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Dorsey v. Watson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2019

LILLY DORSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES WATSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. David Copperthite, Judge

         Defendant, Charles Watson, moves this Court to dismiss the Complaint of pro se Plaintiff, Lilly Dorsey, for sexual harassment[1] and retaliation brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the "Motion to Dismiss") (ECF No. 18). After considering the Motion to Dismiss and the response thereto (ECF No. 20), the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The Court also GRANTS Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint.

         Factual Background

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the challenged complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff was employed as an addiction counselor trainee at Riverside Treatment Services, LLC ("Riverside") from May 2017 until her termination on September 5, 2017. ECF No. 1-5 at 13; ECF No. 1-10 at 2-3; ECF No. 20-1 at 1. On or about June 21, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that she attended an off-site celebratory work event where Defendant, her co-worker, said "Let me feel your - (butt)" and then "squeezed [her] butt cheeks." ECF No. 1 at 6; ECF No. 1-10 at 2. Plaintiffs attempts to address the incident with Defendant on several occasions and with Michael Oliver, the owner of Riverside, were unsuccessful. ECF No. 1-3 at 1-2.

         Over the course of the next few months, the work environment became "hostile" and Plaintiff found it "unbearable" to perform her job because Defendant "interfered with [her] caseload" and clients. Id. at 2-4. Between August 27, 2017 and September 3, 2017, Plaintiff took a pre-approved, paid vacation and was scheduled to return to work on September 5, 2017. ECF No. 1-5 at 13-14; ECF No. 1-10 at 2. Upon her return from vacation, Plaintiff learned of two deaths in her family. ECF No. 1-3 at 4. She contacted Mr. Oliver to request an additional week off and he approved the request. Id. However, on September 5, 2017, Defendant called Plaintiff and informed her that she was being terminated. Id. at 5. Defendant allegedly offered to pay Plaintiff for her two weeks of vacation as well as two months of severance pay if she signed a separation agreement, but Plaintiff refused to sign the agreement. Id; ECF No. 1-6 at 2-6.

         After her termination, Plaintiff applied for unemployment benefits with the State of Maryland. ECF No. 1-5 at 13-17. The Division of Unemployment Insurance investigated the claim and recorded Riverside's stated reason for termination as being due to Plaintiff taking an additional week off after her vacation. Id. at 14. On October 17, 2017, the Division issued a Notice of Benefit Determination, which stated:

[Plaintiff] was discharged or suspended as a disciplinary measure by the employer, Riverside Treatment Services[, ] ¶ 09/05/2017 because of excessive absenteeism. Information has been presented, however, showing that [Plaintiff]'s absences were of a compelling and necessitous nature. As a result, the circumstances surrounding the separation do not warrant a disqualification under Section 8-1002 or 8-1003 of the Maryland Unemployment Insurance Law.
Benefits are allowed, if otherwise eligible.

Id. at 17. Riverside appealed this determination and documents indicate that the appeal hearing was scheduled for January 29, 2018; however, the outcome of the appeal is not clear from the record. See ECF No. 1-11 at 13.

         Procedural Background On September 28, 2017, after her termination, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against Riverside with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging sex discrimination and retaliation dating from June 22, 2017 through September 5, 2017. ECF No. 1-10 at 2-3. In the charge, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant "whispered in [her] ear[, ] 'I'm going to squeeze your butt[, ]' and proceeded to touch [her] butt" at a one-year anniversary work event on June 22, 2017. Id. at 2. Plaintiff stated that she subsequently filed complaints with the National Association of Social Workers and the Board of Professional Counselors for sexual harassment and unethical practices in late August 2017 and, shortly thereafter, she was terminated on September 5, 2017 by Defendant, who explained that Plaintiff "seemed to have a lot on [her] plate and [she] was not a good fit." Id. at 2-3. On February 1, 2019, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights to Plaintiff, informing her that there was no evidence of unlawful conduct. ECF No. 1-4.

         On April 30, 2019, after exhausting her administrative remedies, see id., Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against Defendant, alleging that she suffered sexual harassment and retaliation. ECF No. lat5-6.[2] On June 24, 2019, Defendant filed the Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 18. Plaintiff filed an opposition on July 8, 2019. ECF No. 20. Defendant did not file a reply and the time to do so has since passed.

         This matter is now fully briefed, and the Court has reviewed Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, as well as the response thereto. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 18) will be GRANTED. Additionally, Plaintiff will be GRANTED leave to amend the Complaint.

         Discussion

         A. Standard of Review for Motion to Dismiss for ...


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