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Grandy v. City of Baltimore

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 20, 2018

ROOSEVELT M. GRANDY Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF BALTIMORE BALTIMORE CITY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS and CITY OF BALTIMORE HUMAN RESOURCES Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this employment discrimination case, self-represented plaintiff Roosevelt M. Grandy has sued the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (“DPW”), as well as the City of Baltimore (the “City”), the “City of Baltimore Human Resources” (“DHR”), and three individuals. See ECF 1 (“Complaint”). He has twice amended his suit. See ECF 6 (“First Amended Complaint”); ECF 9 (“Second Amended Complaint”).

         Grandy alleges retaliation and failure to promote in violation of the following: (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”); (2) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (“ADEA”); (3) § 3-1(5) of Article 4 of the Baltimore City Code; (4) §§ 1-2 of the Baltimore City Administrative Manual AM-204-18 (the “Manual”), and (5) multiple articles of the Memorandum of Understanding between Baltimore City and the City Union of Baltimore, Local 800, ATF, AFL-CIO (“Collective Bargaining Agreement”) for Fiscal Years 2017-2019. See id. He seeks a promotion to the position of Liaison Officer I, as well as punitive damages, liquidated damages, and back pay. ECF 9 at 7; see also ECF 1 at 6.

         Two motions are now pending.[1] First, defendants have moved to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims, with the exception of his claim brought under the ADEA. ECF 13 (“Defendants' Motion”). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), they seek dismissal on the ground that plaintiff fails to state a claim under Title VII, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and Article 4 of the Baltimore City Code. ECF 13 at 6-8. They also claim that the individual defendants, DPW, and DHR “have no legal identity and are not subject suit.” Id. at 5. They do not directly address plaintiff's claims under the Manual. Second plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). ECF 23 (“Plaintiff's Motion”).

         The parties oppose one another's motions. See ECF 21 (“Plaintiff's Opposition”); ECF 27 (“Defendants' Opposition”). The parties did not reply, and the time for them to do so has expired. See Docket; Local Rule 105.2.a.

         The Court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the pleadings of a pro se litigant, which are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Sause v. Bauer, ___ U.S.___, 138 S.Ct. 2561, 2563 (2018); White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). Nonetheless, no hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6.

         For the reasons that follow, I shall deny plaintiff's Motion, and I shall grant Defendants' Motion in part and deny it in part. In particular, I shall grant Defendants' Motion as to the discrimination claim brought under Title VII and the claims under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I shall also grant the Defendants' Motion as to the three individually named defendants, as well as DPW and DHR. However, I shall deny the Motion as to the claim brought under §§ 1-2 of the Manual. Furthermore, I shall construe the Second Amended Complaint's claim of retaliation brought under Title VII as one brought under § 4(d) of the ADEA, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 623(d). I shall also construe the claim of discrimination brought under § 3-1(1) of Article 4 of the Baltimore City Code as one brought under § 3-1(5).

         I. Factual Background[2]

         The Baltimore City Charter establishes a municipal corporation known as “‘Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, '” which “may sue or be sued.” Balt. City Charter, Art. 1, § 1. It also establishes the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (“DPW”) and the Department Human Resources (“DHR”). See Id. Art. VII, §§ 27-42 (creating DPW); id. Art. VII, §§ 96-97 (creating DHR).

         Grandy was born in 1956. ECF 9 at 4. He began working for DPW's Bureau of Water and Wastewater on November 5, 2001. See ECF 8-2 (Letter from Nikki Jackson, Office Supervisor for the Bureau of Waste and Waster of the DPW, dated May 6, 2010). On December 13, 2011, he earned a Bachelor of Science from Coppin State University. See ECF 8-4 (Diploma). According to Grandy, DHR told him that his degree entitled him to the “In-Promotion Office Assistant III position.” ECF 8 (“Supplement to First Amended Complaint”).[3] At the time and throughout the relevant period, Grandy was classified as an Office Assistant II. ECF 9.

         On July 20, 2016, plaintiff interviewed for the open position of Liaison Officer I. ECF 9 at 5. The interview was conducted by a three-member panel of DPW staff as well as DHR representative Ajeenah Green. Id.; ECF 1-1 at 1. Grandy maintains that during the interview, he was “asked a question about [his] age, ” which he answered. ECF 9 at 5. According to Grandy, Green “did not communicate to [the] panel [that] the question was discriminatory.” Id.

