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Brannam v. Fidelity Direct Mortgage, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 27, 2019

CRYSTAL BRANNAM, et al.
v.
FIDELITY DIRECT MORTGAGE, LLC

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Crystal Brannam and Giuliana Giblin (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a motion to redact in this employment discrimination action on October 29, 2018. (ECF No. 3). Defendant Fidelity Direct Mortgage, LLC (“FDM”) filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on December 27, 2018. (ECF No. 5). The issues have been fully briefed and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion to redact will be granted in part and denied in part and Defendant's motion to dismiss will be denied.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff Brannam commenced her employment with FDM as a junior loan officer in June 2016. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 10). Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that FDM supervisor Enzo Monte (“Mr. Monte”) and other FDM employees often subjected Plaintiff Brannam to sexual harassment. Some of the specific instances of sexual harassment Plaintiff Brannam alleges include: (1) Mr. Monte directed Plaintiff Brannam to wear high heels with dresses or skirts (Id. ¶¶ 11; 24); (2) Mr. Monte told Plaintiff Brannam to “play nice” with male clients and respond to their flirtations (Id. ¶¶ 11-12); (3) male FDM employees often made remarks, sometimes vulgar, about Plaintiff Brannam's appearance (Id. ¶¶ 15-16); (4) Plaintiff Brannam was tasked with work unrelated to her expected loan officer duties (Id. ¶¶ 13; 16-18); (5) Mr. Monte required Plaintiff Brannam to wear tight, revealing clothing for events unrelated to her work for FDM (Id. ¶ 18); (6) Mr. Monte prohibited Plaintiff Brannam from going to lunch with any other male unless she first sought his consent (Id. ¶ 14); and (7) Plaintiff Brannam was prohibited from attending conference calls and classes after she turned down an offer to go out to dinner with a member of FDM management (Id. ¶ 19). Finally, Plaintiff Brannam alleges that she was constructively discharged by Defendant on March 1, 2017. (Id. ¶ 21).

         Plaintiffs' complaint also alleges that Mr. Monte sexually discriminated against Plaintiff Giblin during her employment with FDM. Specifically, Plaintiff Giblin alleges that Mr. Monte: (1) instructed her to hug and kiss potential clients or realtors; (2) regularly touched Plaintiff Giblin “inappropriately . . . and unwantedly, ” in areas such as her “hair, waist, breast, butt, shoulders, [] thighs[, ]” neck and throat; (3) instructed Plaintiff Giblin to wear “heels” and “tight-fitting” dresses with a “low-cut at the bust line[;]” (4) repeatedly asked Plaintiff Giblin for oral sex; (5) requested sexual favors in exchange for advancement of Plaintiff Giblin's career; (6) invited Plaintiff Giblin to join a “sexual ‘threesome[;]'” (7) solicited nude pictures of Plaintiff Giblin via text message; and (8) offered to buy Plaintiff Giblin a car or pay for her residence if she was a “good girl.” (Id. ¶¶ 23-25). Plaintiff Giblin also alleges that she was involved in a physical altercation with Mr. Monte after refusing his request to entertain current and potential clients at a strip club. Mr. Monte grabbed Plaintiff Giblin by the throat, stated “she was his, ” and referenced the fact that he served five years in prison for attempted murder. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27). Following the altercation, Plaintiff Giblin was “constructively discharged” from FDM. (Id. ¶ 28).

         Plaintiffs' complaint states that male loan officers were not subject to the same incidents of mistreatment. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14; 16-18; 23-24; 26).

         Plaintiffs individually filed discrimination charges under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. §2000e, et seq., (“Title VII”) with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on April 26, 2017. (ECF Nos. 5- 5; 5-7). The EEOC issued right-to-sue letters to each Plaintiff on July 31, 2018, indicating the EEOC's termination of Plaintiffs' charges and providing them with 90 days to file a lawsuit. (ECF Nos. 1-1; 1-2). Plaintiffs jointly filed a complaint against Defendant on October 26, 2018. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiffs jointly allege four counts: (1) sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991; (2) constructive discharge; (3) violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, MD. Code Ann. § 3-501; and (4) theft. (Id., at 10-13 & 16-17). Plaintiff Brannam individually alleges two counts: (1) breach of contract; and (2) negligent misrepresentation. (Id., at 13-14). Plaintiff Giblin individually alleges one count of battery. (Id., at 15).

         II. Plaintiffs' Motion to Redact

          Plaintiffs, who are represented by counsel, filed their complaint without listing their addresses in the caption.[2]Plaintiffs' motion to redact asserts that “[t]he threat posed by Mr. Monte . . . establishes good cause” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2(e) to redact their home addresses from the complaint. (ECF No. 3, at 3). Defendant does not oppose Plaintiffs' request. In support of Plaintiffs' request to conceal their addresses, they reference alleged incidents where Mr. Monte's conduct made them feel unsafe. (ECF No. 3 ¶ 2). Plaintiffs have demonstrated a fear for their safety that is supported by specific factual representations, Defendants have not opposed Plaintiffs' request and disclosure of Plaintiffs' addresses is not essential to their claim's progression. (Id. ¶¶ 2-4). Thus, Plaintiffs will not be required to amend their complaint to include their addresses.

         Plaintiffs also request that the motion to redact remain under seal. (Id.). Defendant does not oppose Plaintiffs' request. A motion to seal must comply with Local Rule 105.11, which requires: “(a) proposed reasons supported by specific factual representations to justify the sealing and (b) an explanation why alternatives to sealing would not provide sufficient protection.” This rule endeavors to protect the common law right to inspect and copy judicial records and documents, Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978), while recognizing that competing interests sometimes outweigh the public's right of access, In re Knight Publ'g Co., 743 F.2d 231, 235 (4th Cir. 1984). Plaintiffs merely state that the motion “is filed under seal, and should remain under seal, as it addresses sensitive matters.” (ECF No. 3, at 3). The incidents described in the motion to redact that caused Plaintiffs to fear for their safety are largely a recitation of information already provided in Plaintiffs' complaint. Plaintiffs have not justified their request to seal the motion to redact. Thus, the motion will be denied as to Plaintiffs' request to seal the motion to redact.

         III. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A complaint need only satisfy the standard of 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). But the Court in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly clarified the requirement, concluding that “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007). Therefore, if the “well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” the complaint has not shown that “the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268, (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid ...


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