Snyder v. Md. Dep't of Transp.

Decision Date31 March 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action CCB-21-930
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland



Civil Action No. CCB-21-930

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 31, 2022


Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

Lynn E, Snyder brought the present action against her former employer, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, and her former supervisors, Darion Branham and Daniel Houck (collectively, "the defendants''). Snyder alleges the defendants interfered with her statutory right to take medical leave, while also discriminating against her on account of her gender, disability, and age. In doing so, Snyder contends the defendants violated a host of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Now pending before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (Defs/ Mem. Supp. Summ. J., ECF No. 12.) The issues have been fully briefed, with Snyder filing an Opposition (PL's Mem. Opp. Summ. J., ECF No. 21), and the defendants filing a Reply (Defs.' Reply Supp. Summ. J.. ECF No. 27). The motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2021). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the defendants' Motion, which it construes as a motion for summary judgment.[1]



Plaintiff Lynn E. Snyder[2] spent years working for the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration ("Department"), where she was an Administrative Assistant in the Department's Westminster, Maryland shop (Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 3.) The shop is responsible for designing and maintaining Maryland's highways, which includes clearing roadways when it snows. (Defs.` Mem. at 1; Compl. ¶ 45.) The present dispute began on February 13, 2019, when Snyder allegedly noticed a Department employee had submitted a timecard with incorrect information. (Compl. ¶ 15.) As an Administrative Assistant. Snyder was responsible for preparing the payroll which inspired her to keep a watchful eye over;1he comings and goings" of other employees. (Id. ¶ 16.) Believing the employee was being paid for work not actually performed, she reported the situation to management. (Id. ¶ 18.)

In this conversation, Snyder spoke with Defendant Darion Branham, head of the shop and Snyder's superior. (Id. ¶ 18.) Branham was a new employee, having only worked at the shop for approximately a month. (Id.) After reporting her suspicions to Branham, Snyder uneventfully returned to her desk. (Id.) Later that day, Snyder was called back into Defendant Branham`s office, where Branham allegedly questioned her "more aggressively." (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.)

The next day, Snyder's direct supervisor. Andrew Antlitz, allegedly requested to speak with her about the timecard issue. (Id. ¶2l.) While she was speaking with Antlitz, Branham entered the room and allegedly began shouting about Snyder's timecard concerns. (Id. ¶22.) Snyder alleges she became ill after this meeting, and she requested leave later in the afternoon. (Id. ¶ 24.) Snyder contends the interaction was especially distressing because of her status as a battered spouse. (Id. ¶ 23.) Branham allegedly took a "mean-spirited" approach regarding Snyder's request


for leave, but "he did ultimately grant the leave." (Id. ¶ 25.)

Snyder had already arranged to have the next five days off from work to visit her family. (Id. ¶ 28.) Snyder, however, still felt ill on February 20, 2019, the day she originally planned on returning to work. (Id. ¶3l.) Instead of returning to work, Snyder called in sick and saw her primary care doctor and a mental health professional. (Id. ¶3l.)

According to Snyder, she alerted the Department's Westminster shop of her need for medical leave during this time. (Id. ¶3l.) The Department contends Snyder never applied for leave under the applicable statute. In support, the defendants submit the sworn affidavit of Stacy Custer, the Administrative Chief responsible for Snyder's shop (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. Ex. A, Custer Aff. ECF 12-2), and Rhonda Truitt, the Division Chief of the Benefits Services Division (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. Ex. B, Truitt Aff, ECF 12-3.) There is no record of Snyder applying for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act during the relevant time of this dispute. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) On February 28, 2019, the Department sent forms inquiring about Snyder's eligibility for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. (Custer Aff. ¶ 5.) These inquiries were sent to Snyder's home address via certified and first-class mail, but ultimately returned to the Department unclaimed. (Id. ¶¶ 5-7.)

Meanwhile, Snyder returned to the shop on March 4, 2019. (Compl. ¶42.) Several members of management, including Branham, met with Snyder to discuss why she did not report to work during a weather emergency on March 3, 2019. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. Ex. D, Pierson Aff. ¶ 3, ECF 12-5; Compl. ¶ 43.) During their discussion, however, Snyder "pulled out her cell phone and informed [Branham] she was recording the meeting." (Pierson Aff. ¶3.) Branham left the meeting to contact the Department's Employee/Employer Relations Office ("EER"). (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) EER recommended informing Snyder of the potential disciplinary action


she may face due to insubordination if she does not stop recording conversations in the workplace. (Id.¶3.)

