Malik v. Ccentennial Med. Grp.

Docket NumberCIVIL RDB-22-3356
Decision Date26 October 2023
PartiesZAINAB MALIK, Plaintiff, v. CENTENNIAL MEDICAL GROUP, LLC, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland
MEMORANDUM ORDER
RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff Zainab Malik (Plaintiff or “Malik”) brings this suit in a four-count Complaint against Defendants Centennial Medical Group, LLC[1] (“Centennial LLC”) Centennial Medical Group, PA (Centennial) Premier Medical Management, LLC (“Premier”), First Call Urgent Care, LLC (“First Call”), and Megan Quinn (“Quinn”), in her individual and official capacity, for claims of race and color discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation. (ECF No. 1 at 3-4, 7-10.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges race and color discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I); violation of the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”), MD. CODE, STATE GOV'T § 20-606 (Count II); retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count III); and retaliation under MFEPA (Count IV).[2]

On August 14, 2023, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6), (ECF No. 11), which is fully briefed (ECF Nos. 12, 15) and remains pending on this Court's docket. On September 16, 2023, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 16), which also remains pending. Defendants responded in opposition, (ECF No. 17), and pursuant to Local Rule 103.2(a), Plaintiff had until October 16, 2023, to reply but did not do so. After review of the parties' submissions, this Court held a telephonic hearing on the parties' motions on October 23, 2023.

For the reasons set forth on the record and set forth more fully below, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 16), is GRANTED; and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 11), is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, Plaintiff's race and color discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to Centennial LLC; Plaintiff's violation of the MFEPA claim (Count II) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to Centennial LLC; Plaintiff's retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count III) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to all Defendants; Plaintiff's retaliation claim under the MFEPA (Count IV) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to all Defendants. Accordingly, this case shall proceed with respect to the 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claim set forth in Count I against Defendants Centennial PA, Premier, First Call, and Quinn, and with respect to the MFEPA claim set forth in Count II against Defendants Centennial PA, Premier, First Call, and Quinn.

BACKGROUND

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court “accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). Except where otherwise indicated, the following facts are derived from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 16-2) and accepted as true for the purpose of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11).

Plaintiff Zanaib Malik (Plaintiff or “Malik”) is a South Asian woman of color who was jointly employed as a medical assistant by Defendants Centennial Medical Group, PA (Centennial); Premier Medical Management, LLC (“Premier”); and First Call Urgent Care, LLC (“First Call”) (collectively, the “healthcare provider Defendants) from October 2020 until her termination in May 2021. (ECF No. 16-2 at 4.) Plaintiff's job responsibilities included day-to-day administrative duties, preparing patients, and assisting doctors also employed by the healthcare provider defendants. (Id.) Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Defendant Megan Quinn (“Quinn”), a white woman. (Id. at 5.) Malik alleges that she was subject to a pattern of discrimination by Defendant Quinn that created a hostile work environment throughout her employment. (Id. at 5.)

According to Malik, Defendant Quinn often singled Plaintiff out, subjecting her to expectations, workload, and job duties significantly greater than those of white employees in comparable positions. (Id.) Malik alleges that Quinn overly scrutinized Plaintiff's work; publicly criticized, berated, and demeaned Plaintiff and other employees of color for their race; and used “historically[] racially charged adjectives and terms to describe employees of color and their job performance.” (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff further alleges that while she and other co-workers of color, including LaTia Mays (“Mays”), a Black woman, were denied scheduling flexibility during the COVID 19 pandemic, white co-workers such as Katie Schluederberg (“Schluederberg”) received scheduling accommodations “to play sports” and arrive late to work. (Id. at 5.) According to Malik, Schluederberg also received preferential treatment such as priority assignments over Plaintiff, Mays, and other colleagues of color. (Id. at 6) Despite this environment, Plaintiff received praise from patients and successfully performed her duties throughout her employment. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that in February 2021 she followed the internal policies in healthcare provider Defendants' handbook, to report Defendant Quinn's harassment and discrimination to Shaska Thomas (“Thomas”), the healthcare provider Defendants' Director of Operations. (Id. at 7.) Thomas instructed Plaintiff to create strategies to interact with Quinn and eventually advised Plaintiff to contact Connor Ferguson, (“Ferguson”), the healthcare provider Defendants' Managing Partner and CEO. (Id.) Malik further alleges that she reported Defendant Quinn's discriminatory acts to Ferguson in March 2021, but Ferguson neither investigated nor addressed the complaint. (Id.)

After Plaintiff's report, Defendant Quinn issued Plaintiff a written disciplinary action that Malik claims inaccurately accused her of poor work performance. (Id.) According to Malik, Thomas later removed the disciplinary action from Plaintiff's file because it was unwarranted and did not comply with the healthcare provider Defendants' policies and procedures. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that in May 2021, Nicole Hammet (“Hammet”), one of the healthcare provider Defendants' human resources officers, instructed Malik not to meet with Quinn alone. (Id. at 8.) Sometime thereafter, Defendants abruptly terminated Plaintiff, which Plaintiff contends was an act of retaliation. (Id.)

Plaintiff then filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Id. at 3.) On September 30, 2022, the EEOC issued a Determination and Notice of Rights making “no findings as to the merits of any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this Charge.” (Id. at 3.)

On December 28, 2022, Plaintiff filed a four-count complaint alleging race and color discrimination and retaliation in violation of both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the MFEPA. (ECF No. 1.) This Court issued a Summons on December 30, 2022, but Plaintiff did not effectuate service on Defendants within 90 days of issuance of the Summons. (ECF No. 11 at 1.) On March 30, 2023, Plaintiff requested reissuance of the Summons. (ECF No. 5.) On May 18, 2023, this Court notified Plaintiff that the request was filed incorrectly because Plaintiff failed to include the proposed summons to be issued. On June 5, 2023, Plaintiff requested an extension for effectuating service, simply noting [t]o date, the private process server has not been able to successfully serve all five (5) Defendants.” (Pl.'s Mot. Extend Time, ECF No. 7.) The Court granted the request for extension of time on June 5, 2023. (Marginal Order, ECF No. 8.) As of August 14, 2023, Defendants had yet to be properly served. (ECF No. 11 at 2.)

On August 14, 2023, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6), (ECF No. 11), which is fully briefed (ECF Nos. 12, 15) and remains pending on this Court's docket. On September 16, 2023, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 16), which also remains pending. Defendants responded in opposition, (ECF No. 17), and pursuant to Local Rule 103.2(a), Plaintiff had until October 16, 2023, to reply but did not do so. This Court held a telephonic hearing on October 23, 2023, and both pending motions are ripe for review.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW
I. Motion to Amend

Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides the general framework for amending pleadings. Specifically, Rule 15(a) provides that, after a response pleading is served, a plaintiff may amend his complaint “by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party.” In general leave to amend a complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) shall be “freely” granted “when justice so requires.” FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2); see Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Laince v. Prince George's County, Md., 199 F.Supp.2d 297, 300-01 (D. Md. 2002). Nevertheless, the matter is committed to the discretion of the district court, which may deny leave to amend “when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, the moving party has acted in bad faith, or the amendment would be futile.” Equal Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Assocs., 602 F.3d 597, 603 (4th Cir. 2010); see also Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 769 (4th Cir. 2011); Steinburg v. Chesterfield...

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