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Young v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 15, 2019

STEVEN R. YOUNG Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAULA XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now pending in this employment discrimination case is Defendant Montgomery County, Maryland (“the County”)'s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 4. The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the County's motion to dismiss.

         I. Background[1]

         On or about January 16, 2001, Plaintiff Steven Young, a black male, was hired as a correctional officer for Montgomery County. ECF No. 1 ¶ 7. Since 2004, he has worked at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (“MCCF”) located in Boyds, Maryland. Id. Young's duties include supervising those detained at MCCF. Id. ¶ 8. Young is not a member of the Emergency Response Team, who receive specific training and certification on responding to disruptive or violent inmates. Id. Throughout his nearly two decades of employment with the County, Young has received only two reprimands. Id. ¶ 10. Young and other black officers consistently receive “meets standards” ratings on annual employee performance evaluations. Id. However, white correctional officers with a similar level of experience received “above expectations” ratings for a similar level of work performed. Id.

         Pursuant to MCCF policy and procedure, posts are assigned daily at the beginning of each shift. Id. ¶ 11. The facility does not assign officers to “permanent” posts. Id. Nevertheless, for the last ten years, Young has been routinely assigned to work the Male Segregation Unit (approximately 200 to 300 times), whereas his female or white counterparts are almost never assigned to that unit. Id. ¶ 11-12. The Male Segregation Unit is a demanding assignment because officers must supervise the most “disruptive and violent inmates.” Id. ¶ 12. These inmates routinely bang on the doors and walls, flood cells with toilet water, and “throw fecal matter, urine and spit at officers assigned to the unit.” Id. Young avers that the Male Segregation Unit presents particular hazards to “an officer's physical, mental, or emotional health.” Id.

         On June 13, 2016, Young was assigned to work the W.1.H. Escort Relief Officer post-a low risk area. Id. ¶ 14. Later during the shift, Young's supervisor, Lieutenant P. Beam (a white male), reassigned Young to the Male Segregation Unit while moving Corporal Zelbo (a white male) to Young's low risk post. Id. This reassignment caused Young to become “physically and emotionally ill”; he developed a severe migraine headache and had to use 3.5 hours of sick leave to receive medical treatment. Id.

         On July 18, 2016, Young filed a formal Charge of Discrimination with the Montgomery County, Maryland Office of Human Rights (“formal Charge” or “Charge”), alleging race discrimination arising from his routine placement in the segregation unit. Id. ¶ 5. Young described in the Charge the facts regarding the June 13, 2016 reassignment and also checked a box noting a “continuing action.” ECF No. 8-1 at 1. Young supplemented the Charge with two letters: one dated July 13, 2016, which described a pattern of unfavorable treatment towards black officers, and one dated July 31, 2016, which purported to add a charge of gender discrimination. Id. at 3-8. The County did not respond to these “additional charges, ” (ECF No. 8-3), and appears to have never received either supplemental letter. ECF No. 9-1 ¶ 4.

         The Office of Human Rights forwarded the Charges to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for investigation. Id. ¶ 5. On March 29, 2018, the EEOC concluded its investigation and issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter. ECF No. 1-1. In its letter, the EEOC acknowledged that it reviewed the additional information provided by Young, along with the original information provided by both Young and the County. Id.

         On July 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed this suit against the County, alleging one count of race discrimination and one count of gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ECF No. 1. The County's motion to dismiss followed. ECF No. 4.

         II. Discussion

         a. Exhaustion of Claims

         i. Standard of Review

         Motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to exhaust administrative remedies challenge a court's authority to hear a matter. See Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300-01 (4th Cir.2009); Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999). If “a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction, ” the court must dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799.

         In determining whether jurisdiction exists, “the court may look beyond the pleadings and the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue.” Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003) (quoting Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Where the defendant contends that the complaint “simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based, ” the ...


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