United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge
employment discrimination case, plaintiff Dakota Compton
filed suit against the State of Maryland and the Maryland
Transportation Authority (collectively, the
“State” or the “MDTA”), and
MDTA's former employee, Satish Bhardwaj. ECF 8-1 (the
“First Amended Complaint”). Plaintiff asserts
that from August 1, 2016 to March 30, 2017, his immediate
supervisor, Bhardwaj, sexually harassed him. The claim was
substantiated, and Bhardwaj was terminated. Further,
plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to retaliation from
Bhardwaj's supervisor, Sarah Williams, who was
disciplined but not discharged. According to plaintiff, the
retaliation culminated in his termination while he was on
medical leave. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive
relief as well as monetary damages.
Complaint contains six counts. Count One alleges
“Sexual Hostile Environment, ” in violation of
the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
(“MFEPA”), Md. Code (2014 Repl. Vol., 2017
Supp.), § 20-606 of the State Government Article
(“S.G.”). Count Two alleges
“Retaliation” under the MFEPA. In Count Three,
plaintiff alleges “Sexual Hostile Environment, ”
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(“Title VII”). Count Four asserts a retaliation
claim under Title VII. Count Five, lodged only against
Bhardwaj, asserts a common law claim of battery. Finally,
Count Six sets forth a claim for intentional infliction of
State has filed a “Partial Answer.” ECF 16. And,
it has filed a “Partial Motion To Dismiss” (ECF
15), with respect to Counts Two, Four, and Six of the First
Amended Complaint. The motion is supported by a memorandum.
ECF 15-1 (collectively, “State Motion”). Compton
opposes the State Motion, in part. ECF 19. The State has
replied. ECF 21. Bhardwaj has also moved to dismiss (ECF 26),
supported by a memorandum (ECF 26-1) (collectively,
“Bhardwaj Motion”). Plaintiff has responded. ECF
27. No reply was filed, and the time to do so has expired.
See Local rule 105.2.
hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. Local Rule
105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the
Bhardwaj Motion and I shall grant in part and deny in part
the State Motion.
began working for the MDTA in August 2010. ECF 8-1, ¶ 6.
He was hired as a Facility Maintenance Technician and was
later promoted to a Customer and Revenue Agent. Id.
Compton alleges that he “met and exceeded all
reasonably objective performance standards, ” leading
him to “receive increases in pay several
times.” Id. ¶ 7.
reported to Bhardwaj. Id. ¶ 8. Compton avers
that from August 1, 2016, to March 30, 2017, he “was
subjected to unwelcome and unwanted lewd sexual acts
perpetrated” by Bhardwaj, including “derogatory
and extremely vulgar and abusive language, pornographic
material, [and] sexual comments about Mr. Compton's
relationship with his significant other[.]”
Id. ¶ 9. Further, Bhardwaj also allegedly made
unwanted advances towards plaintiff, and at one point
“thrust his genitals against Mr. Compton.”
Id. ¶ 11.
repeatedly asking Bhardwaj to stop his offensive conduct, but
Bhardwaj ignored his requests or laughed at him. Id.
¶¶ 10, 12. In plaintiff's view, “Bhardwaj
appeared to take pleasure in humiliating [him] and making
[him] uncomfortable with such sexual acts.”
Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff complained to
Bhardwaj's supervisor, Sarah Williams, but that too
proved unavailing. Id. ¶ 12.
filed a complaint with the MDTA on or about March 30, 2017.
Id. ¶ 16. While the investigation was ongoing,
Williams allegedly “launched a personal campaign to
smear Mr. Compton's work record, standing and reputation
at the MDTA.” Id. ¶ 22. And, during the
week of April 17, 2017, Williams allegedly “approached
and expressed anger towards Plaintiff for going outside her
department to report Mr. Bardwaj's [sic] behavior to MTDA
management.” Id. ¶ 95.
April 21, 2017, Sara Cabrera, Chief of the MTDA's Equal
Employment Opportunity and Fair Practices Department, wrote
to plaintiff, stating: “‘I have conducted an
internal investigation into this matter. The investigation
included a thorough review of your complaint, and information
obtained through interviews. Based on this investigation,
there was sufficient evidence to support your complaint as
alleged.'” Id. ¶ 97. Thereafter, the
MDTA “fired” Bhardwaj. Id. ¶ 17.
Williams was not discharged, but plaintiff alleges that the
MDTA disciplined her for failing to take measures to control
Bhardwaj. Id. ¶ 20.
alleges that, as a result of Williams's actions, he
“was so physically and emotionally tortured, that he
suffered a mental break down, was unable to function mentally
as he normally did, unable to work, and unable to return to
his position with the MDTA.” Id. ¶ 27;
see also Id. ¶¶ 112, 116. Plaintiff was
“forced to undergo medical leave.” Id.
to plaintiff, following the MDTA investigation, Williams
renewed “a deliberate and maligned campaign against the
Plaintiff in retaliation for having brought the Bardwaj [sic]
matter to MDTA management.” Id. ¶ 100.
Specifically, plaintiff alleges that on April 27, 2017, while
he was out on sick leave, Williams issued a written reprimand
to plaintiff for mishandling MDTA funds during a transaction
that occurred four weeks prior. Id. ¶ 102. The
same day, Williams also asserted that a customer wrote a
letter complaining that plaintiff had acted in an impolite
manner. Id. ¶ 103. And, two days later,
Williams accused plaintiff of making a
“‘threatening statement'” while at work
on April 26, 2017, which plaintiff alleges was impossible
because he was on sick leave that day. Id. ¶
plaintiff alleges that on May 1, 2017, Williams
“created the story that ‘Mr. Compton mishandled
MDTA funds.'” Id. ¶ 107. In
particular, Williams claimed that plaintiff and Amber Criner
and Sherri Lapin, both MDTA employees, made miscalculations
during a money exchange, resulting in a $500 accounting
error. Id. ¶ 108. Although Ms. Lapin was not
penalized and Ms. Criner was docked one day of compensable
leave time, plaintiff was docked three days of compensable
leave time. Id. ¶ 109.
MDTA required plaintiff to submit to a psychiatric evaluation
“to assess his mental health and determine whether he
was fit to continue working for the MDTA.” Id.
¶ 28. Therefore, plaintiff underwent an examination on
June 8, 2017, performed by Gabriel Newman, M.D. Id.
According to plaintiff, Dr. Newman “recommended”
that plaintiff not return to his position, in light of his
“current circumstances.” Id. ¶ 29.
sought to return to work on June 30, 2017, after he underwent
therapy and believed he was mentally able to do so.
Id. ¶ 122. But, the MDTA “did not
permit” him to return to his position. Id.
According to plaintiff, the MDTA gave him three choices:
“(1) Mr. Compton could return to work in the capacity
of ‘facility maintenance,' which was a demotion in
work responsibilities and reduction in pay grade, (2) apply
for retirement, or (3) resign.” Id. ¶
122. In plaintiff's view, the MDTA effectively discharged
him while he was on medical leave. Id. ¶ 32.
facts are included in the Discussion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by
way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). 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), 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