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Batkins v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 9, 2019




         Plaintiff David Batkins (“Batkins”) filed suit against his former employer, Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. (“CSX”), asserting a total of six claims arising under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. 623 et seq., and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md. Code Ann. § 20-606. ECF 1. CSX has filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts II, IV, V, and VI of Plaintiff's Complaint, ECF 16, along with a supporting memorandum of law (collectively “Motion”).[1] ECF 16-1. Batkins has filed an opposition (“Opposition”), ECF 17, and CSX has filed a reply (“Reply”), ECF 18. I have considered all of the filings, and find that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth below, CSX's motion will be granted.

         Factual Background[2]

         CSX hired Batkins as a Special Agent in 2008, when he was approximately 48 years old. ECF 1 ¶¶ 8, 9. CSX negotiated to pay Batkins a starting salary of $57, 500, although it had paid younger Special Agents a starting salary of $60, 000. ECF 1 ¶¶ 10, 11. On March 24, 2011, CSX promoted Batkins to the position of Special Agent in Charge, and increased his salary to $80, 000. ECF 1 ¶ 13.

         On August 31, 2012, Deputy Chief Robert Flake circulated an email to CSX's hiring managers, which stated “[I]t has always been our goal to hire the best candidate taking into account all factors. We (the department) found during the CALEA demographic study that recent new hires are of an older age and thus the employment expectation cycle is shorter vs. the more preferred longer cycle; case in point our most recent 2 Northern Region new hires.” ECF 1 ¶ 15. In June, 2013, CSX partnered with Johns Hopkins University to create a training program entitled “Johns Hopkins School of Railroad Police Leadership.” ECF 1 ¶ 18. CSX invited certain employees to attend the training and to receive immediate promotions upon completion. ECF 1 ¶ 19. Batkins was not invited to attend the training, and believes the opportunity was offered to young Special Agents in Charge. ECF 1 ¶¶ 20, 21.

         At a meeting in early 2014, CSX Vice President Skip Elliot made a comment suggesting that he should not hire “old guys, ” because they do not want to perform certain tasks. ECF 1 ¶¶ 23-24. In February, 2015, Batkins received a performance rating of “below expectations, ” based on allegations “that [he] delegated too many responsibilities.” ECF 1 ¶ 25. Following a grievance, Batkins's rating was vacated and replaced with “meets expectations.” ECF 1 ¶ 26-27.

         In March, 2015, CSX Police Chief Jacqueline Litzinger audited Batkins's station and gave it a passing rating. Id. ¶ 28. That same day, Deputy Chief Powers advised Batkins that he would be placed on administrative leave, and could not serve as a Special Agent in Charge until he received a Maryland railroad police commission. Id. 29-30. At the time of his promotion in 2011, Chief Litzinger knew that Batkins had been credentialed only in Virginia. Id. ¶ 32.

         Batkins contacted the Maryland State Police to inquire about obtaining a commission, but Chief Litzinger advised him that his contact with the Maryland State Police violated CSX's protocol. Id. ¶ 35. Batkins next requested to attend commission training at the Prince George Academy, but his request was denied. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Instead, Batkins attended a more physically demanding training at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority School. Id. ¶ 37. Batkins believes that younger Special Agents were allowed to attend commission training programs of their choosing. Id. ¶ 38.

         While Batkins's training was ongoing, CSX placed him on a three-month Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), which required him to ride full ten-hour shifts with each officer under his command. Id. ¶¶ 40-41. Subsequently, Chief Litzinger advised Batkins that being present for the majority of a shift would suffice. Id. ¶ 43. However, on November 10, 2015, CSX fired Batkins, citing his “resistance” to complying with the PIP, because he had failed to complete ten-hour shifts with each officer. Id. ¶ 45.

         Legal Standard

         In this motion, CSX seeks dismissal of Count II of Batkins's Complaint, which alleges “Pay Discrimination in Violation of the ADEA.” ECF 1 at 7. Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss. See In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010) (Agee, J., concurring), aff'd sub nom., McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

         Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendants with “fair notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (citation omitted) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions' . . . .”); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Further, federal pleading rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 574 U.S. 10, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).

         Nevertheless, the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides no more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” it is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather, to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must set forth “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action, “even if . . . [the] ...

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