United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendants State of Maryland and the
Maryland Department of Health's motion to dismiss, (ECF
No. 3) and Plaintiff Hilary Phillips' motion for leave to
file an amended complaint which Defendants oppose. ECF Nos.
8, 9. The issues are fully briefed, and no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following
reasons, the Court grants Phillips' Motion to Amend but
nonetheless dismisses the Amended Complaint for failure to
state a legally sufficient hostile work environment claim.
case arises from Phillips' conflict with her former first
line supervisor, Cynthia Petion. ECF No. 8-2 ¶¶ 12,
16. Between March 2017 and July 2018, Phillips worked as the
Director of the Office of Planning for Maryland's
Behavioral Health Administration (“BHA”).
Id. ¶¶ 1, 11, 35. During this time,
Phillips avers that Petion “repeatedly singled out Ms.
Phillips, made her feel unsafe in the workplace by
consistently raising her voice, by making derogatory,
threatening, and hostile comments, excluding her from
meetings, openly criticizing work-related efforts and by
sabotaging her work performance with excessively controlling
behavior.” Id. ¶ 16. Phillips alleges
that this behavior was motivated by Petion's belief that
Phillips suffered from a disability. Id. ¶ 44.
complained about Petion's behavior to several persons
within the BHA. First, in June 2017, Phillips complained to
Human Resources (“HR”). ECF No. 8-2 ¶ 17. HR
told her to “look for another job.” Id.
Next, Phillips reported Petion's behavior to
Phillips' second-line supervisor, Dr. Barbara Bazron, as
well as to Anna Barefoot, the Chief of Staff for the BHA, and
Dr. Kimberly Cuthrell, a newly-hired second line supervisor.
Id. ¶¶ 18-19. Phillips admits that Dr.
Cuthrell “took measure[s] to address the
bullying.” Id. ¶ 20.
early 2018, Phillips again complained to HR about Petion. ECF
No. 8-2 ¶ 22. HR and Dr. Bazron began investigating
Petion's “bullying” of Phillips. Id.
¶¶ 21, 25. On February 14, 2018, Petion “was
removed from the building” pending investigation.
Id. ¶ 24. However, in March 2018, it was
determined that Phillips' allegations were
“insufficient of actionable bullying” and Petion
resumed her role as Phillips' supervisor. Id.
again resumed similar behavior toward Phillips. ECF No. 8-2
¶ 28. Dr. Cuthrell attempted to stand up to Petion on
behalf of Phillips but was fired for doing so in May 2018.
Id. ¶ 30. Petion thereafter reported to Dr.
Bazron that Phillips was “questioning [her] leadership,
” resulting in Dr. Bazron discussing the situation with
Phillips. Id. ¶¶ 32-33. HR also told
Petion that they “did not want to be in the middle of
this anymore.” Id. ¶ 31. Also, on a
single occasion between March and May 2018, Petion referred
to Phillips as bipolar and suffering from split personality
disorder during a meeting with Dr. Bazron. Id.
2018, Phillips took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act
and then resigned. ECF No. 8-2 ¶ 34. At the first staff
meeting after Phillips' departure, Petion told
Phillips' former employees that Phillips resigned
“because of her mental health problems.”
Id. ¶ 36.
brought suit against the State of Maryland and the Maryland
Department of Health for employment discrimination under the
Rehabilitation Act, contending that Petion's behavior
subjected her to a hostile work environment and was motivated
by Phillips' perceived mental health problems. ECF No. 1.
On April 3, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss Phillips'
complaint. ECF No. 3. Phillips, in response, sought leave to
amend her Complaint. ECF No. 8. The proposed Amended
Complaint removes the Maryland Department of Health as a
party, clarifies that Petion's harassment was
“because of” as opposed to “based in part
on” Phillips' perceived disability, and adds that
the Defendant State of Maryland “perceived that
[Phillips] was seriously limited in one or more major life
activities.” ECF No. 8-1 ¶¶ 3-5, 7, 10, 48.
Phillips also makes clear that she is not pursuing a
constructive discharge claim. ECF No. 8 at 1-3. Thus, the
sole count before this Court as pleaded in the Amended
Complaint is the hostile work environment claim against the
State of Maryland.
Standard of Review
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.
See 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).
plaintiff may amend pleadings once without leave of court
when the amended complaint is timely filed under Rule 15 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed. R. Civ. P.15(a).
Otherwise, Courts should treat motions for leave to amend
liberally, granting leave “freely . . . when justice so
requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Leave may be denied,
however, when allowing amendment would “be prejudicial
to the opposing party, when the moving party has acted in bad
faith or with a dilatory motive, or when the amendment would
be futile.” Arora v. James, 689 Fed.Appx. 190,
190 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Laber v. Harvey, 438
F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006)) (internal quotation marks
is futile when it is “clearly insufficient or
frivolous” and thus cannot survive a motion to dismiss.
Whitaker v. Ciena Corp., No. RDB-18-0044, 2018 WL
3608777, at *3 (D. Md. July 27, 2018). In assessing whether a
claim is futile, the Court reviews the claim for sufficiency
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure as articulated above. Kerrigan v. Bd. of Educ.
of Carroll Cty., No. JKB-14-3153, 2016 WL 470827, at *3
(D. Md. Feb. 8, 2016).