Crumb v. Mcdonald's Corp., Civil Action No. DKC 15-1719

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtDEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge
PartiesEALISE CRUMB v. MCDONALD'S CORPORATION, et al.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. DKC 15-1719
Decision Date26 February 2016

EALISE CRUMB
v.
MCDONALD'S CORPORATION, et al.

Civil Action No. DKC 15-1719

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND

February 26, 2016


MEMORANDUM OPINION

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this discrimination case are motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by: (1) Defendants Prince George's County, Maryland ("Prince George's County"), Prince George's County Human Relations Commission (the "PGCHRC"), and D. Michael Lyles, Executive Director of the PGCHRC (ECF No. 16); (2) Defendant McDonald's Corporation ("McDonald's") (ECF No. 31); (3) Defendant Raoul Alvarez, President of RAM Foods, Inc. ("RAM Foods") (ECF No. 32); and (4) Defendant RAM Foods (ECF No. 44). Also pending and ready for resolution are three motions for leave to file a surreply filed by Plaintiff Ealise Crumb ("Plaintiff"). (ECF Nos. 62; 63; 64).1 The relevant issues have been fully briefed, and the court now

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rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss filed by Prince George's County, the PGCHRC, and Mr. Lyles will be granted. The motion to dismiss filed by McDonald's will be granted in part and denied in part. The motion to dismiss filed by Mr. Alvarez will be granted. The motion to dismiss filed by RAM Foods will be granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's motions for leave to file surreplies will be denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are alleged in the complaint and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. (ECF No. 2). Additional facts will be discussed in the analysis section. This case stems from several interactions between Plaintiff, who is an African American woman, and staff at a McDonald's restaurant in Oxon Hill, Maryland (the "restaurant"), which is owned and operated by RAM Foods.

On March 19, 2013, Plaintiff ordered lunch at the restaurant, which included an order of French fries. Plaintiff told a restaurant employee, "I want my fries hot, right out of the grease." (Id. ¶ 25). Plaintiff avers that she began specifically asking for hot, fresh fries because she routinely was served lukewarm, overcooked fries, and multiple complaints regarding the fries were unsuccessful. Despite her request,

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Plaintiff received lukewarm French fries on March 19. Plaintiff alleges that she "requested hot French fries three times before she received her order of hot French fries because the female employee, who was Hispanic, was mixing warm French fries with hot French fries." (ECF No. 2 ¶ 41). According to Plaintiff, Ms. Alston, a female African American restaurant employee, "placed the bag of food on the counter and . . . [w]hen Plaintiff reached to pick up the bag, Alston called Plaintiff a 'big fat black hussy.'" (Id. ¶ 43).

Plaintiff asked another restaurant employee to speak with the manager. Plaintiff initially spoke with a person she thought was the manager, but was actually the owner's father. Plaintiff then spoke with the manager, Mr. Edwards, and relayed what Ms. Alston had called her. Ms. Alston told Mr. Edwards that Plaintiff "snatched the bag" out of her hand. (Id. ¶ 69). Plaintiff asked Mr. Edwards to look at the security monitor so he could see that she didn't "snatch the bag out of [Ms. Alston's] hand." (Id. ¶ 70). When Mr. Edwards did not look at the security footage, Plaintiff demanded that Ms. Alston admit what she said, but Ms. Alston refused to admit or deny that she called Plaintiff a "big fat black hussy." Mr. Edwards refused Plaintiff's requests to provide her with contact information for McDonald's headquarters or the franchise owner, ultimately providing Plaintiff with his name and the store address and

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number. Plaintiff asserts that she told the manager to save the security footage, but he did not do so. (Id. ¶¶ 88-89).

Plaintiff next returned to the restaurant on May 27, 2013. According to Plaintiff, as she was waiting in line to order breakfast, Ms. Alston emerged from the back of the restaurant and stood behind the counter. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Alston whispered something to a cashier at the counter and laughed. Plaintiff placed her order at the counter and asked the cashier to handle her order because Plaintiff "didn't want an encounter with [Ms.] Alston." (Id. ¶ 105). Plaintiff avers that the cashier said, "No problem, I can prepare your order," and took Plaintiff's money. (Id. ¶¶ 107-108). As the cashier was preparing Plaintiff's order, Ms. Alston asked the cashier what she was doing and told her to "[g]et back to the register" because she was "getting the food." (Id. ¶ 111). Plaintiff inquired what was happening, and the cashier informed her that "[t]he manager told [the cashier] not to get [Plaintiff's] food" because she was a cashier, and cashiers "can't get food." (Id. ¶ 112). Ms. Alston then told the cashier to give Plaintiff her money back "because she's not going to be served here." (Id. ¶ 113). Plaintiff asked to speak to the manager and was informed that Ms. Alston was the manager on duty. Plaintiff was provided at least a partial refund and was not provided the food she ordered.

