United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE
action is brought by Plaintiff Latanya Dawson, an employee of
Defendant Housing Authority of Baltimore City
("HABC"). Dawson alleges that she experienced
sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated by her former
supervisor at HABC, Defendant Wade Johnson. Dawson alleges
this abuse and harassment created a hostile work environment
and constituted quid pro quo sexual harassment in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
additionally violated the Due Process and Equal Protection
Clauses of the Constitution. Compl., ECF No. 1.
filed a motion to dismiss Dawson's complaint or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment. ECF No. 5, Johnson filed a
motion to dismiss. ECF No. 7. The motions have been briefed,
ECF Nos. 11, 12, 14, and 15, and no hearing is necessary,
see Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the following
reasons, Defendants' motions, ECF Nos. 5 and 7, will be
granted in part and denied in part.
Standard of Dismissal for Failure to State a
complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility
exists "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. An inference of a mere
possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a
plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the Twombly
opinion stated, "Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level."
550 U.S. at 555. "A pleading that offers 'labels and
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.' . . . Nor
does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked
assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual
enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although
when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as
true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle
does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Standard for Summary Judgment
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule
56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the
absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Adickes
v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If
sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury to render a
verdict in favor of the party opposing the motion, then a
genuine dispute of material fact is presented and summary
judgment should be denied. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However, the "mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[opposing party's] position" is insufficient to
defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 252.
The facts themselves, and the inferences to be drawn from the
underlying facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable
to the opposing party, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 378 (2007); Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230
(4th Cir. 2008), who may not rest upon the mere allegations
or denials of his pleading but instead must, by affidavit or
other evidentiary showing, set out specific facts showing a
genuine dispute for trial, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Supporting
and opposing affidavits are to be made on personal knowledge,
contain such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and
show affirmatively the competence of the affiant to testify
to the matters stated in the affidavit. Fed.R.Civ.P.
Allegations of the Complaint
has been employed by HABC since 1994 as a Maintenance Clerk.
Compl. ¶ 11. Dawson worked at the Gilmor Homes location,
and Johnson was transferred to that location and began acting
as her supervisor. Id. ¶ 14. Between February
and June 2016, Dawson alleges that Johnson made
"sexually explicit and lewd comments to [her] on a
nearly daily basis." Id.¶ 15. These
comments included, but were not limited to, saying that her
"titties are sitting up nice and high," that he
wished he could be a chair for her to sit on, that he wished
he "had those lips wrapped around" him, that she
had "sexual bedroom eyes," that he would "love
to ride that trunk," that she had a "lot of junk in
her trunk," and that she had "enough cushion
already in that chair." Id. ¶ 16. Johnson
made additional comments about Dawson's clothing and
about other female employees' appearances and bodies.
Id. ¶ 19. The alleged remarks about
Dawson's body were so humiliating that she isolated
herself in her office away from "hallways, break rooms,
and other locations where she knew Mr. Johnson would
be." Id. ¶¶ 16, 28-29. Dawson never
affirmatively welcomed or encouraged these remarks,
id. ¶ 21, and repeatedly refused to take
Johnson's cell phone number, id. ¶ 22.
Dawson also alleges that, in retaliation for her refusal to
respond favorably to Johnson's advances, he forced her to
resign a second job she held as a crossing guard and
otherwise threatened the loss of her newly acquired promotion
at HABC. Id. ¶¶ 23-25. Dawson claims she
was reluctant to make a complaint against Johnson because of
these threats of retaliation. Id. ¶ 26. She
also claims she was afraid to make a complaint because
Johnson's cousin was the Human Resources Director at
HABC. Id. ¶ 30. She alleges Johnson's
behavior caused her "extreme mental duress, affected her
ability to work productively, affected her family life, put
her in fear of losing her job, and put her in fear that he
would one day increase his sexual aggressiveness and do her
harm." Id. ¶ 4.
alleges that "several people from several different
departments had complained of or were aware of Mr.
Johnson's constant inappropriate sexual commentary at
multiple Housing Authority sites" and that HABC was thus
aware, or should have been aware, of his actions.
Id. ¶¶ 32-33. Dawson also contends that
Johnson's termination from a previous job for sexual
harassment should have placed HABC on notice of his behavior.
Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Upon learning that other
women in the office were being sexually harassed by Johnson,
Dawson made a formal complaint in June 2016. Id.
¶ 31. She alleges Johnson's harassment continued up
until June 9, 2016. Id. ¶ 13. (Although not
alleged directly in Dawson's complaint, her charge filed
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (referenced
in her complaint in this Court) stated her HABC complaint was
investigated and that Johnson's employment with HABC was
terminated soon thereafter. See EEOC Charge 2, ECF
Counts of the Complaint
Dawson's complaint contains four counts: Count I - Civil
Rights Act: Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment; Count II -
Civil Rights Act: Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment;
Count III - Civil Rights Act: Due Process Claim; and Count IV
- Civil Rights Act: Equal Protection Claim. Dawson alleges
that Johnson's sexually harassing conduct constituted a
pattern or practice contrary to "the Civil Rights Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 2000, et seq" Based on
this indirect reference to the federal employment
discrimination statutes, the Court analyzes Counts I and II
as statutory claims under Title VII, which prohibits such
conduct by employers. . Counts III and IV are clearly claims
based on the federal constitution, and the Court considers
them brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983.
HABC filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
arguing that it was not on notice of any harassment prior to
Dawson's June 2016 complaint and that it acted promptly
in response to that complaint; that the alleged comments were
not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute sexual
harassment; and that Dawson did not state a claim for
quid pro quo harassment. HABC also contends it is
entitled to summary judgment on all claims for harassment
prior to June 9, 2016, because that is the date Dawson first
reported her harassment. Defendant Johnson filed a separate
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, contending he
has no personal liability under Title VII, that Dawson's
substantive due process claim fails because her bodily
integrity was not compromised by a physical assault, that she
failed to state a claim for sexual harassment under the Equal
Protection Clause, and that he is entitled to qualified
is correct that he has no personal liability under Title VII.
See Lissau v. Southern Food Service, Inc., 159 F.3d
177, 180-81 (4th Cir. 1998) ("[Supervisors are not
liable in their individual capacities for Title VII
violations . . . We interpret the inclusion of agent in Title
VIFs definition of employer simply to establish a limit on an
employer's liability for its employees'
actions.")- To the extent, ...