United States District Court, D. Maryland
David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge.
American Federation of Teachers - Maryland Professional
Employees Council, AFL-CIO Local 6197 ("MPEC"),
Jerry Smith, Andrea Buie-Branam, Ronny Myers, Simeon
Williams, and Cedric Brown, move this Court to dismiss the
First Amended Complaint of Plaintiff, Jacquelyn Raines, for
racial discrimination and retaliation brought pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1981, gender discrimination and retaliation
brought pursuant to the Maryland Equal Pay Act
("MEPA"), Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. §§
3-301-309, and wrongful termination (the "Motion to
Dismiss") (ECF No, 22). After considering the Motion to
Dismiss and the responses thereto (ECF Nos. 23, 24), the
Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R.
105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons stated herein, the Court
GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Motion to
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). MPEC
is a union covering professional state employees. ECF No. 20
at 3, ¶ 14; ECF No. 22-1 at 1. In December 2016, MPEC
hired Plaintiff, an African-American woman, as a Field
Coordinator and Labor Representative. ECF No. 20 at 3, ¶
14. Plaintiffs Field Coordinator contract was effective from
December 5, 2016, through December 4, 2018, and she received
an annual salary for that position of $75, 000. Id
at 5, 12, ¶¶ 24, 64.
Plaintiff began her employment with MPEC Martin Guinane, a
white male, was the Executive Director. Id. at 4,
¶ 15. While serving as MPEC's Executive Director,
Mr. Guinane (like former MPEC Executive Directors) also
performed tasks as the Executive Director of AFT-Healthcare
Maryland ("AFT"), another union. Id. at
7-8, ¶¶ 37, 39-40. Most of Mr. Guinane's tasks
were in his capacity as Executive Director of MPEC, and many
of his duties for AFT overlapped with his responsibilities
for MPEC and could be performed simultaneously. Id.
at 7-9, ¶¶ 37-47. MPEC and AFT also shared the same
office space and materials, and MPEC paid both unions'
bills while they shared an Executive Director, with
occasional forty percent reimbursement from AFT. Id.
at 9, ¶ 44. Prior to his December 2017 resignation, Mr.
Guinane received an annual salary of $120, 000, with MPEC
contributing $72, 000 and AFT contributing $48, 000.
Id. at 5, 12, ¶¶ 25, 62-64. Mr. Guinane
never performed tasks beyond those traditionally attributed
to an Executive Director. Id. at 9-10, ¶¶
47, 51-52. While it is unclear when MPEC and AFT
"severed ties, " they continued to occupy the same
office space, and the two unions decided to implement
separate Executive Director positions in or about February
2018. Id. at 11- 12, ¶¶ 55-66, 61.
April 1, 2018, the President of MPEC's board, Jerry
Smith, told Plaintiff that he wanted her to fill the role of
MPEC's Interim Executive Director and eventually be the
permanent Executive Director. Id. at 11, ¶ 55,
57. Plaintiffs contract for the Interim Executive Director
position was effective from April 6, 2018, through July 31,
2018; by its terms, the contract automatically extended
beyond July 31, 2018, if Plaintiff continued in MPEC's
employment. Id. at 6, ¶¶ 27-29.
April 1 meeting, Defendant Smith offered her a $75, 000
salary for the Interim Executive Director position.
Id. at 11, ¶ 57. This was the same salary to
which she was already entitled as a Field Coordinator,
id., and Plaintiff was still performing her original
Field Coordinator duties in addition to a variety of new
tasks as Interim Executive Director. Id. at 10,
¶ 50. After consideration, on April 2, 2018, Plaintiff
accepted the Interim Executive Director position via email,
but rejected the proposed salary because it was much less
than the $120, 000 Mr. Guinane received. Id. at
11-12, ¶¶ 57-62. Defendant Smith responded via
email that MPEC only contributed $72, 000 to Mr.
Guinane's salary, but Plaintiff responded that she had
seen MPEC's 2017 budget, which indicated that Mr. Guinane
would continue to receive $120, 000 from MPEC after AFT was
no longer contributing to his salary. Id. at 12,
¶¶ 63-64. During this salary conversation,
Defendant Smith justified Plaintiffs lower salary by stating
that other members of the hiring committee for the Executive
Director positions did not want her in the position.
Id. at 13, ¶ 67. Defendant Smith told Plaintiff
via email that the reason the other members of the committee
wanted to offer Plaintiff a lower salary was "[t]hey
wanted the white man" in the Executive Director
Interim Executive Director, Plaintiff continued to perform
her original Field Coordinator duties while also handling
financial, employment, human resources, and administrative
tasks. Id. at 10, ¶ 50. By all accounts,
Plaintiff performed her duties satisfactorily, and was never
accused of deficient job performance or improper workplace
conduct. Id. at 7, 18, 29 ¶¶ 34, 95, 166.
