United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar Chief Judge.
se plaintiff Larry Dobson, Jr. ("Plaintiff')
sued his employer, Harnden Group LLC, and several of its
employees for race-based discrimination and retaliation in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
see 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a), 2000e-3(a).
In his complaint, Plaintiff named Harnden Group, its owner
Chuck Harnden, its co-owner Don McCoy, and two of its
superintendents, Sonny Jayne and Bradley Miller
("Defendants"). Plaintiff initially filed suit in
Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Defendants removed the
case to this Court and, then, moved to dismiss. No. hearing
is required. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For
the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to
dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.
Factual and Procedural Background
summarizing the allegations of the complaint, the Court
construes all facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, as is required on a motion to dismiss. Ibarra
v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997).
Courts construe pro se complaints liberally.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per
has worked for Harnden Group since May 2015. (Compl. at 4,
ECF No. 4-3.) In December 2017, Plaintiff became the target
of his co-workers' jokes. On December 12, one co-worker
asked Plaintiff if he wanted some "black donuts"
and laughed. (Id. ¶ 1.) On December 13, other
co-workers mentioned that Jayne had some "black
donuts" for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 3.) One of
the co-workers explained to Plaintiff that someone had left
black and white donuts in the office and that Jayne had said,
"[I] don't eat black donuts only white donuts,
give these black donuts to Larry Dobson." (Statement at
1, ECF No. 4-4.) The co-worker continued that, if his name
was Larry Dobson, the black donuts were a gift from Jayne,
who "doesn't like anything black."
next day, Plaintiff asked Miller about filing a racial
discrimination claim. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Miller told
Plaintiff that "Jayne had other instances wherein racial
slurs were used." (Id. ¶ 7.) Miller
supported Plaintiffs decision to file a claim and offered to
give Plaintiff the appropriate paperwork. (Id.) When
Miller was unable to find the paperwork, he conducted a
meeting with Plaintiff, Jayne, and McCoy. (Id.
¶ 5.) When Plaintiff insisted on filing a discrimination
claim after the meeting, McCoy agreed to forward the claim to
the human resources department. (Id.) Plaintiff sent
McCoy his claim on December 18. (Id. ¶ 6.)
January 3 and February 22, 2018, Plaintiff was demoted from
Operator to Laborer. (Id. ¶ II.) In March,
Plaintiff was assigned to work "in confined spaces
without certification from the Army Corps of Engineers."
(Id. ¶ 13.) On several occasions, Defendants
did not inform Plaintiff of "rain days" even though
"other employers were allowed to work on those
days." (Id. ¶ 11, 14.) Also, during March,
Defendants assigned other employees to operate equipment that
Plaintiff used to operate. (Id. ¶ 15.)
same day that Plaintiff filed his internal discrimination
claim, he filed a charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (PI. Opp. at 2,
ECF No. 9.) On May 31, 2018, the EEOC issued Plaintiff
a letter informing him that he had ninety days to sue on the
charge. (Not. of Right to Sue at 1, ECF No. 4-5.) The EEOC
forwarded this right-to-sue letter to Harnden at Harnden
Group. (Id.) On June 4, "McCoy insinuated and
communicated biased remarks regarding the new cellphone
policy directed towards Plaintiff." (Compl. ¶ 18.)
Later in June, "Jayne negligently shortened Plaintiffs
payroll hours." (Id. ¶ 19.)
August or early September, Plaintiff filed a pro se
complaint, claiming that Defendants discriminated against him
because of his race and retaliated against him for
complaining of the allegedly discriminatory conduct at
Harnden Group. Defendants moved to dismiss pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
turning to Defendants' arguments for dismissal pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court addresses whether it has subject
matter jurisdiction. In the Fourth Circuit, it is a
jurisdictional matter whether an individual qualifies as an
"employer" under Title VII and, thus, may be liable
for Title VII violations. See Woodard v. Va. Bd. of Bar
Examiners, 598 F.2d 1345, 1346 (4th Cir. 1979).
"When a requirement goes to subject-matter jurisdiction,
courts are obligated to consider sua sponte issues
that the parties have disclaimed or have not presented."
Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 141 (2012).
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a court's
subject matter jurisdiction, Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d
1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982), meaning "whether the court
has the competence or authority to hear the case,"
Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md.
2005). A challenge to a court's subject matter
jurisdiction may be either facial, i.e., complaint fails to
allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be
based, or factual, i.e., jurisdictional allegations of
complaint are not true. Kerns v. United States, 585
F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). In a facial challenge,
"the facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true,
and the motion must be denied if the complaint alleges
sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction."
Id. at 192. Applying this standard, the Court
considers whether Plaintiff has established its subject
matter jurisdiction over each Defendant.
Title VII, "employer" "means a person engaged
in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more
employees for each working day in each of twenty or more
calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and
any agent of such a person." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).
Only "employers" are liable for Title VII
violations. Baird ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d
462, 472 (4th Cir. 1999) ("Title VII does not provide a
remedy against individual defendants who do not qualify as
'employers.'"). Plaintiff does not allege that
the individual defendants-Harnden, McCoy, Miller, and
Jayne-are his employers. See Lewis v. Antwerpen Hyundai
of Clarksville, Civ. No. RDB-18-1393, 2018 WL 5809708,
at *6 (D. Md. Nov. 5, 2018) (dismissing defendants where
plaintiff failed to allege that they met criteria of an
"employer" under Title VII). Indeed, the individual
defendants appear to be mere supervisors. See Spell v.
Md. Human Relations Comm'n, Civ. No. RDB-11-803,
2011 WL 6000862, at *5 (D. Md. Nov. 28, 2011) (dismissing
defendants because it appeared from complaint that they were
supervisors, not employers). Plaintiff does allege that
Harnden Group is his employer but does not allege that it
meets the specific criteria of an
"employer." Construing the allegations of the
complaint liberally, and in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, the Court concludes that Harnden Group is an
"employer" pursuant to Title VII. See Marshall
v. Capital View Mut. Homes, Civ. No. RWT-12-3109, 2013
WL 3353752, at *2 (D. Md. July 2, 2013) (declining to dismiss
where pro se plaintiff failed to allege defendant
employed fifteen employees).
the facial allegations relating to the individual defendants
reveal that they were Plaintiffs co workers and supervisors,
the Title VII claims against them are dismissed. The Court
proceeds with Defendants' arguments as to the remaining
Defendant, Harnden Group.
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of a 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 Atl. 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). 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