United States District Court, D. Maryland
LIPTON HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment discrimination case, the self-represented
plaintiff, Maria Manga, has sued her former employer, the
U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA” or the
“Agency”); the SBA's Administrator, Linda
McMahon; and plaintiff's former supervisor, Edward Knox,
Jr. ECF 5 (Amended Complaint); ECF 12 (Motion to Amend
Caption). Plaintiff alleges that she suffered discrimination
on the basis of her national origin (Cameroon); her race
(Black); as well as retaliation. ECF 5. Suit is founded on
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17.
See ECF 1-1 (Civil Cover Sheet) at 2.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), defendants McMahon and the SBA
moved to dismiss plaintiff's Amended Complaint, on the
ground that plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative
remedies. ECF 23. The motion is supported by a memorandum of
law (ECF 23-1) (collectively, “McMahon Motion”),
and one exhibit. Plaintiff opposes the McMahon Motion, and
submitted numerous exhibits. ECF 27 (“First
Opposition”). McMahon replied. ECF 32 (“McMahon
Reply”). Knox also moved to dismiss plaintiff's
claims as to him, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF 30. His
motion is supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 30-1
(collectively, “Knox Motion”). Plaintiff did not
respond to the Knox Motion.
the filing of the Knox Motion and the McMahon Motion,
plaintiff submitted “Plaintiff's Privacy Act
Complaint.” ECF 37 (“Privacy Act Complaint”
or “PAC”). The Privacy Act Complaint alleges
three new causes of action against the SBA, allegedly
pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a
(“Privacy Act”), and the Freedom of Information
Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (“FOIA”). Plaintiff did
not provide a legal basis for the filing of these new claims
within the existing suit, but I shall construe them as a
supplement to the Amended Complaint.
jointly moved to dismiss the Privacy Act Complaint under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative,
for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. ECF 43. The
motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 43-1)
(collectively, “PAC Motion”) and two exhibits.
Plaintiff opposes the PAC Motion, and submitted several more
exhibits. ECF 49 (“Second Opposition”).
Defendants replied. ECF 51 (“PAC Reply”).
hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant
all three motions.
Factual and Procedural Background
is “a female native born of Cameroon in Africa, and a
Naturalized Citizen of the United States of America.”
ECF 5 at 1. She alleges that she is “currently
employed, at least [she] still believe[s] so, ” as a
Business Opportunity Specialist at the SBA, where she began
work in 1998. ECF 5 at 1. Despite this assertion, plaintiff
also alleges that on November 2, 2016, she was terminated
from her position. Id. at 9. Plaintiff formerly
worked at the Washington, DC office of the SBA, but was
transferred to the Baltimore field office in July 2014.
Id. ¶¶ 11, 13. According to plaintiff, she
was transferred out of the DC office in retaliation for
filing a complaint of discrimination against her former
supervisor, Luz A. Hopewell. Id. ¶¶ 9-11.
asserts that from her “first day in [the] Baltimore
office, July 7, 2014, ” until October 4, 2015,
plaintiff's working relationship with Knox, her
supervisor in Baltimore, was strained. Id. ¶
13. She alleges that Knox assigned and then withdrew projects
from plaintiff without explanation, and that Knox
“demoted” plaintiff, assigning her to perform
clerical duties rather than more substantive work.
Id. Knox allegedly promoted plaintiff's
coworkers and gave them “cash rewards, ” but
never promoted plaintiff or increased her salary.
Id. ¶¶ 14-15.
occasion, Knox requested a volunteer to lead a training
program for the public. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff was
the only person to volunteer. Id. As a result, Knox
allegedly canceled the program. Id. Manga asserts,
id.: “The reason Mr. Knox told me was my
pronunciation of some English words was not standard
alleged mistreatment by Knox “compounded [her] stress
level, ” and she “collapsed near Mr. Knox's
office on October 29, 2015.” Id. ¶ 15.
According to plaintiff, Knox called her into his office as
she was about to leave for the day, and “wanted to talk
to [her] about [her] productivity.” Id.
Plaintiff asked to postpone the conversation until the next
day to avoid missing her train. Id. She alleges that
Knox “firmly replied and threatened [her] that [she]
sit to talk with him or he [would] write [her] up for
insubordination.” Id. Plaintiff then collapsed
and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Id. As a
result, she maintains that she was unable to return to work
for a period of time. ECF 5, ¶ 15. However, Manga
alleges that “Mr. Knox's conclusions were that[ ]
[she] lacked integrity and [she] was faking it or
January 2016, defendants allegedly placed plaintiff on leave
with no pay. Id. at 9. And, on November 2, 2016,
plaintiff alleges that she was finally terminated.
Id. According to plaintiff, “this is all
because [plaintiff is] different from [Knox] and others like
him. Most importantly, because [plaintiff] [has] filed or
[has] a history of filing a complaint.” Id.
her termination, plaintiff alleges that she “could not
get a job because of lack of training.” ECF 37 at 2.
