United States District Court, D. Maryland
JOSEPH JOHNSON, et al.
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION
CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiffs, comprised of bus drivers ("Operators")
employed by the defendant the Maryland Transit Administration
("MTA"), filed suit in Baltimore County Circuit
Court alleging that the MTA had violated the protections of
the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 201 etseq., as well as Maryland's
Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"), MD. CODE ANN., LAB.
& EMPL. §§ 3-401 et seq. and
Maryland's Wage Payment and Collection Law
("MWPCL"), MD. CODE Ann., Lab. & EMPL.
§§ 3-501 etseq. Specifically, the
Operators alleged that, beginning on October 1, 2015, the MTA
denied overtime payments to which the Operators were
entitled. The MTA, an agency of the State of Maryland,
removed the case to federal court on the basis of federal
question jurisdiction and then filed a motion to dismiss or
for summary judgment based on the parties' collective
bargaining agreement ("CBA") and on sovereign and
Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds. ECF 10. The motion has been
briefed fully, and no oral argument is necessary. For the
reasons set forth below, the motion will be treated as a
motion to dismiss and will be granted.
Supreme Court has decided that the FLSA could not validly
abrogate a state's sovereign immunity from suits for
damages in its own courts. Aide?? v. Me., 527 U.S.
706, 712, 752 (1999). In Aide??, the Supreme Court
noted that courts have, at times, referred to states'
sovereign immunity as "Eleventh Amendment
immunity," but the phrase is "something of a
misnomer, for the sovereign immunity of the States neither
derives from, nor is limited by, the terms of the Eleventh
Amendment." Id. at 713; see also Franchise
TaxBd. of Calif, v. Hyatt, 139 S.Ct. 1485, 1496 (2019)
(citing Alden, 527 U.S. at 713); Seminole Tribe
of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996) (the Eleventh
Amendment confirms the presupposition that states are immune
from suit) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
States enjoy immunity from suit in their own courts.
Alden, 527 U.S. at 745-46 ("We have said on
many occasions. . . that the States retain their immunity
from private suits prosecuted in their own courts."
(internal citations omitted)).
the state's voluntary waiver, see Atascadero State
Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 241 (1985)
("Although a State's general waiver of sovereign
immunity may subject it to suit in state court,' it is
not enough to waive the immunity guaranteed by the Eleventh
Amendment." (internal citation omitted)), or valid
abrogation of its immunity, Alden, 527 U.S. at
730-31 ("In exercising its Article I powers[, ] Congress
may subject the States to private suits in their own courts
only if there is compelling evidence that the States were
required to surrender this power to Congress pursuant to the
constitutional design." (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted)), may permit a suit to proceed against a state
in its own courts. States may, via statute, waive their
sovereign immunity as it relates to suits in their own
courts. See, e.g., Paidone v. City of Frederick, 718
F.Supp.2d 626, 637 (D. Md. 2010) (the Maryland Tort Claims
Act "provides a limited waiver of sovereign
immunity" (internal citation omitted)). As noted
supra, the Alden court found that the FLSA
could not abrogate a state's sovereign immunity from
suits in its own courts. To bring this suit, therefore, the
Operators must show that the State of Maryland itself waived
its sovereign immunity for a claim under the FLSA. They have
not done so.
Operators, in arguing that Maryland has waived its sovereign
immunity, relied on a combination of analysis of MD. CODE
ANN., TRANSP. § 7-702(b) and the decision in Bd. of
Educ. of Bait. Cnty. v. Zimmer-Rubert, 409 Md. 200
(2009). Section 7-702(b) provides that the "exclusive
remedy for a breach of contract or for a tort committed by
the [MTA], its officers, agents, or employees is a suit
against the [MTA]." In Zimmer-Rubert, the
Maryland Court of Appeals held that a sovereign immunity
waiver, which provided that "[a] county board of
education may not raise the defense of sovereign immunity to
any claim of $100, 000 or less," Mb. CODE ANN.,
CTS. & JUD. PROC. § 5-518(c) (emphasis added),
constituted a waiver of both sovereign immunity in
Maryland's state courts and of Eleventh Amendment
immunity. 409 Md. at 216. In reaching this decision, the
Zimmer-Rabert court relied upon § 5-518's
legislative history to conclude that "any claim"
included such claims as might appear before a judge in
federal court. Id. at 215-16.
contrast, § 7-702's waiver of sovereign immunity
applies only to contracts and torts claims. See Proctor
v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Anth., 412 Md. 691,
719 (2010) (the Maryland "General Assembly waived the
[MTA]'s sovereign immunity for contracts and
torts"). In their opposition, the Operators attempted to
establish that the FLSA, not the CBA, constituted a contract
under § 7-702(b). Citing the Fourth Circuit's
opinion in Gilliland v. Bd. of Educ. of Charles
Cnty., 526 Fed.Appx. 243, 249 (4th Cir. 2013), the
Operators argued that the Fourth Circuit had noted that FLSA
claims are "contractual in their nature," as they
impose provisions into all applicable employment contracts,
and that this established the applicability of §
7-702(b) to their FLSA claim. In noting the contractual
nature of the FLSA, the Gilliland court relied upon
a case that predated § 7-702(b)'s enactment by more
than half a century, and the Operators have provided the
court with no indication that the Maryland General Assembly
intended to include alleged violations of the FLSA, or any
other statute deemed contractual in nature, in §
7-702's sovereign immunity waiver. Further, the
Operators' argument is belied by the fact that their own
complaint makes no mention of an alleged breach of contract
pursuant to the FLSA, instead characterizing their claims as
violations of federal and state statutes.
result, the court concludes that the State of Maryland has
not waived the MTA's sovereign immunity for the FLSA
claims presented here, and that such claims therefore should
be dismissed. Because the federal claim will be
dismissed, the court will decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the state law claims. Those will be
remanded to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. A
separate order follows.
 Sovereign immunity applies to claims
against the MTA, absent abrogation by Congress or consent by
the State. McCrayv. Md. Dept. of Transp., 741 F.3d
480, 483 (4th Cir. 2014) (holding that the MTA, as a
subsidiary of the Maryland Department of Transportation,
enjoys sovereign immunity unless abrogated or
 The MTA also argues that the CBA would
require the parties to arbitrate this dispute, but the court
need not reach this issue due to its conclusion that the MTA