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Ford v. Collington Life Care

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 3, 2019

ADRIAN FORD, Plaintiff,
COLLINGTON LIFE CARE, et al., Defendants.


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         This employment discrimination case concerns pro se Plaintiff Adrian Ford's claimed adverse treatment on account of her national origin. Pending before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos. 7, 9. The motions are fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motions.

         I. Background [1]

         On June 20, 2017, Plaintiff Adrian Ford began working for Defendant Collington Life Care (“Collington”), a senior living facility, as a Geriatric Nursing Assistant (“GNA”). ECF No. 1-2 at 1.[2] Ford worked under the direct supervision of Defendant Emily Mayembe. Id. Ford was one of two African American GNAs under Mayembe's supervision, while all other employees, including Mayembe, were of African descent. Id. Ford asserts she was “treated less favorably” and “given more work, ” including more difficult work assignments, relative to the GNAs of African descent. Id. Although Collington's policy was to maintain a ten-to-one nurse to patient ratio, Ford's ratio exceeded this policy. Id. When Ford approached management to express her concerns, she was told that she “could either perform the duties as assigned or leave employment.” Id.

         On September 2, 2018, Ford filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging national origin discrimination and retaliation. See ECF No. 1-2. The EEOC then issued a Notice of Right to Sue letter on September 20, 2018. ECF No. 1 at 6. On December 19, 2018, Ford filed this action against Collington and Mayembe, alleging national origin-based discrimination, retaliation, and harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id. at 4-5. Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, arguing Ford has failed to state a claim for relief.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). The Court accepts “the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true, ” and construes all facts and reasonable inferences most favorably to the plaintiff. Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint's factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).

         A pro se litigant's complaint must be construed liberally to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Eccleston v. Prince George's Cty., No. DKC 15-3871, 2017 WL 430384, at *1 (D. Md. Feb. 1, 2017) (“Pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.”) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that a court must ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Nor should the court rewrite a complaint to ensure that it survives a motion to dismiss. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         III. Mayembe's Motion

         Ford brings Title VII claims against Mayembe individually and in her capacity as Ford's supervisor. Mayembe moves to dismiss the Complaint against her solely on the ground that she is not a proper defendant under Title VII. It is well-settled law that “supervisors are not liable in their individual capacities for Title VII violations.” Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180 (4th Cir. 1998); see also Lewis v. Balt. City Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs, 187 F.Supp.3d 588, 594 (D. Md. 2016). Accordingly, the Court dismisses with prejudice Ford's claims against Mayembe.

         IV. Collington's Motion

         Collington contends that Ford's national origin-based discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims fail because Ford fails to plead facts establishing a prima facie case. Although Collington is correct that Ford must prove at trial her prima facie case as first articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), the prima facie case “is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement.” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 510 (2002). Put more precisely, a plaintiff need not plead a prima facie case to survive a motion to dismiss. See Id. at 515; McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep't of Transp., State Highway Admin., 780 F.3d 582, 584-85 (4th Cir. 2015). Rather, the complaint must allege facts that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Coleman v. Md. Ct. App., 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Nevertheless, the elements of a prima facie case provide helpful guidance when reviewing “the adequacy of the allegations.” Niner v. Garrett Cty. Pub. Works, No. ELH-17-2948, 2018 WL 3869748, at *16 (D. Md. Aug. 15, 2018). With this standard in mind, the Court considers each claim separately.

         Title VII makes it unlawful “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. Workplace discrimination typically involves either disparate treatment or a hostile work environment. Ford maintains that she was subject to both forms of discrimination. See ECF No. 1 at 5.

         a. ...

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