women [sic].'” Id. ¶ 24. Gray-Koyier understood that Johnson was referencing her history of domestic violence, which she had never shared with him, and was emotionally distraught by this abusive use of details from her personal life.[4] Id. ¶¶ 25-30. She was “shocked and humiliated” and left the meeting. Id. ¶ 25. Following this incident, Plaintiff's “PTSD, anxiety, [and] depression” were re-triggered. Id. ¶ 30.

         An hour after the meeting, Gray-Koyier suffered additional injuries in a student altercation that required her to go to the emergency room and then stay home for two days. Id. ¶ 35. Gray-Koyier was asked by her employer to “go to Concentra” for a medical evaluation before returning to work, ...

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