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Washington v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

July 26, 2018

STACEY WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this employment discrimination suit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Plaintiff Stacey Washington alleges that Defendant Montgomery County rescinded Plaintiff's employment offer because of her disability, and subjected her to “unlawful medical inquiries” regarding her disability. Montgomery County has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, or in the alternative for summary judgment. ECF No. 15. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Montgomery County's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 15, is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff is a resident of Hyattsville, Maryland, who has a disability that is identified in her Amended Complaint.[2] ECF No. 13 ¶¶ 14, 23.[3] Up until 2014, Plaintiff worked as a school bus operator in Prince George's County. Id. ¶ 25. On June 27, 2014, Plaintiff was offered the position of Bus Operator, Grade 15, by Montgomery County's Department of Transportation (the “Department”). Id. ¶ 24. The offer was contingent upon her completion of a Medical History Review Form and a physical examination. Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff's disability was not listed as a disqualifying condition for driving a commercial motor vehicle under the Department's regulations. Id. ¶ 26.

         The Montgomery County Office of Human Resources instructed Plaintiff to undergo an examination at its Occupational Medical Services (“OMS”). Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff completed the required Medical History Review Form and submitted it to OMS at her first examination on July 11, 2014. Id. ¶ 29. The Form did not inquire about Plaintiff's disability, and she did not disclose the disability at that time. Id. ¶ 30. At that examination, Plaintiff gave blood and urine samples and was examined by Dr. Salvador Sylvester, who “held himself out as a doctor employed by Defendant's Office of Human Resources, Occupational Medical Services.” Id. ¶¶ 31-32. Sylvester communicated to Plaintiff in writing on Montgomery County Office of Human Resources letterhead. Id. ¶ 33. During the first examination, Plaintiff's blood pressure was high and Sylvester asked her to consult with her primary care physician and return for a follow-up appointment on July 21, 2014. Id. ¶ 36. There, Sylvester told Plaintiff that she had “abnormal liver tests, ” and Plaintiff disclosed that she had a condition related to her disability that explained the abnormal tests (she did not at the time disclose her disability). Id. ¶¶ 38, 40. Sylvester requested additional information from Plaintiff, and in March 2015, reminded her that she needed to submit the information. Id. ¶¶ 41-42.

         Before Plaintiff's next appointment with Sylvester on April 16, 2015, Plaintiff provided Sylvester with letters from a specialist and her primary care doctor stating that she was “able to work without restrictions and did not pose a risk to others given her job description.” Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff alleges that at the April 16, 2015 appointment, Sylvester knew that Plaintiff's lab results were consistent with her disability and “raised questions to [Plaintiff] to confirm this diagnosis” even though it “did not impact her ability to drive a bus.” Id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff finally disclosed her disability to Sylvester, who asked her “whether she had warned the phlebotomist who had just taken her blood to be ‘extra careful, '” a comment that made Plaintiff “feel ashamed.” Id. ¶¶ 47- 49. After this, Sylvester requested additional information regarding Plaintiff's disability, including all doctor's notes from 2014 and 2015, her diagnosis and treatment, prognosis, medications, test results, and additional material. Id. ¶ 51. Sylvester did not advise her that the requested information would be kept confidential from Montgomery County management. Id. ¶ 57. Plaintiff did not respond to the request for additional information “because she was concerned that her individually identifiable health information would be disclosed to her prospective employer . . . .” Id. ¶ 58. On March 3, 2016, Montgomery County rescinded Plaintiff's offer of employment. Id. ¶ 63. Plaintiff alleges that Sylvester did not medically clear Plaintiff because of her disability. Id. ¶ 64.

         On October 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint against Montgomery County, ECF No. 1, which she subsequently amended on December 27, 2017, ECF No. 13. Both Complaints were filed under seal, in an apparent attempt to keep the nature of Plaintiff's disability and related condition confidential.[4] On January 10, 2018, Montgomery County filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 15.[5] The County argues that Plaintiff has failed to plead that she was denied employment on the basis of her disability, and that Sylvester is an independent contractor and not an agent of the County. ECF No. 15-1 at 10-23. Attached to its Motion, the County includes Affidavits of County employees, ECF No. 15-2, ECF No. 15-4, an email between County employees discussing the rescission of Plaintiff's employment offer, ECF No. 15-5, and the contract between the County and Sylvester's employer, Medocracy, Inc., ECF No. 15-3.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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.'” Ashcroft 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 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“a plaintiff's 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 de 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 Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Papasan v. Allain, 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).

         Defendant's Motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, for Summary Judgment. If the Court considers materials outside the pleadings, the Court must treat a motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Id. When the moving party styles its motion as a “Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ” as is the case here, and attaches additional materials to its motion, the nonmoving party is, of course, aware that materials outside the pleadings are before the Court, and the Court can treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See Laughlin v. Metropolitan Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998). Further, the Court is not prohibited from granting a motion for summary judgment before the commencement of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (stating that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact” without distinguishing pre-or post-discovery).

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), show that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to material facts. Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If the moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is only “genuine” if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. However, the nonmoving party “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         While the Court may rule on a motion for summary judgment prior to commencement of discovery, see, e.g., Demery v. Extebank Deferred Compensation Plan (B), 216 F.3d 283, 286 (2d Cir. 2000), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) “mandates that summary judgment be denied when the nonmovant has not had the opportunity to discover information that is essential to his opposition.” Pisano v. Strach, 743 F.3d 927, 931 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). “To obtain Rule 56(d) relief, the non-moving party bears the burden of showing how discovery could possibly create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to survive summary judgment or otherwise affect the court's analysis.” Poindexter v. Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp., 792 F.3d 406, 411 (4th Cir. 2015).

         III. ...


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