United States District Court, D. Maryland
U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
MVM, INC., Defendant.
THEODORE D. CHUANG JUDGE
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC") has filed suit against Defendant MVM, Inc.
("MVM") alleging that MVM subjected a class of
female employees to a hostile work environment based on sex
and unlawful retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C.
99 2000e-2(a)(1), 2000e-3(a) (2012). Pending before the Court
is MVM's Motion to Dismiss and the EEOC's Motion to
Strike portions of MVM's Motion and its accompanying
affidavit. Having reviewed the Complaint and the briefs, the
Court finds no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local
R. 105.6 (2016). For the reasons set forth below, MVM's
Motion to Dismiss is DENIED, and the EEOC's Motion to
Strike is GRANTED.
EEOC is a federal agency tasked with administering,
interpreting, and enforcing Title VII. MVM is a security
services firm, incorporated in California, that employs
security guards in the State of Maryland.
August 2014, the United States Social Security Administration
("SSA") awarded a contract to MVM to provide
security services for its campus in Woodlawn, Maryland. MVM
inherited certain personnel from the SSA's previous
contract, including Monique Wilson and Alexander Gough. Gough
was the Acting Site Manager and in that capacity supervised
Wilson, an armed security guard. According to the Complaint,
Gough consistently subjected Wilson to inappropriate,
sexually explicit comments and unwanted physical touching,
despite her repeated requests that he stop. Gough also
regularly subjected other female employees to similar
comments and physical contact, including in the presence of
SSA supervisors and managers.
February 18, 2016, Gough cornered Wilson on an elevator and
kissed her without her consent. Wilson complained to
management and identified several witnesses who would be able
to corroborate certain facts leading up to the assault. On
February 29, 2016, MVM's General Counsel, Christopher
McHale, questioned Wilson about her complaint. Although
Wilson informed him that Gough may have harassed other women,
McHale did not interview any of the witnesses she had
identified. On March 1, 2016, MVM terminated
then filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC in which
she alleged that MVM had violated Title VII. On July 20,
2017, the EEOC issued a Letter of Determination to MVM in
which it stated that it had found reasonable cause to believe
that MVM had violated Title VII as to Wilson and other female
employees and invited MVM to participate in conciliation with
the EEOC. The EEOC then engaged in communications with MVM to
provide an opportunity for MVM to remedy the discriminatory
practices described in the Letter of Determination. On
September 13, 2017, after concluding that it could not secure
an acceptable conciliation agreement from MVM, the EEOC
issued to MVM a Notice of Failure of Conciliation. On
September 28, 2017, the EEOC filed the present case on behalf
of Wilson and a class of aggrieved female employees, alleging
that MVM violated Title VII by subjecting them to sexual
harassment and a sexually hostile work environment and by
firing Wilson in retaliation for reporting that harassment..
Motion to Dismiss, MVM argues that the Complaint must be
dismissed because the EEOC has not satisfied Title VII's
conciliation requirement,, a condition precedent to filing
suit. In its Motion to Strike, the EEOC requests that the
Court strike portions of MVM's memorandum in support of
its Motion and an accompanying affidavit because they convey
information from conciliation discussions, in violation of 42
U.S.C. S 2000e-5(b).
Motion to Dismiss
MVM characterizes its Motion as a motion to dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1), its motion is properly classified as a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6). In Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S.Ct.
1645 (2015), the United States Supreme Court held that the
appropriate remedy for a failure to satisfy Title VII's
conciliation requirement is to order the EEOC to engage in
conciliation and to stay the case, if necessary, to allow for
such discussions. Id. at 1656. In so ruling, the
Court did not describe the conciliation requirement as
jurisdictional and effectively concluded that a court could
exercise jurisdiction over the case even before conciliation
had been satisfactorily completed. See Id. Under
these circumstance,, and in the absence of a clear statement
in the statute that the conciliation requirement is
jurisdictional, this Court construes the Motion as seeking
dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).
See Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 516
(2006); EEOC v. Agro Distribution, LLC, 555 F.3d
462, 469 (5th Cir. 2009).
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. Legal
conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice.
Id. 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).
argues that the EEOC's complaint must be dismissed
because the EEOC has not satisfied the requirement in Title
VII that the EEOC must "endeavor to eliminate any . . .
alleged unlawful employment practice by informal methods of
conference, conciliation, and persuasion" before filing
suit in federal court. 42 U.S.C. ¶ 2000e-5(b). The
Supreme Court has recently provided guidance on the
parameters of this requirement.. In Mach Mining, the
Court held that the EEOC's compliance with the
conciliation requirement is subject to judicial review, but
described such an inquiry as a "relatively
barebones" review to ensure that the EEOC has
"communicate[d] in some way (through conference,
conciliation, and persuasion) about an alleged unlawful
employment practice in an endeavor to achieve an
employer's voluntary compliance." Mach
Mining, 135 S.Ct. at 1656 (internal citations omitted).
such a review is conducted to ensure that the EEOC has
satisfied two requirements. First, the EEOC must have
"inform[ed] the employer about the specific allegation,
as [it] typically does in a letter announcing its
determination of 'reasonable cause.' Such notice
properly describes both what the employer has done and which
employees (or what class of employees) have suffered as a
result." Id. at 1655-56 (internal citation
omitted). Second, the EEOC must "try to engage the
employer in some form of discussion (whether ...