United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE.
se plaintiff Christopher Onyeka Ezinne sued the Maryland
State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. Now before the Court is
Defendant's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 8.) No. hearing is required.
Local R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth
below, Defendant's motion will be granted.
Standard for a Motion to Dismiss under Rule
complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to '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)). Facial plausibility
exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference of the mere
possibility of. misconduct is insufficient. Id. at
679. Courts must "accept the well-pled allegations of
the complaint as true, . . . constru[ing] the facts and
reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United
States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). The plaintiff
may not, however, rely on naked assertions or legal
conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57.
"Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level." Id. at
se plaintiffs are held to a "less stringent
standard" than lawyers, and courts construe their
pleadings liberally, no matter how "inartfully
pled." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Nonetheless, a pro se
complaint must still meet the "minimum threshold of
plausibility" under Twombly and Iqbal. Robb
v. Md. Aviation Admin., Civ. No. JKB-14-1421, 2014 WL
4056030, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 15, 2014). While pro se
complaints "represent the work of an untutored hand
requiring special judicial solicitude," district courts
are not required to "conjure up questions never squarely
presented to them" or to "construct full blown
claims from . . . fragments." Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277-78 (4th Cir. 1985).
case, the allegations of the Complaint fall well-short of the
"minimum threshold of plausibility." Robb,
2014 WL 4056030, at *3. There are precious few factual
allegations in the form Complaint at all. The Court can only
discern the following:
• Ezinne was "denied overtime hours worked after
[his] supposed close time amounting to approximately 400
hours," and he experienced "emotional and mental
stress as a result." (Compl. at 7, ECF No. 1.)
• These actions occurred on or around May 17, 2016.
(Id. at 5.)
• Ezinne characterized the actions as both retaliation
and discrimination based on his Nigerian national origin.
• And, he filed a charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and received a right-to-sue
letter on May 8, 2018. (Id. at 6.)
Court cannot infer from these scant details that Ezinne
experienced illegal treatment that violated Title VII or that
the Defendant is liable for it, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678, even under the most liberal construction. While a
refusal to pay wages owed could constitute an adverse action
under Title VII, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1)
(prohibiting discrimination with respect to compensation),
Ezinne's allegations that this wage theft was motivated
by discrimination based on his national origin and/or by
impermissible retaliation are conclusory, at best. There is
simply insufficient factual detail for an inference of
liability to be anything more than bald speculation.
of the Court's duty to liberally construe pro se
pleadings, the Court has discretion to consider new
allegations made by a pro se plaintiff in response
to a motion to dismiss, even though, ordinarily, a party
cannot amend its pleading through its briefs. Arije v,
Pointcross Life Scis., Civ. No. JKB-18-3119, 2019 WL
652426, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 15, 2019). But, Ezinne failed to
provide any further factual development in his responsive
filing. In response to the motion, Ezinne filed a short,
four-sentence document asking that the case not be dismissed and
presenting only a single argument: that "[a]ccording to
the EEO[C] findings and summary" attached to his
Complaint, the Defendant "was found not completely in
compliance in this case/matter." (ECF No. 11.) This
appears to be a reference to the EEOC right-to-sue notice,
but Ezinne's characterization of that document is a
misreading of its findings. The notice actually states that
the EEOC was "unable to conclude" that any
violation occurred. (Notice, at 1, ECF No. 1-1.) While this
finding did "not certify that the [Defendant] [was] in
compliance with the statutes" (id), neither
does it certify that the Defendant was not in
compliance. Furthermore, even if the EEOC had found
non-compliance, the agency's determination would not
substitute for Ezinne's obligation under Rule 8 to plead
sufficient factual content to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P.
response to Ezinne's statement that he had not
"receive[d] a copy of the [Defendant's]
answer" (ECF No. 11), the Court ordered the
Defendant to serve its motion by mail and email and provided
Ezinne with an additional opportunity to file a response.
(ECF No. 12.) The Defendant certified service by mail to the
address listed on ...