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On May 28, 2013, Plaintiff called Mr. Edwards to inform him about Ms. Alston's refusal to serve her the day before. Mr. Edwards offered to meet with Plaintiff to discuss her concerns, but he did not want to meet with her at the restaurant. Plaintiff refused Mr. Edwards' offer because she did not want to meet him at a location other than the restaurant. On May 31, Plaintiff wrote a letter to McDonald's corporate headquarters regarding the aforementioned incidents. (ECF No. 57-7).

B. Procedural History

According to Plaintiff, she "filed a discrimination complaint" with the PGCHRC on or about June 26, 2013. (ECF No. 2 ¶ 144). Plaintiff alleges that she attempted to assert a claim of discrimination based on race but was told that she could not do so because Ms. Alston was also African American. (Id. ¶ 146). On July 10, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the PGCHRC. (ECF No. 16-4). Plaintiff's charge alleges that she was discriminated against based on her personal appearance in violation of the Prince George's County Code. (Id.). Plaintiff met with a PGCHRC investigator on August 25, 2013, during which time she was told that McDonald's, Mr. Alvarez, and RAM Foods had not yet received her charge and were granted an extension to respond. (ECF No. 2 ¶ 307). On November 12, Plaintiff received a call from the PGCHRC informing her that McDonald's, Mr. Alvarez, and RAM Foods were interested

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in mediation. Plaintiff alleges that PGCHRC staff informed her that she was not required to have an attorney present at the mediation, and that "[a] lot of people appear alone at mediations and can speak for themselves without having an attorney present to represent them." (Id. ¶ 320).

Plaintiff attended a mediation session led by a Ms. Nelson on March 27, 2014. Plaintiff was accompanied at the mediation by a friend, who is a retired attorney. During the mediation, representatives for RAM Foods informed Plaintiff that Ms. Alston was no longer employed at the restaurant, but they refused to respond to Plaintiff's inquiries into the reason for the termination of Ms. Alston's employment. After the initial discussion, Plaintiff asserts that Ms. Nelson said to Plaintiff, "now that Ms. Alston is no longer working [at the restaurant], is there a dollar value you may wish to settle this matter for[,] and because she is no longer there should give you some satisfaction." (Id. ¶ 342). Plaintiff refused to settle because she wanted to know if Ms. Alston's termination was related to her complaints. Plaintiff avers that Ms. Nelson, after hearing Plaintiff would not settle, informed Plaintiff that she had previously worked at McDonalds and told Plaintiff, "you don't have a case." (Id. ¶ 349). Plaintiff ended the mediation and told Ms. Nelson that she wanted the PGCHRC to conduct an investigation.

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On August 20, 2014, Plaintiff called the PGCHRC to inquire on the status of the investigation because she had not heard anything for over four months. (See ECF No. 42-4, at 8). During this call, Plaintiff learned that a new investigator had been assigned to her case. Plaintiff continued to urge the PGCHRC to complete the investigation, but was told that the PGCHRC was "trying to get additional information for [her] case." (Id. at 9). On January 30, 2015, Plaintiff sent a fax and certified letter to Mr. Lyles questioning the perceived delay in the PGCHRC's investigation. (Id.). On February 2, Mr. Lyles left a message with Plaintiff acknowledging receipt of her letter and telling her, "I'm concerned, disappointed and dismayed that our staff dropped the ball on this. But I would like to speak with you about what our corrective action is going to be. . . . Let me apologize for the length of time this has taken. But I would like to speak with you personally so that we can conclude this matter in pretty short order." (See ECF No. 2 ¶ 155). On February 4, the PGCHRC issued a Determination that "there is insufficient evidence to support [Plaintiff's] allegation that [RAM Foods and McDonald's] denied service to [Plaintiff] based on her personal appearance." (ECF No. 16-5, at 4). The Determination informed Plaintiff that she had the right to appeal the decision within thirty days and attached, among other documents, blank forms Plaintiff could file with the

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. at 5-6).

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on March 18, 2015. (ECF No. 2). The complaint alleges the following counts against Defendants: discrimination based on personal appearance in violation of the Prince George's County Code, Div. 12 § 2-220 (Count I); discrimination in public accommodations because of race and disability (Counts II and III);...

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