United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
employment discrimination action concerns the difficulties
that transgender employees encounter all too routinely.
Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motion to remand
(ECF No. 13), Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 12)
and Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint. ECF No.
21. The motions are fully briefed, and no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following
reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion to remand,
GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to amend, and GRANTS in part
and DENIES in part Defendants' motion to dismiss.
Diana Membreno was employed by TGI Fridays from 2007 to 2017.
ECF No. 21-1 at 2. Membreno worked for TGI Fridays in Silver
Spring, Maryland, which was owned and operated by Defendants
Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC (“ARP”),
Jackmont Hospitality, Inc. (“Jackmont
Hospitality”), and Jackmont Administrative Services,
LLC (“Jackmont Administrative”) (collectively,
“Defendants”). Id. ¶¶ 3, 7,
13. During 2018, Defendants had 15 or more employees on each
working day for at least 20 weeks and at least 15 employees
reflected in payroll records. Id. ¶¶
a limited liability company in Georgia. Id. ¶
3. Its members and owners are Daniel Halpern and Brooke
Jackson Edmond. Id. ¶¶ 3, 18.
From 2015 to 2016, ARP paid wages to Membreno and was listed
as an employer on her W-2 forms. Id. ¶ 15.
Hospitality is a Georgia corporation headquartered in
Atlanta, Georgia. Id. ¶ 6. Its shareholders,
officers, and owners are also Daniel Halpern and Brooke
Jackson Edmond. Id. ¶¶ 6, 18, 19. Jackmont
Hospitality provides management services for ARP.
Id. ¶ 8. On its website, Jackmont Hospitality
advertises and recruits for jobs at the Silver Spring
location of TGI Fridays. Id. ¶ 9. One of the
jobs advertised by Jackmont Hospitality was for the
“General Manager, ” to oversee hiring, firing,
wage increases, and other employee-related issues and manage
the day-to-day restaurant operations. Id.
¶¶ 9-10. In 2017, Jackmont Hospitality issued
Membreno her final paycheck. Id. ¶ 12.
Administrative is a limited liability company with its
primary office located in Georgia. Id. ¶ 5. Its
members and owners are Daniel Halpern and Brooke Jackson
Edmond. Id. ¶¶ 5, 18. From 2007 to 2015,
Jackmont Administrative paid wages to Membreno and was listed
as an employer on her W-2 forms. Id. ¶ 14.
2007, Membreno, a transgender woman, was hired by TGI Fridays
General Manager, “Patricia, ” to work in the
kitchen. Id. ¶¶ 35, 41-42. During this
interview, Membreno dressed in men's clothing.
Id. ¶ 42. After she was hired, Membreno wore
women's clothing to work, used the women's restroom,
and requested that her colleagues call her Diana.
Id. ¶ 43. Membreno asserts that despite this
request, Patricia repeatedly referred to her as a “man,
” told Membreno that she was no longer allowed to use
the women's restroom and was often hostile towards
Membreno. Id. ¶¶ 44, 46. Patricia also
allegedly cut back Membreno's scheduled working days from
four to two days a week “for no apparent reason.”
Id. ¶ 47. Additionally, Roberto Lainez
(“Lainez”), who was promoted to Kitchen Manager
in 2015, was hostile towards Membreno and refused to
recognize her as a woman. Id. ¶ 52. Lainez
referred to Membreno as “he” and “him,
” and repeatedly called her “culero, ” a
slang term for “faggot.” Id. ¶ 52.
He also announced that she makes too much money for
“what she is.” Id. ¶ 59. On one
occasion, Lainez physically pushed her. Id. ¶
December 2016, Membreno, to her surprise, discovered that she
was not scheduled to work. Id. ¶ 66. She
contacted John Faison, a Jackmont Hospitality employee, to
ask about the change in her schedule but received no
response. Id. ¶ 68. Then on January 4, 2017,
Membreno was terminated by Lainez and TGI Fridays General
Manager Kendrick Pittman, purportedly because she did not
find coverage for her shift scheduled on December 24, 2016,
Christmas Eve, even though she had followed proper protocol
regarding the shift change. Id. ¶ 70.
after her termination, in March of 2017, Plaintiff timely
filed a charge of discrimination based on sex and gender
identity with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
(“MCCR”), which was cross-filed with the U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
Id. ¶ 26. In this charge, Membreno listed
“TGI Fridays” as her employer. Id. Erica
Mason, an attorney currently representing all Defendants in
this matter, responded to the charge on behalf of
“Respondent TGI Fridays.” Id.
then filed suit in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County
against Defendants, alleging violations of Montgomery County
Human Rights Law and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices
Act (“MFEPA”). ECF No. 21-1 at 2. Membreno
brought no federal claims.
timely noted removal based on diversity jurisdiction. ECF No.
1. In response, Membreno moved to remand the action. ECF No.
13. ARP answered the Complaint (ECF No. 2), and Defendants
Jackmont Administrative and Jackmont Hospitality
(collectively, the “Jackmont Defendants”) moved
to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. ECF
No. 12. Membreno moved to amend her Complaint in response to
Jackmont Defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF No.
21. The Court addresses each motion in turn.
Motion to Remand
Court, as one of limited jurisdiction, may hear only civil
cases that implicate a federal question or are brought
pursuant to the Court's diversity jurisdiction. Exxon
Mobile Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546,
552 (2005). Diversity jurisdiction is proper where the amount
in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and no plaintiff is a citizen
of the same state as any defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a);
Johnson v. Am. Towers, LLC,781 F.3d 693, 704
(2015). Where diversity jurisdiction is proper, a defendant
may remove the case to federal court pursuant to 28 ...