         The position was not offered to Grandy. If he had been selected, the position would have been a promotion for him. ECF 9 at 7. Instead, the City selected a candidate “at least 30 years younger than all of the other interviewees.” ECF 1-1 (“EEOC Determination Letter”) at 1. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), “the test results . . . were a compilation of subjective interview scores by the panel members.” Id. The “selected candidate . . . was given a perfect score on every answer by two members of the interview panel and prefect scores on almost all responses by the third.” Id. The other three interviewees, including Grandy, did not receive a single perfect score on any question from any member of the interview panel. Id. Additionally, “notes of the selected candidate's interview reveal that she cited her youth as a positive factor in response to a particular interview question; that response was scored highly by all members of the interview panel.” Id.

         After Grandy was not selected for the position, he “was told to file a grievance pursuant to Grievance Procedures of the Memorandum of Understanding [i.e., the Collective Bargaining Agreement] Article 8.” ECF 9 at 5. But, it appears that Grandy thought the grievance process was biased and that his case “needed to be investigated by an outside agency.” Id.; see ECF 21 (“Plaintiff's Opposition”) at 1 (“I did not pursue the grievance process . . . because I saw [on a previous occasion] that justice was not equally applied[.]”). Grandy concedes that he did not complete the Collective Bargaining Agreement's four-step grievance process. ECF 21 at 1 (“I did not pursue the grievance process pursuant to the City of Baltimore and Union of Baltimore Memorandum of Understanding [i.e., Collective Bargaining Agreement]); see also ECF 18 at 5-8 (Article 8 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement).

         Plaintiff also sought relief through the EEOC's investigative and remedial processes. According to Gandy, on March 20, 2017, he filed a charge of discrimination based on age, as well as retaliation, with the EEOC. ECF 1 at 5; ECF 1-1 at 1.[4] Grandy did not file a copy of the charge with the Court.

         “During the process of filing for a grievance and gathering documentation for [his] EEOC claim, ” Grandy “continued to apply for several other position[s] in the [C]ity[.]” ECF 9 at 5-6. According to Grandy, the City did not notify him of a vacant Office Specialist III position, in retaliation for his preparation of an EEOC charge based on the City's earlier refusal to promote him. ECF 9 at 6. The City filled the position with a candidate from another division. Id.; see also ECF 14-2 at 2. Defendants maintain that Grandy was not contacted for the open position because he did not sit for the qualifying exam. See ECF 9 at 6; ECF 14-2 at 2.

         In February 2017, another Liaison Officer I position became available. ECF 14-2 at 2. Grandy asserts that the City did not consider him as another act of retaliation. Id. According to the DHR, Grandy was not considered for the position because the interview applicants were pulled from the so-called “promotional list” dated February 28, 2017. Id. Grandy was not on this list “because he applied for the previous Liaison Officer [] I position on 4/29/16, under the open list option and not under the promotion list option.” Id.

         The EEOC issued a Determination on January 31, 2018, finding “reasonable cause to believe” that Grandy “was denied [a] promotion to the Liaison Officer I position September 21, 2016, due to his age, in violation of the ADEA.” ECF 1-1 at 2. The EEOC “made no finding” as to Grandy's other allegations. Id. According to Grandy, the City did not engage in reconciliation with the EEOC officer. See ECF 9 at 5.

         On February 29, 2018, Grandy accepted a promotion to the position of “Office Support Specialist III” for the Department of Transportation. ECF 9 at 6. He filed this suit on May 8, 2018. ECF 1. Three weeks later, the EEOC issued a Notice of Failure to Conciliate (ECF 9-1 at 3) and a Notice of Suit Rights (ECF 8-6 at 2-3). The Notice of Suit Rights instructed plaintiff that a “lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 DAYS of [his] receipt of this notice; or [his] right to sue based on this charge will be lost.” ECF 8-6 at 2.

         Plaintiff amended his Complaint on June 4, 2018. ECF 6. Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (ECF 9) on June 19, 2018. And, plaintiff has twice submitted supplements to his complaints. See ECF 3 (“Supplement to Complaint”); ECF 8 (“Supplement to First Amended Complaint”).

         II. Motion To Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

         A 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.”

         Whether 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).

         To 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) (citation omitted) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions' . . . .”); 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).

         Nevertheless, 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 quotation marks omitted).

         In 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., 637 F.3d at 440 (citations omitted); see Semenova v. MTA, 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).

         Courts 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 (quoting Republican Party v. Martin,980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992)). However, “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); accord Pressley v. Tupperware Long Term Disability Plan,553 F.3d 334, 336 (4th Cir. 2009). 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 ...


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