United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court in this employment discrimination action is
the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants the
University of Maryland College Park, the University System of
Maryland Board of Regents, and individually named defendants
Wallace Loh, Jack Baker, Sharon Simmons, Roxene Kasterns,
Charles Reuning, Nancy Yeroshefsky, and James McClelland.
(ECF No. 20.) Defendant Barrett Johnson also moves to
dismiss, incorporating by reference the arguments of the
previously listed Defendants. (ECF No. 22.) The matter has
been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary. See
D. Md. Loc. R. 105.6. Upon consideration of the parties'
arguments, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART
following facts are taken from Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint and construed in the light most favorable to them.
Plaintiffs' Work History with UMCP
Michael Bell and Duray Jones are African American, male
employees of the University of Maryland College Park
(“UMCP”). ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 5, 6. Bell is a
High Voltage Electrician, and Jones is a Systems Reliability
Technician. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 5, 6. Both are employed
under the auspices of UMCP's Facilities Management
Department (“Facilities Management”). UMCP is
governed by its Board of Regents (the “Board”).
ECF No. 12 ¶ 8. Defendant Barrett Johnson, an African
American man, was a Construction Supervisor in Facilities
Management and was the immediate supervisor of Plaintiffs,
along with the other three members of their five-member team.
ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 15, 26. Defendant Nancy Yeroshefsky
is the Director of Human Resources for Facilities Management.
ECF No. 12 ¶ 11. Defendant Sharon Simmons is the
Assistant Director of Staff Relations for Facilities
Management. ECF No. 12 ¶ 12. Defendant Roxene Kastens is
the Associate Director for Facilities Management. ECF No. 12
High Voltage Electrician, Bell is qualified to work on
electrical systems, including those in excess of 13, 000
volts. ECF No. 12 ¶ 51. Jones, as an Electrical System
Reliability Technician, is responsible for operation,
testing, evaluation, analysis, maintenance, and repairs of
various electrical and building systems. ECF No. 12 ¶
70. Jones, too, is permitted to work on electrical systems
that exceed 13, 000 volts. ECF No. 12 ¶ 70.
in April 2013, Bell and Jones were assigned to work on a fire
alarm system at UMCP. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 53, 72.
University electrical systems are less than 640 volts and
fire alarm systems typically operate at 24 volts. ECF No. 12
¶ 51. Neither Plaintiff's position description
mentioned fire alarm systems. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 52, 71.
Bell and Jones worked on various fire alarm projects through
June 2014. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 54, 73. Plaintiffs allege
that these work assignments fell outside their job
descriptions. See ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 18, 75.
April 15, 2013, Bell and Jones sent a letter to UMCP's
Human Resources department (“HR”), complaining of
job safety concerns and about their assignments. ECF No. 12
¶ 18. Although UMCP denied that Bell or Jones were being
asked to complete improper assignments and did not alter
their job descriptions, UMCP did change the job description
for Philip Reisler, a Caucasian male employee. ECF No. 12
¶¶ 19, 20. A year later, on April 30, 2014, Bell
and Jones sent an email to the Facilities Management
supervising team asking for assistance with
“misconduct” visited upon them after their April
15, 2013, letter. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 14, 58, 74. The
management team was comprised of Simmons; Yeroshefsky; Jack
Baker, the Executive Director for Facilities Management;
James McClelland, the former Associate Director for
Facilities Management; and Charles Reuning, the Associate
Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer for Facilities
Management. ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 10, 13, 16, 24.
and June of 2014, Bell and Jones filed a series of formal
grievances as detailed more fully below. Bell and Jones were
then removed from fire alarm work in June 2014, allegedly
because UMCP was concerned that the Plaintiffs may be owed
additional compensation for that work above their regular
pay, which UMCP did not wish to pay. ECF No. 12 ¶¶
33, 55. Although Johnson told Bell that he would try to
obtain additional compensation or a new job classification
for Bell, ultimately, Johnson was unsuccessful. ECF No. 12
Management took no action in response to Plaintiffs'
April 2013 and April 2014 communications regarding
inappropriate work assignments, so Jones and Bell each filed
a formal grievance on May 1, 2014 (the May 1 grievances).
See ECF No. 12 ¶ 25. In response to these
grievances, John Farley, a UMCP employee, requested a job
description audit be conducted on the Electrician - High
Voltage position. ECF No. 12 ¶ 28. The grievances were
held in abeyance, and Plaintiffs filed an additional formal
grievance on June 4, 2014 (the June 4 grievance). ECF No. 12
¶¶ 28, 29. Plaintiffs filed a fourth grievance on
June 12, 2014 (the June 12 grievance), the day they were
taken off fire alarm work. In this grievance, Plaintiffs
complained about their reassignment, being given incorrect
work assignments, “misconduct, ” and retaliation
for filing their initial three grievances. ECF No. 12 ¶
11, 2014, a partial decision was rendered on Bell's May 1
grievance, with the issue of proper job classification
deferred until the requested job audit could be completed.
ECF No. 12 ¶ 31. After another hearing on December 5,
2014, Bell's grievance was dismissed. ECF No. 12
¶¶ 31, 37. Jones' May 1 grievance likewise was
dismissed. ECF No. 12 ¶ 39.
11, 2014, a hearing was held on the June 4 grievance, and the
grievance was denied. ECF No. 12 ¶ 32. An additional
hearing was held on September 30, 2014, and the grievance
once again was denied. ECF No. 12 ¶ 38. The final
hearing on the June 12 grievance was held on November 7,
2014; that grievance, too, was denied. ECF No. 12
¶¶ 34, 35.
Alleged Discrimination and Retaliation
Plaintiffs' pleadings are less than a model of clarity,
the following facts as set forth in the Amended Complaint are
pertinent to Plaintiffs' discrimination and retaliation
claims. Plaintiffs allege that Johnson's May 2013
performance reviews of Plaintiffs unfairly refer to their
having “communication problems.” ECF No. 12
¶ 21. Additionally, in late May 2013, Johnson informed
the UMCP payroll department and electricians that all
communications-presumably to Bell and Jones-were first to go
through him, which caused errors on Bell's paycheck. ECF
No. 12 ¶ 27. Later, in December 2013, Jones' car was
broken into and his work phone was stolen. Although Jones
reported the incident, he was written up and did not receive
a replacement phone, unlike Caucasian Facilities Management
employees. ECF No. 12 ¶ 22.
Amended Complaint does not describe any allegedly
discriminatory acts occurring between December 2013 and March
2014. In March 2014, Bell received a write-up for being late
to work even though he was on approved leave; Caucasian
coworkers had not been similarly written up for tardiness.
ECF No. 12 ¶ 23. Then, “immediately” after
the filing the May 1 grievances, Johnson informed Bell and
Jones that Johnson would require them to fill out their own
daily paperwork, even though Johnson continued to fill out
daily paperwork for the other team members. ECF No. 12 ¶
during a meeting that took place in June 2014, Simmons
berated and cussed at Bell, told Bell to “get
over” the fact that his grievances were denied, and
commented that Bell “was tough and could handle the
retaliation.” ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 63-64. Bell
further alleges that he was “in the process of working
with human resources to obtain a new position which included
a higher salary, ” which was “taken away”
from Bell without explanation. ECF No. 12 ¶ 65. Then in