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Yu v. Schrader

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 26, 2018

XIAO-YING YU, Plaintiff
v.
DENNIS SCHRADER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Xiao-Ying Yu was fired from the Maryland Department of Health, Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control (“CCDPC”) on November 3, 2014. Just over three years later, she filed this lawsuit, pro se, on November 6, 2017, naming as Defendants the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, [1] and the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. She alleged, essentially, that she was discriminated against and retaliated against when she worked at CCDPC. Defendants moved to dismiss on January 3, 2018. (ECF No. 6.) After Plaintiff responded in opposition (ECF No. 20) and Defendant replied (ECF No. 23), Plaintiff obtained counsel, and was given an opportunity to file a supplemental opposition (see ECF No. 29). Plaintiff availed herself of that opportunity (see Supp. Opp'n, ECF No. 30) and Defendants have replied to that paper (ECF No. 31). Defendants' motion is therefore fully briefed and ripe for review. There is no need to hold a hearing to resolve the matter. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). Plaintiff's complaint fails under Rule 8 to provide a short and plain statement of her claims. Nevertheless, the Court considered her possible claims, including those asserted by her new counsel, and they fail for a variety of reasons, including failure to properly exhaust administrative remedies and because Defendants are immune.

         I. Background[2]

         Plaintiff, a woman of Chinese national origin over sixty years old, began working for CCDPC on November 4, 2009, as an Epidemiologist.[3] Starting in 2010 she was given increased job responsibilities for which she was not compensated properly. She was told she would be promoted, but her HR application process stalled, largely because various supervisors sabotaged that process. Plaintiff reserves most of her complaints for a particular supervisor, Ms. Sara Barry. Ms. Barry promoted a younger, white woman instead of Plaintiff. She often baselessly reprimanded Plaintiff for going outside the chain of command, and prevented Plaintiff from making complaints. Ms. Barry tampered with some type of HR document, an “MS-22, ” that was supposed to reflect Plaintiff's employment background. Ms. Barry deleted projects from the MS-22 that Plaintiff had worked on, or changed information about Plaintiff's skills in order to set Plaintiff up for failure. Ms. Barry amended Plaintiff's self-evaluations from “outstanding” to “satisfactory” and placed negative material in Plaintiff's HR file, all out of retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints about Ms. Barry. Ms. Barry tried to prevent Plaintiff from receiving an award, mischaracterized Plaintiff's work contributions, and interfered with Plaintiff's access to databases and files.

         Plaintiff suffered deteriorating health due the harassment and retaliation she faced at work. She was evaluated by a doctor who worked for the State Medical Director's Office, and he seemed to think that Plaintiff suffered from workplace stress, anxiety disorder, and depression. (See Am. Compl. Ex. 28, ECF No. 4-1.)[4] At some point, Plaintiff requested an accommodation for her disability. Plaintiff does not clearly allege what her disability is, but it appears to be essentially workplace stress and anxiety, and her requested accommodation seems to have been not working under Ms. Barry. This accommodation request was denied. Ultimately, Plaintiff was terminated from her position on November 3, 2014.

         Plaintiff filed two Charges of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). On November 12, 2013, Plaintiff asserted a charge of age and race discrimination. (Am. Compl. pp. 5-6.) Plaintiff was granted a right-to-sue letter fourteen days later, on November 26, 2013. Plaintiff “did not file the lawsuit.” (Id. p. 6.) Plaintiff filed a second Charge of Discrimination on September 3, 2014. (Id. p. 10.) It is unclear from Plaintiff's complaint what the substance of this Charge was. She does not allege that she received a right-to-sue letter.[5]

         Plaintiff filed the instant action on November 6, 2017. She named Dennis Schrader, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, and David Brinkley, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, as Defendants. (Plaintiff does not allege that she ever worked for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management). Plaintiff filed her Complaint pro se and filed an amended complaint pro se. Several months after Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint Plaintiff engaged counsel, who then began to represent her. Counsel continues to represent her now, and through that counsel she has filed a supplemental opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiff has not moved to amend her complaint a second time.

         II. Standards

         Ultimately, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8, 12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6). The standards for reviewing complaints under those rules are as follows:

         a. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8

         The Federal Rules require that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement” of the grounds for the Court's jurisdiction and the claim, and “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). “Short and plain” means short and plain. The Court does not look for technical forms, magic words, and legal jargon. What matters here is notice: “In general, a pleading must provide the defendant and the court with fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Jackson v. Experian Fin. Servs., Civ. No. RDB-13-1758, 2014 WL 794360, at *1 (D. Md. Feb. 26, 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). Courts hold pro se litigants “to less stringent standards than trained lawyers, ” and courts afford a pro se complaint a “generous construction.” Engle v. U.S., 736 F.Supp. 670, 671 (D. Md. 1989). But “these principles are not without limits.” Id. at 672. “A plaintiff's status as pro se does not absolve her of the duty to plead adequately.” Moore v. Bd. of Educ. of Baltimore Cty., Civ. No. RDB-16-3439, 2017 WL 3172820, at *4 (D. Md. July 25, 2017).

         b. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         The burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). At this stage, “it is the court's task to evaluate whether the pleadings allege[ ] facts that affirmatively and plausibly suggest” that the Court has jurisdiction. Piper v. Meade & Assocs., Inc., 282 F.Supp.3d 905, 907 (D. Md. 2017) (discussing standing). That is, the Court will take all allegations in Plaintiff's complaint as true, and determine whether they are sufficient to establish subject-matter jurisdiction. See 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (3d. ed. Apr. 2018 Update) (“A facial attack challenges subject matter jurisdiction without disputing the facts alleged in the complaint and requires the court to treat the allegations of the complaint as true.”).

         c. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         A complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). An inference of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. Although when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         III. ...


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