United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 5, 2018, this Court issued an Order and accompanying
Memorandum Opinion denying Defendant Sheriff John
Anderson's (“Defendant” or
“Anderson”) Motion to Dismiss. (ECF Nos. 16, 17.)
Now pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion to
Alter or Amend Judgment (“Defendant's
Motion”). (ECF No. 19.) The parties' submissions
have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below,
Defendant's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (ECF No.
19) is DENIED.
facts of this case have previously been addressed in two
prior Memorandum Opinions of this Court. See Gaines v.
Martin, No. JKB-12-1126, 2014 WL 1622316 (D. Md. Apr.
23, 2014) (“Gaines I”); Gaines v.
Anderson, RDB-17-2755, 2018 WL 1156768 (D. Md. March 5,
2018) (“Gaines II”). A brief summary of
the case follows, giving particular attention to its
procedural posture. For purposes of reviewing Defendant's
Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, which petitions this Court
to revise its prior Order and to grant Defendant's Motion
to Dismiss, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in
the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. See Q
Intern Courier Inc. v. Smoak, 441 F.3d 214, 216 (4th
Cir. 2006). When a defendant moves to dismiss on the ground
of res judicata, a court may also take judicial
notice of facts from a prior judicial proceeding so long as
the res judicata defense does not raise disputed
issues of fact. Id. (citing Andrews v. Daw,
201 F.3d 521, 524 n.1 (4th Cir. 2000)).
worked as a Deputy Sheriff with the Sheriff of Baltimore City
from September 27, 2001 until June 22, 2012. (Second Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 18.) On July 9, 2010, she
filed a Charge of Discrimination (“2010 Charge”)
with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) against Anderson and Baltimore City,
alleging that she was passed over for a promotion and denied
overtime because she was female. (Id. at ¶ 18.)
On February 4, 2011, Gaines arrived at work wearing dark
pants, a white collared button-down shirt, a hooded jacket,
and a vest. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Gaines alleges that
she had worn these and similar clothes many times before, and
that male colleagues with similar work assignments and
wearing similar attire were not sent home. (Id. at
¶¶ 22, 24.) Nevertheless, Captain Donald Rheubottom
called Gaines into his office, inspected her clothing, and
sent her home for dress code violations. (Id. at
¶ 23.) Subsequently, Gaines updated her Charge of
Discrimination at the Baltimore EEOC office. (Id. at
¶ 36.) On February 8, 2011, Captain Rheubottom again
sent home Gaines for purported dress code infractions.
(Id. at ¶ 34.) That same day, she returned to
the EEOC office in Baltimore to add allegations to her
pending EEOC charge. (Id. at ¶ 36.) Gaines
notified Captain Rheubottom and her co-workers that she had
updated the charge. (Id.)
alleges that she faced retaliation because of her EEOC
Complaints. Following these incidents, Gaines was placed on a
performance improvement plan on February 17, 2011 and placed
on probationary status. (Id. at ¶ 38.) On
August 8, 2011 Gaines was notified of formal internal affairs
charges pending against her for unsatisfactory performance,
conduct unbecoming a Sheriff's Deputy, failure to obey
orders, unauthorized absence, and insubordination-all related
to the events of February 4 and 8, 2011. (Id. at
April 12, 2012, after obtaining a right to sue letter related
to her Charge, Gaines filed suit in this Court against the
State of Maryland, Anderson, and three other individual
defendants, alleging violations of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, and the Fourteenth Amendment (“Gaines
I”). (Id. at ¶ 42; Gaines
I, 2014 WL 1622316, at *1.) The Complaint concerned
Plaintiff's experiencing working as a Deputy Sheriff in
the Special Operations Unit in 2008. Gaines I, 2014
WL 1622316, at *1. Within a week of filing her Complaint, on
April 17, 2012, Gaines received notification of an internal
Trial Board hearing date for the internal affairs charges
pending against her. (Id. at ¶ 43.) On April
27, 2012 Gaines was found guilty of the charges against her
by a panel of three officers appointed by Sheriff Anderson.
(Id. at ¶ 44.) Even though the Trial Board only
recommended a 30-day suspension, Sheriff Anderson terminated
Gaines' employment on June 22, 2012. (Id. at
¶ 45.) Subsequently, Gaines filed a Second Charge of
Discrimination with the EEOC (“2012 Charge”),
asserting that she had faced retaliation in violation of
Title VII. (Id. at 7.) Gaines also amended Count 2
of her Complaint to include an allegation that Defendants had
retaliated against her by terminating her employment. Am.
