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Fagbuyi v. Prince George's County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 20, 2018

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, el ill, Defendants.



         In this case. Plaintiff Pauline Fagbuyi filed suit against her former employers. Defendants Prince George's County and Prince George's County Department of Health, for wrongful termination and discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). ECF No. 9 at 1-2.[1] Now-pending before the Court is Defendants" Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, or. in the Alternative. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Motion to Dismiss"). FCF No. 10.[2] The Motion has been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary. See foe. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[3]

         Plaintiff Pauline Fagbuyi worked for Defendant Prince George's County (the "County") from October 2005 until the date of her termination in August or September 2015.[4] FCF No. 9 ¶ 7. Plaintiff is an "adult black female whose national origin is Nigeria." Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff was born in 1947. and was over 65 years old when she was terminated, Id. In 2015. Plaintiff was working for the County as a Community Health Nurse within the family Health Services department. Id. ¶7. During her entire tenure as a Community Health Nurse. Plaintiff had never received any written performance warnings or been the subject of other disciplinary actions. Id. ¶ 8. When she began working for the County. Plaintiff "was required to have and did have a valid nursing license."" Id. ¶ 10.

         Plaintiff alleges that her immediate supervisor. Inga Lewis, "repeatedly made discriminatory remarks to Ms. Fagbuyi about her age. such as inquiring about her age. which was 68 at that time, and asking when she was going to retire." Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff further alleges that in the summer of 2015. Lewis told a supervisor that she "hated to see Ms. Fagbuyi around her." Id. On July 21, 2015. Lewis discovered that Plaintiffs nursing license had expired on June 28. 2015. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff was notified of the lapse, and she renewed her license the same day. Id. ¶13. Plaintiff alleges that "[a]ccording to Maryland State law. [she] had a 30-day grace period in which to renew her license after expiration." Id. ¶ 16. On August 4. 2015. Plaintiff was served with a Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action and informed that she would be terminated for "failing to renew her nursing license." Id. ¶ 1 7. She was further advised that she could "protest the proposed termination" within ten days, which she did. Id. ¶¶ 22-23, On September 2. 2015. Plaintiff was informed that she was being terminated, effective the next day. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff alleges generally that ""[u]pon information and belief, other similarly situated nurses not in Ms. Fagbuyi"s age. race and nationality protected class were not similarly disciplined as a result of an expired license." Id. ¶ 18.

         On June 1. 2016. Plaintiff tiled a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") for discrimination based on race, color, national origin and age. Id. ¶ 25. On September 28. 2017. Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit by filing a Complaint against the Defendants. ECF No. 1. which she amended on December 21. 2017. ECF No. 9. In her Amended Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants are liable for Violation of Title VII -Race. Color and National Origin, id. at 5 ("First Cause of Action""): Violation of 29 U.S.C. Section 621 - Age Discrimination. id. at 6 ("Second Cause of Action"): and Wrongful Termination, id at 7 ("Third Cause of Action").[5] On January 4. 2018. the County tiled the now-pending Motion to Dismiss, and Plaintiff opposed the Motion on January 18. 2018. ECF Nos. 10 and 11. The County tiled a reply brief on January 31. 2018. ECF No. 13.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."" Asheroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662. 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544. 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conciusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 ("a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds" of his 'entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do."')).

         The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) "is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480. 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." and must '"draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts in favor of the plaintiff." E.I du Pont tie Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435. 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The Court need not. however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Reverie v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870. 873 (4th Cir. 1989). legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Papasan v. Alluin, 478 U.S. 265. 286 (1986). or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters of Norfolk v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).


         A. Timeliness of Plaintiffs Claims

         "Title VII establishes two potential limitations periods within which a discrimination charge may be filed with the EEOC." Holland v. Washington Homes. Inc., 487 F.3d 208. 219 (4th Cir. 2007). See 42 U.S.C.A. § 2OOOe-5(e)(1). "In a State that has an entity with the authority to grant or seek relief with respect to the alleged unlawful practice, an employee who initially files a grievance with that agency must file the charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the employment practice:[6] in all other States, the charge must be filed within 180 days. A claim is time barred if it is not tiled within these time limits." Nat 7 R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101. 109 (2002). The ADEA has the same limitation period. 29 U.S.C.A. § 626(d). "As Maryland is a deferral state. Plaintiff was required to file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice." Miller v. Kramon & Graham, P.A., No. GJH-15-1 OKI. 2016 WL 4379229. at *2(D. Md. Aug. 16. 2016).

         Here. Plaintiff received a "Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action- Dismissal" from Health Officer Pamela B. Creekmur on August 4. 2015. ECF No. 11-2 at 1. The Notice advised Plaintiff of Creekmurs "intent to dismiss you from County employment effective the close of business August 18. 2015." hi The Notice further informed her that she should "continue in a work status pending my final decision in regard to this matter" and that she had ten days "to respond in writing to the proposed disciplinary action set forth herein." Id. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs 300-day limitations period began when she received her Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action on August 4. 2015. and that her Charge of Discrimination was thus submitted 303 days after the allegedly discriminatory conduct. ECF No. 10-2 at 6. Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that she did not receive a definite notice of termination until September 3. 2015. and that her Charge of Discrimination was properly submitted 272 days after she was notified of her termination. F.CF No. 11 at 8.

         The Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action was not a definitive adverse employment action against Plaintiff. "An adverse employment action is a discriminatory act that adversely affect[s] the terms, conditions, or benefits of the plaintiffs employment." Holland, 487 F.3d at 219 (internal quotation marks omitted). Although "[c]onduct short of ultimate employment decisions can constitute adverse employment action, " James v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton. Inc.,368 F.3d 371. 375-76 (4th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted), "adverse employment action . . . denotes some direct or indirect impact on an individual's employment as opposed to harms immaterially related to it." Adams v. Anne Arundel Cly. Pub. Schs.,789 F.3d 422. 431 (4th Cir. 2015). "An adverse action is one that constitutes a significant change in employment status. such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits."' Hayle v. Freightliner, LLC,650 F.3d 321. 337 (4th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). On its face, the Notice conveyed only Creekmur's "intent" to terminate Plaintiff on August 18, 2015. and gave her the opportunity to continue working and respond to the Notice. Furthermore, the Notice stated that Creekmur's "final decision" was forthcoming, making it clear that the Notice was not a final decision. The Notice did not have a "direct or indirect impact" on Plaintiffs employment, nor was there a change in her "employment status" or "benefits." Thus, the Notice did not ...

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