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Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS)

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 16, 2018

KHALILAH JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC. (UPS), Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc.'s (“UPS”) Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17). This action arises from UPS's employment of Plaintiff Khalilah Johnson as a package delivery driver. The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the Motion.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         In 2014, Johnson filed a lawsuit against UPS and others asserting discrimination based on race, sex, and religion. See Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. RDB-14-4003 (D.Md. removed Dec. 23, 2014). The Court ultimately entered summary judgment in favor of UPS on Johnson's claims against it. See Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. RDB-14-4003, 2016 WL 4240072 (D.Md. Aug. 11, 2016). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the Court's decision. See Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 681 Fed.Appx. 177 (4th Cir. 2017).

         Johnson returned to work from an injury around May 1, 2015, at which point her supervisor confronted her about her prior lawsuit. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 13). Subsequently, her delivery truck began to be overloaded with disorganized packages. (Id.). The over-packing occurred every day. (Id. ¶ 5). Johnson believed the overloading of her truck was retaliatory. (Id. ¶ 2(A)). When she came to work on a day she was not scheduled to appear, she found the truck packed neatly and safely for her replacement driver. (Id.). On Friday, May 15, 2015, Johnson's truck was so over packed that she was forced to work past sundown, even though she had received a religious accommodation allowing her to observe the Sabbath beginning at sundown on Friday evenings. (Id. ¶ 10). When Johnson warned her managers that they were violating her religious accommodation, they expressed a lack of concern. (Id. ¶¶ 10-13). In fact, Johnson alleges that one of her supervisors would go out of his way to make her work late on Friday afternoons, for the express purpose of interfering with her religious accommodation. (Id. ¶ 13).

         On both June 1 and July 30, 2015, Johnson injured herself trying to move around inside her truck in order to retrieve packages and unload them for delivery. (Id. ¶ 2(D)). As a result of these injuries, she was out of work beginning in July 2015. (Id. ¶ 3). At this point, Johnson filed complaints with UPS and sought workers' compensation for her injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 2(E), (G)). When Johnson returned to work in August 2017, the over-packing resumed and she was again injured. (Id. ¶ 4).

         Johnson filed a separate Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging retaliation and discrimination based on sex and religion (the “Charge”). (Am. Compl. Ex. D [“EEOC Charge”] at 16-17, ECF No. 13-4).[3] On March 29, 2017, the EEOC issued Johnson a Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue. (Id. at 15).

         Johnson filed the present action on June 27, 2017. (ECF No. 1). Johnson filed an Amended Complaint on December 15, 2017. (ECF No. 13). In her three-count Amended Complaint, Johnson alleges: Retaliation Due to Protected Activity (Count I); Retaliation for Requesting and Maintaining a Religious Accommodation as a Sabbath Keeping Christian (Count II); and Discriminatory Unequal Terms and Conditions of Employment Due to Religion, Creating a Hostile Work Environment (Count III). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-24). Johnson seeks various damages, front and back pay, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney's fees and costs, remedial training for UPS management, and out-of-pocket medical expenses. (Id. at 7-8).

         UPS now moves to dismiss each claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. Johnson filed an Opposition on February 5, 2018. (ECF No. 20). UPS filed a Reply on March 5, 2018. (ECF No. 24).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         1. Rule 12(b)(1)

         UPS challenges, inter alia, whether Johnson exhausted her administrative remedies for her claims. Motions to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies are governed by Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children's Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D.Md. 2010) (quoting Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D.Md. 2003)). As a result, courts treat such motions as motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction for the purpose of this argument. Id.

         A defendant challenging a complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) may advance a “facial challenge, asserting that the allegations 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.'” Hasley v. Ward Mfg., LLC, No. RDB-13-1607, 2014 WL 3368050, at *1 (D.Md. July 8, 2014) (alteration in original) (quoting Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009)). When a defendant raises a facial challenge, the Court affords the plaintiff the “the same procedural protection as he would receive under a Rule 12(b)(6) consideration.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192 (quoting Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). Because UPS raises a facial challenge to whether Johnson exhausted her administrative remedies, the Court will evaluate its Motion on subject matter jurisdiction grounds under a Rule 12(b)(6) standard.

         2. Rule 12(b)(6)

         “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “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). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 Fed.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         2. Conversion to a Motion for Summary Judgment

         In this case, UPS filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 17). A motion styled as a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         The Court “has ‘complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.'” Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No. ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927, at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2012 Supp.)).

         Here, the Court exercises its discretion to decline to consider any material beyond the pleadings. See id. (quoting Wright & Miller, supra § 1366, at 159). Thus, the Court will construe UPS's Motion as a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

         B. ...


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