Although MPEC and AFT no longer officially employed the same
Executive Director, Plaintiff had to perform business tasks
for AFT on multiple occasions. Id. at 9, ¶ 46,
48. During the course of her duties, Plaintiff discovered
that MPEC and AFT's funds were co-mingled and had been
for years, as a result of previous Executive Directors
serving both unions. Id. at 7, ¶¶ 36-37.
Furthermore, in late October or early November 2018,
Plaintiff discovered that AFT's 401(k) contributions and
fees were withdrawn from MPEC's bank account Id.
at 10-11, ¶ 54. The co-mingling of the accounts occurred
while Mr. Guinane was Executive Director, and Plaintiff
reported the issue to the MPEC Board. Id. at 10-11,
regarding Plaintiffs salary for the Executive Director
position continued through May 2018. Id. at 13-14,
¶¶ 67-72. Plaintiff continued to dispute the lower
salary offers as racially and gender discriminatory.
Id. at 13-14, ¶ 70. In May 2018, the MPEC Board
tabled the salary discussion until they could reach a
permanent agreement; while the discussion was tabled, the
Board gave Plaintiff a stipend of $1, 666.00 per month for
the Interim Executive Director position. Id. at 14,
¶ 72. After the May 2018 meeting, Plaintiff spoke to two
Board members Jewel Freeman-Scott and Ricky Carpenter about
the decision to pay her a lower salary than Mr. Guinane, and
both members responded that it was because she is "a
black woman." Id. at 14, ¶¶ 73-74. On
July 26, 2018, the MPEC Board approved a proposal that
Plaintiff would continue to receive the $75, 000 Field
Coordinator salary and the $1, 666.00 per month stipend.
Id. at 15, ¶¶ 75-76. At the same time,
however, instead of installing Plaintiff as the permanent
Executive Director, the Board voted to change her title from
"Interim" to "Acting" Executive Director,
Id. at 15, ¶ 77. When Plaintiff asked Ms.
Freeman-Scott why she was given the "Acting" title,
she responded, "I feel like they just don't want to
see a black woman with that title." Id. at 15,
31, 2018, Plaintiff sent Defendant Smith an email titled
"Gender & Race Discrimination." Id. at
15, ¶ 79. In the email, Plaintiff accused the Board of
racial and gender bias and discrimination as it related to
her title and compensation. Id. During the ensuing
discussion, Plaintiff emphasized that she was being paid less
than her white, male predecessor for the same tasks and that
she had maintained from the beginning of the salary
discussions that the Board's behavior regarding her title
and compensation was discriminatory. Id. at 15-17,
¶¶ 79-84. Despite Plaintiff pressing the issue, at
each of the September 20, 2018, October 18, 2018, and
November 8, 2018 MPEC Board meetings, the Board decided to
"table" discussions of Plaintiffs title and salary
indefinitely, until Defendant Smith informed Plaintiff on
November 9, 2018, that the Board would not discuss her
contract until January 2019. Id. at 17-18,
the course of these salary conversations, Plaintiff was
supervising other employees as Interim Executive Director.
Felicia Hawkins, an employee paid jointly by AFT and MPEC
through a partnership program, was assigned by an AFT project
to be a union organizer for MPEC. Id. at 19,
¶¶ 97-98. At some point after Ms. Hawkins'
hiring but before late June 2018, Ms. Hawkins and Defendant
Smith had a sexual relationship. Id. at 19,
¶¶ 99-100. At the end of July 2018, Defendant Smith
asked Plaintiff to put Ms. Hawkins on the permanent MPEC
payroll after the partnership program with AFT ended.
Id. at 19-20, ¶ 101. Plaintiff proposed a
salary for Ms. Hawkins of $52, 000, but Defendant Smith
demanded that Ms. Hawkins receive $60, 000, over Plaintiffs
strong objections. Id. at 20, ¶¶ 101-03.
