United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
State of Maryland and the District Court for Prince
George's County, Maryland hired Doris Winston, an African
American, as a contractual Drug Court Coordinator on April
16, 2008. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6. ECF No. 11. On July
2, 2012, “Winston's position was reclassified from
Drug Court Coordinator to Problem Solving Courts Coordinator,
” id. ¶ 10, and on January 22, 2014, she
“was notified that her position would be changed from
‘contractual' to ‘temporary, '”
id. ¶ 20. Defendants terminated her employment
on March 12, 2014. Id. ¶ 6. Believing that her
reassignment from contractual to temporary and her
termination, as well as one of her supervisors' treatment
of her leading up to her termination, were discriminatory and
retaliatory, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.,
Winston filed an EEOC Charge and then this lawsuit against
Defendants. Compl., ECF No. 1; EEOC Charge, ECF No. 15-4.
have moved to dismiss or, alternatively for summary judgment,
arguing that Winston's EEOC Charge was not timely with
regard to most of the alleged conduct and she can neither
state a claim for discrimination, retaliation, or hostile
work environment nor prevail on any of her claims. ECF No.
Winston's claims for discriminatory termination and
hostile work environment are timely and sufficient to survive
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and it is premature to
consider a summary judgment motion. Winston fails to state a
claim for discrimination based on the change in her position,
and any discrimination claim based on her supervisors'
earlier treatment of her is untimely. Additionally, she fails
to state a claim for retaliation. Accordingly, all claims but
discriminatory termination and hostile work environment are
Drug Court Coordinator, Winston's duties “included
writing grants, monitoring budgets, preparing training
requests, monitoring expenditures, and preparing statistical
data reports, ” and she performed these duties
“for the Drug Court and the Mental Health Court
programs.” Am. Compl. ¶ 6. She reported to two
supervisors and two judges, one of whom was Judge Patricia
Lewis (who is Caucasian), a judge of the Mental Health Court.
Id. ¶ 7. Winston “received satisfactory
performance evaluations” through 2012. Id.
¶ 8. In 2012, Judge Lewis added to Winston's
workload, such as by directing Winston “to take over
data entry duties for the SMART computer system, ” a
task that Winston believed fell outside her job description
and for which she believed her Caucasian colleague Joy Wilde
was responsible. Id. ¶ 9. “These
additional duties unreasonably increased Plaintiff
Winston's workload, and it was impossible for her to
perform all SMART data entry duties in addition to her other
numerous duties.” Id. According to Winston,
“Judge Lewis was not authorized to assign Plaintiff
Winston new duties, including the case management
alleges that “[b]eginning in 2012 and continuing
through her termination, Judge Lewis regularly harassed,
intimidated, and demeaned Plaintiff Winston, ”
reprimanded her, “verbally attacked” her, and
“publicly berated her, ” while treating other
employees “in a respectful manner.” Id.
¶ 11. Winston reported Judge Lewis's
“discriminatory conduct, ” but it did not stop.
Id. ¶ 13. Rather, in addition to other ongoing
“harassment, ” in April 2013,
Judge Lewis issued Plaintiff Winston a performance evaluation
related to her work with the Mental Health Court for period
from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012, which contained
false criticism of Plaintiff Winston's performance and
rated her performance as less than satisfactory in the
majority of performance categories. Judge Lewis'
evaluation of Plaintiff Winston falsely accused her of
failing to perform duties related to the SMART case
management program, including failing to process criminal
intake and discharge data, even though Judge Lewis knew that
Ms. Wilde was the data entry clerk responsible for data entry
in the SMART system.
Id. ¶ 16; see also Id. ¶ 13.
later, on January 22, 2014, Winston “was notified that
her position would be changed from ‘contractual' to
‘temporary, '” which caused her to lose
“benefits, including paid leave.” Id.
¶ 20. She believes that hers was the only position to be
reclassified. Id. Then, on March 12, 2014,
Defendants terminated Winston's employment in a letter
that “stated that she was being terminated for failure
to perform her duties because there was a discrepancy in the
SMART system and a number of clients were listed in the
system even though their cases were closed and they should
have been removed from the system.” Id. ¶
21. According to Plaintiff, the discrepancy occurred
“because she and Ms. Wilde had been incorrectly
instructed on how to close cases in the SMART system, ”
and “Ms. Wilde, who was responsible for case management
in the SMART system, was not terminated.” Id.
Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, for Summary Judgment, arguing that the exhibits
they have attached to their motion show that, even if Winston
can state a claim, the undisputed facts demonstrate that they
are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In response,
Winston's attorney filed an affidavit pursuant to Rule
56(d). ECF No. 18-2.
If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for
specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to
justify its opposition [to a motion for summary judgment],
the court may:
(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;
(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to
take discovery; or
(3) issue any other appropriate order.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). “[D]iscovery is appropriate when
‘the main issue' is ‘one of motive' and
when ‘most of the key evidence lies in the control'
of the party moving for summary judgment.” Gorham
v. Md., Dep't of Gen. Servs., No. ELH-17-2732, 2018
WL 3475446, at *7 (D. Md. July 19, 2018) (quoting McCray
v. Md. Dep't of Transp., 741 F.3d 480, 484 (4th Cir.
2014). For example, discovery is appropriate when a plaintiff
must prove “‘that she was fired because of
discriminatory reasons, '” and any supporting
“evidence [is] within the control of the [defendant],
” such that “‘[a]bsent discovery,' . .
. the plaintiff lacked ‘adequate access to this
evidence, and therefore no way to shield herself from a
premature summary judgment motion.'” Id.
(quoting McCray, 741 F.3d at 484).
counsel asserts that “Winston has no personal knowledge
of communication between/among other parties and is not in
possession of all documents retained by Defendants in their
regular course of business, ” Aff. 1, and she needs
this information to oppose Defendants' arguments
regarding, inter alia, her “role in
maintaining the SMART system” and the roles that others
played; the hiring of her replacement; and the reasoning for
changing her position from contractual to temporary,
id. at 2-4. Because Plaintiff has not had the
opportunity to obtain evidence about Defendants'
employment decisions and the motivating factors behind them-
evidence entirely within Defendants' hands-, I will not
consider Defendants' motion as one for summary judgment
at this time. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d);
McCray, 741 F.3d at 484; Gorham, 2018 WL
3475446, at *7.
Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint is subject to
dismissal if it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a
plausible claim for relief, ” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). “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. Rule 12(b)(6)'s purpose
“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.” Velencia
v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D.
Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)).
[A] complaint must “‘permit the court to infer
more than the mere possibility of misconduct' based upon
‘its judicial experience and common sense.'”
Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190
(4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). To
this end, “while a plaintiff [in an employment
discrimination case] is not required to plead facts that
constitute a prima facie case in order to survive a
motion to dismiss, [f]actual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A.,
534 U.S. 506, 510-15 (2002); Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555); see also McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dept. of Transp.,
State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015).
Nam v. 2012 Inc., No. DKC-15-1931, 2016 WL 107198,
at *3 (D. Md. Jan. 11, 2016) (alterations in Nam).
at this stage of the proceedings, I accept the well pleaded
facts in Winston's Amended Complaint as true, see
Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011), when
reviewing a motion to dismiss, I “may consider . . .
documents attached to the motion to dismiss, if they are
integral to the complaint and their authenticity is not
disputed.” Sposato v. First Mariner Bank, No.
CCB-12-1569, 2013 WL 1308582, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 28, 2013);
see CACI Int'l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins.
Co., 566 F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, I
will consider the EEOC Charge, which Defendants attached to