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Richardson v. Maryland Transit Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 1, 2019

TOWANDA RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge

         On July 5, 2017 Plaintiff Towanda Richardson (“Plaintiff” or “Richardson”) commenced this lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against Defendants the Maryland Transit Administration (“MTA”), the State of Maryland, Lt. Timothy Perry (“Perry”), Patricia Johnson (“Johnson”), and Tonya Sturdivant (“Sturdivant”) (collectively, the “MTA Defendants”); Dr. Robert Toney and Occupational Health Centers of Southwest, PA, d/b/a Concentra Urgent Care (the “Concentra Defendants”); and Dr. Douglas Craig, Atlantic OccuPsych, and Greenside Psychological Associates, Inc. (the “Greenside Defendants”). On March 27, 2018, Defendants MTA, the State of Maryland, and Perry removed this action to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (ECF No. 1.)

         Richardson, a police officer employed by the MTA, alleges that the MTA Defendants retaliated against her for filing an EEOC Complaint by demoting her and placing her on administrative leave on the pretense that she was unfit for duty. (ECF No. 2, at ¶ 13.) Her Second Amended Complaint presents several state law claims: Defamation (Counts I-III); Breach of Contract (Count IV); and violations of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't, Human Relations § 20-601, et seq. (Count VII). Richardson also alleges violations of two federal statutes: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Count V) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12111, et seq. as amended by the Americans with Disability Acts Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”) (Count VI).

         Now pending before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Completing of the EEOC Investigation and Conciliation, and Request for Hearing (ECF No. 21); the Greenside Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8); and the MTA Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 13).[1]The submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Completion of the EEOC Investigation and Conciliation, and Request for Hearing (ECF No. 21) is DENIED and the MTA Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13) is GRANTED IN PART. This Court dismisses Plaintiff's federal claims set forth in Counts V and VI and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her remaining state claims. Therefore, Plaintiff's state law claims are REMANDED to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Accordingly, this Court will not rule on the Greenside Defendant's pending Motion to Dismiss, as it concerns only state law claims. (ECF No. 8.)

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court “accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Wikimedia Found. V. Nat' Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). Plaintiff Richardson has worked as an MTA Police Officer for about seven years. (ECF No. 2, at ¶ 10.) She alleges that Defendants began to retaliate against her after she filed a Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in May 2016. Richardson does not explain why she filed this Charge, describe its contents, or furnish a copy for this Court's review. She only explains that she “decided not to pursue” it. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

         Richardson claims that Defendants initiated a “campaign of abuse and harassment” immediately after she filed her Charge. (Id. at ¶ 64.) The Complaint summarily alleges that the Defendants have issued her meritless write-ups, subjected her to “hyper supervision and hyper scrutinizing, ” and made “false allegations regarding performance.”[2] (Id. at ¶ 81.) Richardson supplies some specifics to flesh-out these vague claims. On July 1, 2016 Patricia Johnson, Chief of Medical Services, allegedly demoted Richardson and placed her on light duty. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Richardson further alleges that Timothy Perry, a Lieutenant at the MTA Police Department, and Tonya Sturdivant, the Deputy Director of Medical Services, placed her on administrative leave. (Id. at ¶ 16.) The MTA allegedly cited Richardson's “mental health issues” as the reason for taking these actions against her. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.)

         Richardson alleges that the MTA ordered her to undergo two mental health evaluations designed to support its claims that she was unfit for duty due to her mental state.[3] (Id. at ¶¶ 20-23.) On July 21, 2016 she submitted to a “Workability Examination” at Concentra conducted by Dr. Robert Toney, the Medical Director for the State of Maryland. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Dr. Toney concluded that Richardson should remain suspended from employment and recommended that she undergo a psychological examination. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Richardson claims that Dr. Toney “and/or” the MTA referred her to Dr. Douglas Craig of Atlantic OccuPsych, who allegedly “rubber-stamped” Dr. Toney's conclusion. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.) Dr. Craig determined that Richardson's “current functioning suggests compromise of essential job elements of a Police Office[r], specifically related to integrity, stress tolerance, social competence, and impulse control.” (Id. at ¶ 23.) Accordingly, he recommended that Richardson's employment should have been terminated. (Id.) Richardson disputes the accuracy of these evaluations, citing favorable examinations performed by other medical professionals. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-29.)

         On July 26, 2016 Richardson filed a second Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, which she describes as “a discrimination claim based on Disability and Retaliation.” (Id. at ¶ 19.) Richardson provides no additional details beyond these and has not supplied a copy of her Charge. On August 8, 2016, the MTA allegedly charged Richardson with insubordination. (Id. at ¶ 63.) At an unspecified time that month, [4] Lt. Timothy Perry allegedly snatched Officer Richardson's phone out of her hand, ordered her to leave, and declared that she “he was not an officer.” (Id. at ¶ 30.) Subsequently, Lt. Perry and another employee escorted her from the premises.

         On July 5, 2017, Richardson commenced this action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, alleging three counts of defamation and one count of breach of contract. (Notice of Removal at ¶ 1, ECF No. 1.) On January 18, 2018 she filed a First Amended Complaint which added no new claims. (Id.) On March 5, 2018, the Greenside Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 8-1, at 1.) On March 12, 2018, Richardson again amended her Complaint to add a state law claim under the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't, § 20-601, et seq., and two federal claims pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12111, et seq. (Id; ECF No. 2.) Richardson claims that the MTA Defendants failed to accommodate her disability, subjected her to disparate treatment, retaliated against her for filing an EEOC Charge in May 2016, and created a hostile work environment-all in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Under the ADA, Richardson only brings disparate treatment, retaliation, and hostile work environment claims.

         On March 27, 2018, prompted by the addition of federal claims, Defendants MTA, the State of Maryland, and Perry removed this action to this Court, invoking federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). On April 2, 2018 the Greenside Defendants once again moved to dismiss the Complaint. (ECF No. 8.) The MTA Defendants filed their pending Motion to Dismiss the following day. (ECF No. 13.) On May 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Stay, which the MTA Defendants have opposed. (ECF Nos. 21, 24.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Stay

         The United States Supreme Court has long held that the “power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court” to control its own docket “with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 245-55, 57 S.Ct. 163 (1936); see also Williford v. Armstrong World Indus. Inc., 715 F.2d 124, 127 (4th Cir. 1983) (holding that courts possess the inherent power to stay an action to ensure the “efficient management of their dockets”). When determining whether to grant a motion to stay, a district court must “weigh competing interests and maintain an even balance.” Landis, 299 U.S. at 255. In determining whether to stay proceedings, the district court should consider three factors: (1) the potential prejudice to the non-moving party; (2) the hardship and inequity to the moving party if the action is not stayed; and (3) the judicial resources that would be saved by avoiding duplicative litigation if the case is in fact stayed. See, e.g., Yearwood v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., No. RDB-12-1374, 2012 WL 2520865, at *3 (D. Md. June 27, 2012).

         II. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         The MTA Defendants argue Plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her Americans with Disabilities Act and Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act claims. A motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), which requires dismissal when the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003); Clarke v. DynCorp Intern. LLC, 962 F.Supp.2d 781, 786 (D. Md. 2013). Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Demetres v. East West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015); Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999). A challenge to jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting “that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         III. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). While a complaint need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” it 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.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff cannot rely on bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         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. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “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 ...


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