On September 25, 2018, Defendants Smith and Buie-Branam
confronted Plaintiff and her staff about Ms. Hawkins,
contending that Plaintiff had been tracking Ms. Hawkins when
she was missing work. Id. at 20-21, ¶¶
106-107. After Plaintiff questioned Defendants Smith and
Buie-Branam about their interrogation methods, Defendant
Smith threatened to fire Plaintiff. Id. at 21,
¶¶ 108-11. Despite Ms. Hawkins frequently missing
work and her subpar job performance, Plaintiff, as instructed
by Defendant Smith, issued Ms. Hawkins' new contract on
September 29, 2018, which Ms. Hawkins rejected because she
wanted to receive a variety of additional benefits beyond
what other MPEC employees received. Id. at 20, 22
¶ 104, 114-15. Plaintiff rejected Ms. Hawkins'
demands. Id. at 22, ¶ 116. On November 9, 2018,
Defendants Smith and Buie-Branam rewrote the MPEC standard
union organizer contract to create a specific contract for
Ms. Hawkins that paid her additional benefits over what other
employees received and drastically lowered the performance
metrics and standards Ms. Hawkins would need to "meet
expectations" in her role. Id. at 24-25,
November 9, 2018, after Defendant Smith told Plaintiff the
Board would not review her Interim Executive Director
contract until January, Defendant Smith told Plaintiff at a
staff meeting that Ms. Hawkins would continue to work on
assignment in the same agency in which he worked, despite it
being Plaintiff s job to make these assignments. Id.
at 22-23, ¶¶ 119- 23. After the staff meeting,
Defendants Smith and Buie-Branam met with Plaintiff alone;
during which they chastised her both for challenging
Defendant's Smith's authority and for trying to
continue to discuss her salary with the Board. Id.
at 23, ¶¶ 125-27. Defendant Smith then made his
second threat to terminate Plaintiff, emphasizing that he
would not need the rest of the Board's permission to do
so. Id. at 24, ¶ 130. On December 17, 2018,
Defendant Buie-Branam sent Plaintiff a copy of the contract
she and Defendant Smith had created for Ms. Hawkins.
Id. at 24, ¶ 134. Because she felt that Ms.
Hawkins' contract terms were not in the best interest of
MPEC union members, Plaintiff sent the contract to MPEC s
legal counsel on January 7, 2019, expressing that the
contract was created from a conflict of interest, and it was
legal counsel's responsibility to prepare employment
contracts. Id. at 25, ¶¶ 137-38. On
January 9, 2019, Defendants Smith and Buie-Branam again met
with Plaintiff alone to ask why she had not signed Ms.
Hawkins contract, and then to scold her for sending it to
legal counsel for review. Id. at 27, ¶¶
147-49. Plaintiff expressed that the changes to the contract
were "a blatant conflict of interest when this
organization is hurting for members and money, " and
Defendant Smith responded by trying to suspend Plaintiff,
before being instructed to leave by another Board member over
the phone. Id at 27, ¶¶ 150-55.
February 1, 2019, Defendant Smith and Mr. Carpenter gave
Plaintiff a sixty-day notice of termination. Id. at
28, ¶ 159. Plaintiffs last day in MPEC's office was
February 15, 2019, and her sixty-day notice period expired on
April 1, 2019. Id. at 29, ¶ 163. MPEC's
legal counsel confirmed that Plaintiff was not terminated for
cause. Id. at 29, ¶ 165. After Plaintiffs
termination from MPEC, Mr. Guinane resumed the role of
Executive Director on a part-time, temporary basis of twenty
hours per week for $7, 500 per month (equating $90, 000
April 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against
Defendants, seeking declarations that Defendants failed to
comply with relevant laws, an injunction instructing
Defendants to comply with relevant laws, an award of unpaid
wages and actual, liquidated, and punitive damages, and
attorneys' fees and costs (ECF No. I). On July 1, 2019,
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim (ECF No. 16). Two days later, on July 3, 2019,
Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a First Amended
Complaint (ECF No. 17), which the Court granted on July 8,
2019 (ECF No. 18).
22, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (ECF No.
20). On August 5, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss
the amended complaint for failure to state a claim (ECF No,
22). On August 13, 2019, Plaintiff opposed the Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 23), and on August 27, 2019, Defendant filed
a reply (ECF No. 24). Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss is
argue that Plaintiffs § 1981 claims for racial
discrimination and retaliation, Maryland Equal Pay Act claims
for gender discrimination and retaliation, and wrongful
discharge claims fail to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R,
Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF No. 22 at 1.
Standard of Review for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint not to "resolve contests surrounding the
facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses." King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206,
214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). A
complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility
exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. An inference of a mere possibility of misconduct
is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id.
at 679. As stated in Twombly, "[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level." 550 U.S. at 555. "A
pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or
'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders 'naked assertions' devoid of 'further
factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (internal citations omitted). Although when considering a
motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual
allegations in the complaint, this principle does not apply
to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
their Motion, Defendants seek to dismiss all claims against
them. The Court will address each Count in turn.
§ 1981 Racial Discrimination and Retaliation ...