Maryland District Court Grants anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss Lawsuits Brought against Three Virginia Tech Students for Reporting Wage Theft

January 6, 2023

On January 6, 2023, the Maryland District Court for Anne Arundel County dismissed three lawsuits brought against three Virginia Tech students by their former employer after extensive oral argument on the motion.

The students, who were all employees of a bookstore in Blacksburg, VA, had filed administrative complaints with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), alleging that their former employer, BookHolders, LLC, had paid them below the state minimum wage. In turn, BookHolders, LLC sued all three students in Maryland state court for breach of contract, invoking the arbitration agreements each student had signed at the outset of their employment.

The legal team representing the students then filed a motion to dismiss BookHolders’ three lawsuits pursuant to Maryland’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. In the motion and at oral argument, the students’ legal team argued that reports of wage theft to the state enforcement agency did not breach the arbitration agreements at issue, and that BookHolders’ lawsuits were brought in bad faith to deter the students from engaging in protected First Amendment activity.

In a victory for the students, at the conclusion of Friday’s hearing, during which Karla Gilbride of Public Justice argued the students’ motion at length before the court, the Maryland district court agreed to dismiss the three suits against the students.

The legal team representing the students includes Murphy Anderson attorneys Mark Hanna and Adam Breihan, Karla Gilbride of Public Justice, and Joanna Wasik and Dennis Corkery of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.