According to plaintiff, she has requested “her
files” from a Human Resources Representative at the
SBA, to which she “requires access due to pending
federal employment.” Id. However, “no
documents have been released.” Plaintiff asserts that
she has applied for a total of 102 jobs but has been rejected
“due to Bad Credit report.” Id. Her bad
credit has purportedly prevented her from getting jobs that
require a security clearance. Id. at 3. Plaintiff
also alleges that as a result of being unemployed, she has
suffered “mental distress, emotional trauma,
embarrassment, humiliation, and lost or jeopardized present
or future financial opportunities.” Id.
Standards of Review
challenge to a federal court's subject matter
jurisdiction is reviewed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).
Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of
proving, by a preponderance of evidence, the existence of
subject matter jurisdiction. See Demetres v. East West
Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015); see
also Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th
of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may
proceed “in one of two ways”: either a facial
challenge, asserting that the allegations pleaded in the
complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter
jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting
“‘that the jurisdictional allegations of the
complaint [are] not true.'” Kerns v. United
States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation
omitted); accord Durden v. United States, 736 F.3d
296, 300 (4th Cir. 2013). A factual challenge can also assert
that facts outside the four corners of the complaint preclude
the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
bring a factual challenge because they argue that plaintiff
failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under Title
VII. ECF 23-1 at 5-7. Defendants contend that the failure to
exhaust deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction as
to these claims. Id
considering a factual challenge, “the district court is
entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to
subject matter jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d
at 192. In that circumstance, the court “may regard the
pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider
evidence outside the pleadings without converting the
proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Velasco v.
Gov't of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir.
2004); see also United States ex rel. Vuyyuru v.
Jadhav, 555 F.3d 337, 347-48 (4th Cir. 2009)
(“Unless ‘the jurisdictional facts are
intertwined with the facts central to the merits of the
dispute,' the district court may . . . resolve the
jurisdictional facts in dispute by considering evidence . . .
such as affidavits.”) (Citation omitted).
defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by
way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In re
Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines
v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd, 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th
Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393,
408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom. McBurney v.
Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule
12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that,
even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the
complaint fails as a matter of law “to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.”
a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief” The purpose of the
rule is to provide the defendants with “fair
notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for
entitlement to relief Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in
Twombly expounded the pleading standard for
‘all civil actions' ..... (citation omitted));
see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th
Cir. 2017). But, a plaintiff need not include “detailed
factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading
rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for
imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss.,
___U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).
the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere
speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342,
350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides no more than
“labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” it
is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather,
to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the
complaint must set forth “enough factual matter (taken
as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action,
“even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is
improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and
unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, 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 de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citations omitted); see Semenova v. Maryland Transit
Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v.
Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir.
2015); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th
Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But,
a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn
from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986). “A court decides whether [the pleading]
standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the
factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual
allegations, and then determining whether those allegations
allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff
is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without
a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011),
cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).
generally do not “‘resolve contests surrounding
the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses'” through a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
Edwards, 178 F.3d at 243 (citation omitted). The
purpose of the rule is to ensure that defendants are
“given adequate notice of the nature of a claim”
made against them. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56
(2007). But, “in the relatively rare circumstances
where facts sufficient to rule on an affirmative defense are
alleged in the complaint, the defense may be reached by a
motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6).”
Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th
Cir. 2007) (en banc); see also U.S ex rel Oberg v. Penn.
Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 745 F.3d 131, 148 (4th
Cir. 2014); Pressley v. Tupperware Long Term Disability
Plan, 533 F.3d 334, 336 (4th Cir. 2009). However,
because Rule 12(b)(6) “is intended [only] to test the
legal adequacy of the complaint, ” Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. Forst, 4 F.3d
244, 250 (4th Cir. 1993), “[t]his principle only
applies . . . if all facts necessary to the affirmative
defense ‘clearly appear[ ] on the face of the
complaint.'” Goodman, 494 F.3d at 464
(quoting Forst, 4 F.3d at 250) (emphasis added in
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint in connection with
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court ordinarily “may not
consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or
not expressly incorporated therein . . . .”
Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d
549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013); see Bosiger, 510 F.3d 442,
450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, without converting a motion to
dismiss to a motion for summary judgment, a court may
properly consider documents expressly incorporated into the
complaint or attached to the motion to dismiss,
“‘so long as they are integral to the complaint
by reference and authentic.'” U.S. ex rel.
Oberg, 745 F.3d at 136 (quoting Philips v. Pitt Cty.
Memorial Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009));
see Six v. Generations Federal Credit Union, 891
F.3d 508, 512 (4th Cir. 2018); Goldfarb v. Mayor &
City Council of Balt., 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir.
2015); Anand v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 754 F.3d
195, 198 (4th Cir. 2014); Am. Chiropractic Ass'n v.
Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir.
2004). To be “integral” a document must be one
“that by its ‘very existence, and not the
mere information it contains, gives rise to the legal
rights asserted.'” Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc.
v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611
(D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original).
See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) (“A copy of a
written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part
of the pleading for all purposes.”).
“before treating the contents of an attached or
incorporated document as true, the district court should
consider the nature of the document and why the plaintiff
attached it.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 167 (citing
N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S.
Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 455 (7th Cir. 1998)). “When
the plaintiff attaches or incorporates a document upon which
his claim is based, or when the complaint otherwise shows
that the plaintiff has adopted the contents of the document,
crediting the document over conflicting allegations in the
complaint is proper.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 167.
Conversely, “where the plaintiff ...