United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR, CHIEF JUDGE
Lowman sued her employer, the Maryland Aviation
Administration ("MAA") for sex discrimination and
retaliation under federal and Maryland law. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a), 2000e-3(a); Md. Code Ann.,
State Gov't §§ 20-606(a), 20-606(f). MAA moved
to dismiss and, alternatively, for summary judgment. Lowman
moved to stay consideration of summary judgment. The motions
have been fully briefed, and no hearing is required.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
set forth below, the Court will deny in part and grant in
part MAA's motion to dismiss; grant Lowman's motion
to stay consideration of summary judgment; and deny without
prejudice MAA's motion for summary judgment.
Allegations of the Complaint
motion to dismiss stage, the Court takes the allegations of
the complaint as true, see, e.g., Ibarra v. United
States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997), and construes
any disputed allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, In re Royal Ahold N. V. Sees. & ERISA
Litig., 351 F.Supp.2d 334, 376 n.32 (D. Md. 2004)
("[Resolution of [a] factual dispute is inappropriate
when ruling on a motion to dismiss ...."). Here, the
Court summarizes Lowman's allegations.
seventeen years, Lowman worked for MAA, a division of the
Maryland Department of Transportation operating as Baltimore
Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport ("B
WI"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 10.) MAA hired
Lowman as a paramedic in 2000. (Id. ¶ 14.) By
2001, MAA promoted her to a Lieutenant of Emergency Medical
Services ("EMS"). (Id.) In 2014, Lowman
switched from B-shift work to day work and, later that year,
became Acting EMS Captain. (Id. ¶ 15.) At the
time Lowman became Acting Captain, she had thirty-two years
of fire service and EMS experience, (Id. ¶ 16.)
As Acting Captain, she was tasked with organizing the EMS
office and establishing protocols in preparation for the
hiring of a permanent EMS Division Chief. (Id.)
years leading up to 2014, Lowman received "Exceeds
Standards" in her overall performance evaluations.
(Id. ¶ 17.) In 2014, she received "Exceeds
Standards" and "Far Exceeds Standards" in
every category of the evaluation. (Id.) And, in
2015, Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce named
her the BWI Fire & Rescue Firefighter/Paramedic of the
Year. (Id. ¶ 18.)
applied for the Division Chief EMS position in 2015.
(Id. ¶ 19.) The job posting listed
"Preferred Qualifications," including graduation
from high school, "four years as a career fire officer,
in the rank of Lieutenant or above," and four years as
an emergency medical technician-paramedic. (Id.
¶ 21.) Plaintiff alleges that prior MAA job postings
listed "Minimum Requirements" instead of
"Preferred Qualifications." (Id. ¶
March 2015, Lowman was interviewed for the Division Chief
position. (Id. ¶ 22.) MAA internal hiring
directions require an interview panel to consist of "at
least three people one of whom should be a minority and one
of whom should be female." (Id. ¶ 23.) The
panel that interviewed Lowman comprised "[t]hree . . .
white males" and one "African-American
female." (Id. ¶ 23.) The
"African-American female" was an administrative
assistant "with no experience in the fire and rescue
field." (Id. ¶ 24.) While awaiting the
results of her interview, Lowman was removed from the
position of Acting EMS Captain, and, as a result, her pay was
reduced. (Id. ¶ 30.) Later, MAA executive
officers informed her that they removed her because they were
opening a permanent EMS Captain position and did not want her
favored over other candidates. (Id. ¶ 33.)
applicant, Charles Packard, was selected for the Division
Chief position. (Id. ¶ 25.) Lowman alleges
Packard had "less years of experience" than her.
Packard also did not have the enumerated preferred
qualification of holding a career fire officer position for
four years. (Id. ¶26.) Lowman learned of
Packard's selection on July 31, 2015 and filed a charge
of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") on August 15, 2015.
(Id. ¶ 25, 28; Compl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-3.)
Lowman continued working for MAA and helped transition
Packard into his new role. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.)
two years after Lowman filed the charge of discrimination,
the EEOC determined that Lowman was, in fact, "denied a
promotion to Division Chief of EMS position due to her sex
(female) in violations of Title VII." (Id.
¶ 29.) EEOC relied on the fact that "the male
selectee" did not meet the position's "minimum
qualifications." (Compl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 1-4.) EEOC sent
MAA a copy of the determination letter, dated June 14, 2017.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 34.) "Around the time that MAA was
notified of the EEOC complaint," Lowman requested a job
reclassification so that she could apply for the open
position of EMS Captain. (Id. ¶ 31, 46.) Even
though Lowman followed the proper reclassification procedure,
and even though "several other employees had
reclassifications completed" at that time, Lowman never
received a job reclassification. (Id. ¶ 47-48.)
Lowman applied and interviewed for the Captain EMS position
but, ultimately, withdrew her candidacy. (M.¶36)
17, 2017,  the MAA Chief, Division Chief Packard, and
a human resources representative met with Lowman and told her
that she would be placed back on shift work, including a
twenty-four-hour shift, after more than three years working
purely day shifts. (Id. ¶ 32.) Lowman was given
little notice of her new work schedule. (Id. ¶
50.) The schedule change was brief, however, and Lowman was
returned to the day shift "[s]hortly after being placed
on the new shift." (Id.¶51.)
retired on December 1, 2017. (Id. ¶ 36.) During
her final months at MAA, the EEOC informed Lowman that
efforts to conciliate her charge had been unsuccessful and
that the EEOC was referring her case to the U.S. Department
of Justice ("DO J") so that DO J could decide
whether to file a civil suit on her behalf. (Compl. Ex. 3,
ECF No. 1-5.) On February 2, 2018, DOJ notified Lowman that
DOJ would not pursue her case but that she had a right to sue
within ninety days. (Compl. Ex. 4, ECF No. 1-6.) Lowman
exercised this right by filing suit on April 22.
(See Compl., ECF No. 1.) Lowman amended her
complaint several months later.
Motion to Dismiss
sued MAA for sex discrimination and retaliation under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§
2000e-2(a), 2000e-3(a), and the Maryland Fair Employment
Practices Act ("MFEPA"), Md. Code Ann., State
Gov't §§ 20-606(a), 20-606(f). In evaluating
MAA's motion to dismiss, this Court addresses, first, the
timeliness and, second, the merits of Lowman's claims.
This Court concludes that Lowman's MFEPA discrimination
claim was untimely but that Lowman sufficiently alleged the
remaining claims: discrimination under Title VII and
retaliation under both Title VII and MFEPA.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a plaintiff s complaint.
Presley v. Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th
Cir. 2006). A complaint need only satisfy Rule 8(a), which
requires a "short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to dismiss, the
plaintiff must allege sufficient facts, accepted as true, to
"state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). Facial plausibility exists where the facts
allow the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is
liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But, inferring the
"mere possibility of misconduct" is not enough to
establish a plausible claim. Id. at 679. Moreover, a
complaint offering "labels and conclusions" or
"a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do." Id. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Here, the complaint must
state a claim for relief that is plausible under Title VII.
McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep't of Transp.,
State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 584-85 (4th Cir.
threshold matter, MAA asserts that Lowman's MFEPA claims
are time barred. A court may dismiss a complaint on statute
of limitations grounds "if the time bar is apparent on
the face of the complaint." Dean v. ...