United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. RUSSELL, III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Anne Arundel County,
Maryland's (the “County”) Motion to Dismiss
First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8) and Defendant State of
Maryland's (the “State”) Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 10). The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no
hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md.
2018). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will deny
Paul Dreher began working for the State of Maryland in 2002
as a payroll clerk in the Anne Arundel County Department of
Health (the “Department of Health” or the
“Department”). (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF No.
5). Both State and County employees work in the Department of
Health; the County nominates the Department's chief
executive-the health officer-and the State appoints her.
(Id. ¶¶ 4, 5). In 2009, Dreher was
promoted to fiscal accounts clerk supervisor. (Id.
¶ 13). In that role, Dreher managed payroll operations
for State and County employees who worked for the Department
of Health. (Id. ¶ 15).
2012 to November 2016, Dreher's immediate supervisor was
payroll supervisor Blair Schiro, a County employee.
(Id. ¶ 16). On July 24, 2015, Schiro told
Dreher that his “people” had a “pride
problem” and that they “do not listen.”
(Id. ¶ 18). Dreher, who is African-American,
understood these remarks from Schiro, who is Caucasian, to
relate to his race. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 16, 18).
the course of several months in 2015 and 2016, Dreher
reported Schiro's remarks and his concerns about the work
environment to four managers at the Department of Health, all
of whom were State employees. (Id. ¶¶ 19,
23-24). In September 2015, Dreher reported Schiro's
remarks to Shelley English, then-Director of Human Resources
at the Department of Health. (Id. ¶ 19). Dreher
said if the environment at work did not change, he would feel
compelled to resign from his job. (Id.). Instead of
taking remedial action, English asked Dreher when his last
day of work would be. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21). On
September 30, 2015, Dreher submitted a written complaint
about the office environment to Rae Miller, the Deputy
Director of Human Resources at the Department of Health.
(Id. ¶¶ 17, 22). A year later, in
September or October of 2016, Dreher told Tim Laureska, the
Deputy Health Officer in the Department of Health, about
Schiro's remarks, the office environment, and the
disparate treatment of African-American employees at the
Department of Health. (Id. ¶ 23). Shortly
thereafter, Dreher also complained to Health Officer Dr.
Jinlene Chan, the Department of Health's chief executive.
(Id. ¶ 24). Dreher's complaints did not
result in remedial action. (Id. ¶¶ 22,
24). English, Miller, and Laureska are Caucasian; the First
Amended Complaint does not specify Dr. Chan's race.
(Id. ¶¶ 17, 19, 23-25).
November 15 and 22, 2016, the Human Resources Director for
the Department of Health, Grace Jibril, disciplined Dreher
for making incorrect entries on his time
sheets. (Id. ¶ 25). Dreher explained
to Jibril that his supervisor, Schiro, had told him to
complete his time sheets that way. (Id.). On or
about December 2, 2016, Dreher was terminated as a result of
the time-sheet errors. (Id. ¶ 27). Caucasian
employees who worked in the Department of Health, including
Sharron Ward and Norman Pennington, made time sheet errors
like Dreher but were not terminated. (Id. ¶
November 30, 2016, Dreher filed a Charge of Discrimination
against the Department of Health with the Maryland Commission
on Civil Rights (“MCCR”) and the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”),
alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. (Id.
¶¶ 8-9). On January 19, 2017, the EEOC served the
Charge of Discrimination on the Department of Health.
(Id. ¶ 9). On April 4, 2017, the MCCR held a
fact-finding conference, which Laureska, Jibril, and an
unnamed County employee attended. (Id. ¶ 10).
On July 12, 2017, the EEOC notified the Department of Health
that Dreher's attorney had requested a Notice of Right to
Sue and that Dreher would have ninety days from receipt of a
Notice of Right to Sue to file suit in federal court. (Compl.
¶ 8, ECF No. 1). On Oct. 4, 2017, Dreher received his
Notice of Right to Sue. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 11).
December 29, 2017, Dreher sued the County. (ECF No. 1). On
February 26, 2018, Dreher filed a First Amended Complaint,
adding the State as a Defendant and naming it as his
employer, as well as other related facts. (ECF No. 5). In
his four-Count First Amended Complaint, Dreher alleges: (1)
Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his race
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e
et seq. (2018) (Count 1); (2) Defendants retaliated
against him for complaining of discrimination and a hostile
work environment in violation of Title VII (Count 2); (3)
Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his race
in violation of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
(the “MFEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't
[“SG”] §§ 20-606 et seq. (West
2018) (Count 3); and (4) Defendants retaliated against him
for complaining of discrimination and a hostile work
environment in violation of the MFEPA (Count 4). (See
id. ¶¶ 30-77). Dreher seeks compensatory
damages, back pay and interest on the damages, equitable
relief, including a clean personnel record, and
attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 13).
March 12, 2018, the County filed its Motion to Dismiss First
Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 8). On March 20, 2018, the State
filed its Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10). Dreher filed his
Opposition to the County's Motion on April 9, 2018, (ECF
No. 15), and his Opposition to the State's Motion on
April 17, 2018, (ECF No. 17). The County filed its Reply on
April 30, 2018. (ECF No. 20). The State filed its Reply on
May 1, 2018. (ECF No. 21).
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) is to “test[ ] the sufficiency of a complaint,
” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts,
the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206,
214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). A
complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to
forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the
complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each
element. Goss v. Bank of America, N.A., 917
F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v.
McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)),
aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of America,
NA, 546 Fed.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013). In considering a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a 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,
407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). But, the court need
not accept unsupported or conclusory factual allegations
devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black
Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir.
1979), or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
The County's Motion
County maintains that it was not Dreher's employer, and
therefore the Court should dismiss Dreher's claims
against it. Specifically, the County argues that even if
Dreher's direct supervisor, a County employee, made the
comments as alleged, the people Dreher complained to-the same
people who eventually terminated him-were State employees. As
a result, the County argues Dreher was a State, not a County,
employee. The Court disagrees.
Title VII, a party is liable for discrimination “only
if it is an ‘employer' of the
complainant.”Butler v. Drive Auto. Indus. of
America, Inc., 793 F.3d 404, 408 (4th Cir. 2015). Title
VII defines “employer” as “a person engaged
in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more
employees, ” 42 U.S.C. § ...