Reed v. Maryland

Decision Date07 February 2013
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH-12-0472
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Tommie I. Reed, plaintiff, was terminated as an income maintenance specialist for the Prince George's County Department of Social Services ("Social Services"), which is part of the State of Maryland, Department of Human Resources (the "Department"). Reed sued the Department, the sole defendant, for illegal employment practices and discrimination based on race, gender, and disability. See Compl. ¶¶ 1, 6, 35, 43, 51, 58, 64 (ECF 1). In particular, Reed claims that the Department violated the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq., by refusing to grant him more than one month of leave for mental illness (Count I), see Compl. ¶ 34, and by terminating him for remaining on leave for longer than one month (Count II). See id. ¶ 41. Reed also alleges that the Department violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., by discriminating against him on the basis of his race as an African-American (Count III), see Compl. ¶¶ 47, 51, and on the basis of his gender as a male (Count IV). See id. ¶¶ 54, 58. Further, Reed alleges that the Department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq., by discriminating against him on the basis of his disability as an individual with majordepression (Count V).1 See Compl. ¶¶ 63-64. He seeks reinstatement as well as monetary damages "in an amount greater than" $300,000 as "compensatory," "liquidated," and "punitive" damages. See id. ¶¶ 37, 45, 52, 59, 66.

Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Department moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or, alternatively, for summary judgment ("Motion to Dismiss" or "MTD," ECF 4-1), arguing that the Eleventh Amendment bars Reed's FMLA and ADA claims for money damages, and that Reed's other claims fail as a matter of law. In a combined submission, Reed opposed the Motion to Dismiss and moved to file an amended complaint, so as to substitute Deon Carter, the Department's Personnel Manager, and Gloria Brown, the Director of Social Services,2 as defendants, in their individual and official capacities, with respect to his FMLA and ADA claims ("Motion to Amend" or "MTA," ECF 12). In a combined submission, the Department replied to the opposition and filed an opposition to the Motion to Amend ("Department Reply," ECF 15). Thereafter, Reed replied to defendant's opposition to his Motion to Amend ("Reed Reply," ECF 18).

Both motions have been fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to resolve them. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the Motion to Dismiss as to Counts I, II, and V, but with leave to amend Counts I and II; I will deny the Motion to Dismiss as to Counts III and IV; and I will grant the Motion to Amend as to Counts I and II to permit Reed to substitute Brown and Carter as defendants in regard to his FMLA claims.

Factual Background

In March 2005, Reed, an African-American male, began work as an income maintenance specialist at Social Services, "a unit of the Department." Compl. ¶¶ 5-7. In December 2009, "Reed began experiencing major depression." Id. ¶ 8. On April 22 and 23, 2010, he called in sick because of his depression; April 21, 2010 was the last day on which Reed worked. See id. ¶¶ 8-9. Reed "completed the necessary FMLA paperwork and submitted it to Deon Carter," the Department's Personnel Manager, on April 26, 2010. Id. ¶ 10. On May 5, 2010, Reed's psychiatrist completed a FMLA medical certification form, stating that "Reed was 'unable to work while he is on leave' and that his condition could last 'indefinitely.'" Id. ¶ 12. According to Reed's psychiatrist, "Reed required at least 'a month off from work in order to be able to refocus when he returns.'" Id. Reed requested four weeks of medical leave under the FMLA. See id. ¶ 13; Request for Family and Medical Leave, April 26, 2012 ("FMLA Request," ECF 4-2). Gloria Brown, the Director of Social Services, granted Reed's request for medical leave until May 26, 2010 (retroactive to April 26, 2010). See Compl. ¶ 13.

In May and June 2010, on at least seven separate occasions, Reed allegedly "called or sent text [or Facebook] messages to Gwynn Thompson, his supervisor,3 providing updates about his current medical condition and need for continued absence." Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Reed does not allege that he indicated to Thompson when he expected to regain his health or return to work. But, according to Reed, "Thompson assured him that it was fine that he remained on FMLA leave and advised him to get well." Id. ¶ 18. Despite Thompson's alleged assurances, on July 1, 2010, Deon Carter mailed a letter to Reed, stating that the Department had terminated Reed'semployment because Reed "had 'been absent from the work place since April 22, 2010 for reasons unknown to Personnel' and that it had 'not received any documents to substantiate [his] absence.'" Id. ¶ 20 (alteration in original).4 Carter claimed that "Reed had failed to submit 'any medical documentation to justify your continued absence nor have you contacted your supervisor or Personnel Services regarding your continued absence from the work place.'" Id.

According to the Complaint, the Department had allowed "several female employees" at least twelve weeks of medical leave under FMLA. Id. ¶ 25. Specifically, Reed alleges that one of these female employees was white and pregnant, and one had a mental illness. See id. ¶ 26-27.5

On July 6, 2010, Reed filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") a charge of discrimination against the Department. See id. ¶ 28. He received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on November 17, 2011. See id. ¶ 29. On February 25, 2012, Reed filed the suit against the Department, as noted.

Standard of Review

Defendant's motion is captioned as a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or, alternatively, for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is supported by exhibits. I will treat defendant's motion as a motion to dismiss, without converting it to a summary judgment motion. For purposes of both the Motion to Dismiss and the Motion to Amend, the legal issues are adequately framed by the facts contained in the Complaint and certain documents submitted by the parties that may be considered under Rule 12(b)(6).

A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 12(b)(6) tests the adequacy of a complaint. To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2008); see Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ." (citation omitted)); see, e.g., Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011) (applying Twombly plausibility standard).

Whether a complaint adequately states a claim for relief is judged by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554-55. Rule 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Although a plaintiff need not include "detailed factual allegations," the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. To satisfy the minimal requirements of the rule, the complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if . . . [the] actual proof ofthose facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. at 556 (brackets in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint that provides no more than "labels and conclusions," or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action," is insufficient. Id. at 555.

When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," and "draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff." E.I du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). However, the court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); Monroe v. City of Charlottesville, Va., 579 F.3d 380, 385-86 (4th Cir. 2009). And, if the "well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct," the complaint has not shown that "the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted).

As noted, defendant's motion is supported by exhibits. Ordinarily, a court "is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss." Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). But, under F. R. Civ. P. 12(d), a district court has "complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it." 5C Wright & Miller, Fed. Prac. & Pro. § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.); see Kensington Vol. Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cnty., 788 F. Supp. 2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011), aff'd, 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). Generally, if a court considers material outside of thepleadings, "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56," in which case, "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed. R. Civ. P....

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