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Maestre v. SDH Services East, LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 20, 2019

OSMEL MAESTRE, Plaintiff,
v.
SDH SERVICES EAST, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO PARTIALLY DISMISS RE DOCUMENT NO. 10

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this employment discrimination suit, Osmel Maestre alleges that his employer, SDH Services East, LLC (“SDH”), violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 9. Specifically, Mr. Maestre contends that Defendant subjected him to disparate treatment based on race, id. ¶¶ 39-49, created a discriminatorily hostile work environment based on his national origin, id. ¶¶ 50-59, and then retaliated against him when he reported harassment and discriminatory conduct based on national origin, id. ¶¶ 60-74. Defendant now moves under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss Plaintiff's hostile work environment and reprisal claims.[1]

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to make out a plausible claim for relief pursuant to either his hostile work environment claim or his retaliation claim. This Court therefore grants Defendant's motion to partially dismiss his complaint.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         On August 22, 2016, Mr. Maestre was hired as a Senior Manager for SDH. See Am. Compl. ¶ 14. He identifies as a Cuban-American and as Hispanic. Id. ¶ 6. Mr. Maestre asserts that Defendant discriminated against him over the following year because of his national origin and his ethnicity. See generally Id. More specifically, Mr. Maestre alleges that Defendant, as an organization, systematically discriminated against Mr. Maestre and other similarly situated employees by giving non-white employees inferior job assignments. See Id. ¶¶ 17-25, 28. Plaintiff avers that he was routinely asked to perform undesirable work that was the responsibility of other white employees. Id. ¶¶ 20-25, 28. For example, “Plaintiff was expected to be on call and immediately respond to building issues that came up, for periods of seven to fourteen days straight and for at least seven days straight every three to four weeks.” Id. ¶ 28. He was also “forced to be the Manager on Duty; [given] call center responsibilities; serv[ed] as the ergonomics contractor; . . . and [was] assigned work on weekends.” Id. ¶ 21. In addition to these assignments, Mr. Maestre states that he and other similarly situated employees were given fewer training opportunities than white employees, id. ¶ 18, and that a less qualified white candidate was promoted in lieu of Plaintiff, id. ¶ 19.

         Mr. Maestre contends that his supervisor, Ms. Julie Policastro, exacerbated this environment of discriminatory treatment by mistreating him in front of other employees. Id. ¶¶ 26-34. Mr. Maestre states that Ms. Policastro would publicly “belittle, harass, and intimidate” him multiple times a day “by pointing her finger” at him and yelling “Come in here!” Id. ¶ 26; see also Id. ¶ 32 (stating that Ms. Policastro would call Plaintiff into public areas and “intimidate and taunt” him “with facial expressions while . . . pointing her finger directly at Plaintiff); id. ¶ 33 (describing “incidents and harassment” as occurring “twice or more a day”). Moreover, when Mr. Maestre attempted to speak with Ms. Policastro regarding the additional work assigned to him, she “would yell and look at Plaintiff with disgust” and scream “[h]ere we go again” in front of other employees. Id. ¶ 29; see also Id. ¶ 34 (stating that Ms. Policastro “reprimand[ed] Plaintiff in front of other[s]” for his failure to perform the extra duties assigned to him).

         Mr. Maestre also describes two problematic meetings with Ms. Policastro. First, during a meeting in late May 2017, Ms. Policastro informed him that “anyone who defends their employees will no longer be here” and “threatened” to terminate Plaintiff if he did not terminate the African-American managers whom he supervised. Id. ¶ 30. Thereafter, Mr. Maestre states that Ms. Policastro “subjected him to consistent verbal abuse on a daily basis” and asked him about a “plan” for terminating Plaintiffs minority supervisees. Id. ¶ 31. The second incident occurred during a different meeting with Ms. Policastro, Mr. Maestre, and another employee, Charon Jackson.[3] Id. ¶ 33. On this occasion, Ms. Policastro responded to Mr. Maestre's recommendations about ways to improve the organization's Key Performance Indicators by telling Mr. Maestro to “forget about it” while “smirk[ing] and ma[king] a face with disgust.” Id.

         In addition, Mr. Maestre asserts that Ms. Policastro repeatedly threatened to fire both him and his wife, who also works for Defendant, “unless they compl[ied] [with] her demands.” Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. Dismiss 4 (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), ECF No. 11;[4] Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27, 30-31, 33. During one interaction, Ms. Policastro told other employees that Defendant's employment of Mr. Maestre's wife “was not working out.” Id. ¶ 27. More generally, Mr. Maestre states that Ms. Policastro “talk[ed] negatively” about his wife, an SDH employee, with other individuals at the company. Id.

         In response to most of these incidents, Mr. Maestre reported Ms. Policastro's conduct to Defendant's Human Resources Department (“HR Department”).[5] Id. ¶¶ 32, 64. Although the HR Department responded by saying that it would escalate his complaints, id. ¶ 32, it failed to take any action to “prevent or correct further discrimination and harassment, ” id. ¶ 35.

         After lodging this complaint with the HR Department, Mr. Maestre alleges that Ms. Policastro retaliated against him. Id. ¶¶ 36-38, 60-74. He avers that, in retaliation for his protected activity, his work responsibilities were changed and he was given “routine tasks” that took his attention away from “critical activities under his job function.” Id. ¶ 36. He also states that Ms. Policastro altered his responsibilities by “transferr[ing] work from other Directors to Plaintiff” and by adjusting “Plaintiff's work schedule to alleviate her responsibility to be on call.” Id. ¶ 38. Mr. Maestre further asserts that Ms. Policastro “micromanaged” him, id., scrutinized his “work, his area, and his direct reports, ” id., and “excluded [him from] meetings with his staff, ” id. ¶ 36. Finally, Mr. Maestre claims that Ms. Policastro retaliated by threatening to “blame” Plaintiff's wife if a contract was cancelled and by otherwise “treat[ing] Plaintiff's wife negatively” in front of his coworkers. Id. ¶ 37.

         On July 14, 2017, Mr. Maestre filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that Defendant violated Title VII.[6] Id. ¶ 8 (citing EEOC Charge No. 517-2017-01748). Mr. Maestre states that his EEOC complaint included allegations that he was subjected to “discrimination based upon national origin and retaliation for filing a complaint of national origin [discrimination].” Id. ¶ 10. One year later, the EEOC dismissed Mr. Maestre's complaint, and the agency sent him a right-to-sue letter on July 14, 2017.[7] Id. ¶ 11.

         On October 29, 2018, Mr. Maestre filed a complaint against SDH alleging race discrimination, creation of a discriminatory hostile work environment, and retaliation, see generally Compl., ECF No. 1, which he subsequently amended, see Am. Compl.[8] In response, Defendant moved to dismiss two of Plaintiff's claims (for hostile work environment and retaliation) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Def.'s Mot. 1. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's partial motion to dismiss.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD[9]

         To pursue a claim in federal court, a plaintiff must provide a “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must contain “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). If a plaintiff fails to provide ...


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