Compl. ¶ 48, Gaines v. Martin, No. JKB-12-1126,
2014 WL 1622316 (D. Md. Apr. 23, 2014).
Defendants moved to dismiss Gaines' Amended Complaint. In
their Memorandum in support of this Motion, Defendants
acknowledged that Count 2 of the Complaint contained an
allegation that Plaintiff's employment was terminated in
retaliation for, inter alia, filing a charge of
discrimination with the EEOC. (Def.'s Mem. Mot. to
Dismiss 4, ECF No. 31-3). Defendants argued, however, that
Count 2 must be dismissed because she had failed to file a
charge of discrimination with the Maryland Commission on
Civil Rights (“MCCR”) before filing her 2012
Charge. (Id. at 8-9.) They further contended that
Gaines had failed to state a claim for retaliation in Count
2, focusing solely on paragraphs 29 through 35 of the Amended
Complaint, which did not contain her allegation that she had
been fired in retaliation for filing an EEOC Charge.
(Id. at 31.)
response, Gaines informed Defendants and this Court that the
2010 Charge-not the 2012 Charge-formed the basis for her
claims. She explained that the 2012 Charge was an
“additional retaliation charge filed by
Plaintiff” concerning her employment termination.
(Pl.'s Resp. Opp. 3, ECF No. 36.) Defendants did not
challenge Gaines' apparent attempt to separate claims
arising from her employment termination from Gaines
James K. Bredar of this Court dismissed all of
Plaintiff's claims. Gaines I, 2014 WL 1622316,
at *1. Informed by the parties' submissions, which
indicated that Plaintiff's termination claim was not at
issue, the Memorandum Opinion did not acknowledge that
Gaines' employment had been terminated. See Id.
at *1 (“Plaintiff is a deputy sheriff”)
(emphasis added). This Court did not even reference the 2012
Charge, but instead merely observed that Gaines had exhausted
her administrative remedies by filing her 2010 Charge.
Id. at *3. Furthermore, the Memorandum Opinion's
analysis of Count 2 made no reference to Gaines'
allegation that she had been fired for filing a charge with
the EEOC. Id. at *5.
March 31, 2017, the EEOC issued a cause determination
addressing the 2012 Charge and found that the Sheriff's
Office violated Title VII with regard to Gaines'
discharge. (ECF No. 18, at ¶ 15.) Accordingly, Gaines
filed the instant lawsuit (“Gaines II”).
In this lawsuit, Gaines alleges that her employment at the
Baltimore City Sheriff's Office was terminated in
retaliation for pursuing an EEOC Charge. (Id. at
¶ 69.) Defendant moved to dismiss the claim, and for the
first time since Gaines filed her 2012 Charge, he has
objected that Plaintiff's claim is barred by res
judicata. In her Response in Opposition to
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10), Gaines
conceded that res judicata applied to her claims,
but argued that an exception to that doctrine applied in this
case because Defendant had acquiesced to Plaintiff's
claim-splitting (i.e., he permitted Gaines to pursue
her termination claim in a separate lawsuit). (Pl.'s
Resp. Mem. 7, ECF No. 10.) On March 5, 2018, this Court
issued a Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order denying
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, having determined that
res judicata did not bar Plaintiff's claims.
Subsequently, Defendant filed a Motion to Alter or Amend
Judgment Denying Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint. (ECF
Defendant has styled his Motion as a “Motion to Alter
or Amend Judgment Denying Motion to Dismiss Amended
Complaint” under Rule 59(e), the Order it seeks to
alter or amend was an interlocutory order denying a Motion to
Dismiss rather than a Judgment. As such, his Motion is more
appropriately styled as a motion for reconsideration of an
interlocutory order under Rule 54(b). Cezair v. JP Morgan
Chase Bank, N.A., DKC-13-2928, 2014 WL 4955535, at *1
(D. Md. Sept. 30, 2014) (explaining that a motion to amend an
order denying a motion to dismiss is more properly brought
under Rule 54(b)). Under Rule 54(b), district courts have
discretion to reconsider rulings on interlocutory motions at
any time before the entry of Judgment. U.S. Tobacco
Coop., Inc. v. Big South Wholesale of Virginia, LLC, 899
F.3d 236, 256 (4th Cir. 2018). The standards governing
motions filed pursuant to Rules 54 and 59 closely resemble
one another. Id. at 257 (quoting Carlson v.
Boston Sci. Corp., 856 F.3d 320, ...