United States District Court, D. Maryland
SEON D. DEABREU, Plaintiff,
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., Defendant.
THEODORE D. CHUANG DISTRICT JUDGE.
Seon Deabreu has filed a civil action against Defendant
United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS") alleging that
UPS discriminated against Deabreu on the basis of religion by
harassing him about his religious practice and retaliated
against Deabreu for contacting an attorney and filing a
complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") about the discrimination.
Deabreu asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (2012).
Presently pending before the Court is UPS's Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.
Upon review of the submitted materials, the Court finds that
no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6.
For the reasons set forth below, UPS's Motion is GRANTED.
delivers packages to customers throughout the United States.
Deabreu is a Rastafarian and as a result of his religious
beliefs wears his hair in dreadlocks, usually under a head
covering known as a tarn. He began working for UPS on January
1, 2003. His hair was covered by a tarn when he interviewed
for the position and when he began to work at UPS, such that
his hair was not visible. Initially, none of his co-workers
or managers asked him about his hairstyle or tarn. Deabreu
was assigned to work at UPS's warehouse distribution
facility in Laurel, Maryland and did not interact with or see
customers. While working at the warehouse distribution
center, he was promoted to the position of supervisor.
Deabreu never received complaints regarding the quality and
quantity of his work or his supervision of other employees.
Occasionally, his co-workers and supervisors asked him about
his hairstyle, and he informed them that he wore his hair in
dreadlocks because of his religion.
January 3, 2008, James Lott, a UPS manager, informed Deabreu
that his dreadlocks and facial hair did not comply with
UPS's appearance standards and that he had to comply with
those standards. Lott could not explain to Deabreu how his
hair and facial hair failed to meet those standards.
UPS's Employee Handbook described the company's
policies regarding employee conduct. The Employee
Handbook's appearance standards identified acceptable
hair and facial hair styles for employees who are drivers and
who otherwise interact with customers. However, the Employee
Handbook did not detail what appearance standards apply to
employees at warehouse distribution facilities, who do not
interface with customers. Specifically, it did not state that
employees at the Laurel warehouse distribution facility could
not wear their hair in dreadlocks.
Deabreu told Lott that he wore his hair in dreadlocks because
of his religious beliefs, Lott responded by questioning
Deabreu about those beliefs in a manner that suggested that
Lott did not believe Deabreu was "truthful" about
his beliefs. Compl. ¶ 16, ECF No. 1. After this
encounter, Lott gave Deabreu forms that would allow him to
request a religious accommodation.
then contacted an attorney, who sent a cease-and-desist
letter to Lott on February 14, 2008 asking Lott to stop
harassing Deabreu about his religion. Less than a month
later, on March 12, 2008, UPS suspended Deabreu and prevented
him from returning to work at the warehouse facility. Deabreu
then filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC on March
17, 2008. UPS terminated Deabreu's employment on April
14, 2008. The next day, on April 15, 2008, the EEOC mailed to
Lott at UPS the Notice of Charge of Discrimination filed by
Deabreu. After conducting an investigation, the EEOC issued
Deabreu a right-to-sue letter on October 17, 2008 and mailed
it to him at 6017 Springhill Drive #302, Greenbelt, MD 20770
on the same day.
22, 2016, Deabreu emailed Carol Glace, the EEOC investigator
assigned to investigate his Charge of Discrimination in 2008,
and requested a copy of his case file. Glace responded to
Deabreu on the same day, informing him that his charge was
closed on October 17, 2008 and that the file was destroyed in
2015 under the EEOC's record retention policy. On
February 8, 2018, Deabreu again contacted Glace by email and
requested a copy of the right-to-sue letter. Glace replied to
Deabreu the next day, stating that the file had been
destroyed and reminding Deabreu that they had had a similar
conversation in 2016. On February 15, 2018, Deabreu contacted
Rosemarie Rhodes, another EEOC employee, who told him by
email that EEOC records stated that a right-to-sue letter had
been sent to him on October 17, 2008, his file was destroyed
in 2015, and he had spoken with Glace in June 2016 about the
closure of his case. On February 16, 2018, Rhodes informed
Deabreu by email that she could not reissue the right-to-sue
letter to him.
April 20, 2018, Deabreu filed his Complaint in this Court,
alleging discriminatory harassment based on religion (Count
One) and retaliation (Count Two) in violation of Title VII.
Deabreu seeks compensatory and punitive damages and an
injunction preventing UPS from discriminating against
employees in this way in the future.
Motion, UPS seeks dismissal of all counts of the Complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or, in
the alternative, Rule 56. First, UPS argues that
Deabreu's suit is barred by the statute of limitations
because it was filed more than 90 days after the EEOC issued
a right-to-sue letter to Deabreu. Second, UPS asserts that
the doctrine of laches bars consideration of the suit,
because Deabreu did not act diligently in pursuing his claims
and UPS was prejudiced as a result. Next, UPS argues that
Deabreu has failed to exhaust administrative remedies
relating to his retaliation claim, as required by Title VII.
Finally, UPS contends that Deabreu has failed to state a
plausible claim for retaliation.
defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint
must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for
relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the
Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.
Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented
litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do
not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The 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).
may consider facts and documents subject to judicial notice
without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for
summary judgment. Clatterbuck v. City of
Charlottesville,708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013),
abrogated on other grounds, Reed v. Town of Gilbert,135 S.Ct. 2218 (2015). "Under this exception, courts may
consider 'relevant facts obtained from the public
record,' so long as these facts are construed in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff along with the
well-pleaded allegations of the complaint." Id.
(quoting B.H. Papasan v. Allain,578 U.S. 265, 283
(1986)). The Court therefore takes judicial notice of the
official filings of the EEOC to ...