Branham returned to the meeting, but Snyder "again stated that she was recording the meeting." (Id. ¶4.) She "refused to respond to Mr. Branhanvs questions about her failure to respond to the snow emergency call over the weekend." (Id.) Snyder was given the opportunity to write responses to the questions about her absence and return them the following day. (Id. ¶ 5.) Snyder declined to do so. (Id. ¶ 5.) Several members of management as well as an HR representative were present for the meeting and verified this account. (Id.)

Three days later, on March 11, 2019, Branham contacted EER again, reporting that "Snyder's negative behaviors were escalating towards management and causing a disruption in the office." (Id. ¶ 7.) EER asked Daniel Houck, an Assistant District Engineer who had no prior relationship with Snyder, to schedule a mitigating conference with Snyder to discuss her missed time during the snow emergency as well as general insubordination. (Id. ¶ 8.) When Snyder met with Houck on March 12, 2019, she again threatened to record the conversation. (Id. ¶9.) She informed Houck "she was done talking to management." (Id.) "She proceeded to tell management to write her up, fire [her], [or do] whatever they need to." (Id.)

The Department obliged. The next day, March 13, 2019, EER recommended Snyder's termination due to insubordination. (Id. ¶ 10.) The MDOT/SHA Administrator and the Deputy Administrator approved the recommendation, (Id.) While the Charges for Termination documents were being drafted, EER received yet another report on March 15, 2019, detailing Snyder's "negative attitude toward management." (Id. ¶ 11.) According to Branham, Snyder's attitude was "escalating to the point of causing frequent disruptions in the front office." (Id.) On March 18, 2019, Houck met with Snyder for another "mitigating circumstance conference" to discuss her


"unprofessional and inappropriate'' workplace conduct. (Id. ¶ 12.) This, evidently, was to allow Snyder the opportunity to "tell her side of the story." (Id.) Snyder refused, proclaiming "she'll see [the Department] in court."' (Id.)

Snyder received a Suspension Pending Termination that same day. (Id. ¶ 13.) Four days later, on March 22, 2019. Snyder was served Charges for Termination documents. (Id. ¶ 14.) The documents note "Snyder was terminated for (1) having committed an act of misconduct or a serious breach of discipline; (2) her action or inaction amounted to insubordination; (3) her failure to obey a lawful and reasonable direction given by a supervisor or a superior; and (4) the violation of a statute, regulation, executive order, written policy, written directive, or written rule." (Id.)

On September 18. 2019. Snyder filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Compl. ¶ 62.) Over the following year, Snyder satisfied the requisite administrative requirements to bring the present action. (Id. ¶¶ 62-67) Snyder's pleadings allege she expressed concern "she was being harassed and discriminated against" in her prior meetings with management. (Id. ¶ 48.) Snyder alleges she was the oldest worker in the shop and was asked when she intended to retire. (Id. ¶ 50.) Snyder contends there were just three women in the Westminster shop (Id. ¶ 53), while alleging men in the shop miss storms due to illness yet remain employed. (Id. ¶ 56.)

Snyder subsequently appealed her termination to the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings. (Pl.`s Mem. Opp. at 3.) Then, Snyder appealed to the Circuit Court for Carroll County. (Id.) Finally, after yet another appeal, her termination is now pending before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. (Id.) `` Specifically, the EEOC issued a reasonable cause determination with respect to potential violations of Title VII and the ADA. (Compl. ¶ 63.) The Maryland State Treasurer took no action in response to Snyder's notice related to her tort claims, permitting Snyder to litigate those claims in court. (Id. ¶ 64.) The EEOC also issued Snyder a Notice of Right to Sue under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Id. ¶ 65.)


Separately. Snyder commenced the present action in the Circuit Court for Carroll County, Maryland. (ECF No. 1.) Snyder asserts a litany of different claims within the following categories: violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, discrimination based on disability, age, and gender, as well as common law tort claims.[4] The defendants filed a timely notice of removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1446, as well as the present Motion to Dismiss, or in the...

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