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Hobson v. Mattis

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 2, 2017

FAYE R. HOBSON, Plaintiff,
RETIRED GENERAL JAMES MATTIS, Secretary, Department of Defense, Defendant.


          ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge.

         Before the court is the remaining defendant's Motion to Dismiss Under 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 35.) For the reasons discussed herein, the court will grant the motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. However, because the motion does not address the plaintiff's claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., the court will not dismiss this action in its entirety.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The plaintiff filed her Complaint initiating this action on April 22, 2016. (Doc. No. 1.) In addition, shortly after service of the Complaint on all defendants, the plaintiff filed a document titled “Index Complaint of FMLA Denial's [sic] and Documentation” (Doc. No. 16), to which are attached approximately 350 pages of exhibits, comprising the underlying administrative record and other documents. (Doc. Nos. 16-1 through 16-20.) It appears that this filing was intended to supplement the Complaint.

         According to the allegations in the Complaint, the plaintiff resides in Montgomery County, Tennessee. She is employed by the Department of Defense Education Activity (“DoDEA”) as a teacher at a U.S. overseas school operated on Camp Humphreys Army Base in South Korea. In October 2014, she requested leave without pay under the FMLA due to personal medical problems. She claims that she was denied the requested leave, at least initially. She believes that the denial of FMLA leave was in retaliation for her having previously filed discrimination complaints against the agency. (Compl. ¶ 9.) She also alleges that she was denied FMLA leave “because of Agency employees' belief that Plaintiff is using her medical condition to seek employment at Fort Campbell Schools.” (Compl. ¶ 12.) She concedes that, eventually, “DoDEA Korea District Superintendent Dr. Judith J. Allen granted leave without pay for the requested time.” (Compl. ¶ 26.) The plaintiff complains, however, that the leave was not classified as FMLA leave, as a result of which she suffered a loss in benefits and entitlements. (Id.)

         On December 15, 2015, the plaintiff filed an administrative complaint against the DoDEA alleging that she had been denied FMLA leave based on her previous complaints of race discrimination and retaliation. (Compl. ¶ 9; see also Complaint of Discrimination, Doc. No. 16-3.) She was advised by letter dated January 7, 2015 that the complaint had been accepted for investigation. (Compl. ¶ 9; Jan. 7, 2015 Letter, Doc. No. 16-6, at 10-12.) The complaint was investigated from March through May 2015. On June 15, 2015, the plaintiff requested a Final Agency Decision (“FAD”). (Compl. ¶ 9; June 15, 2015 Letter, Doc. No. 16-5, at 3.) The DoDEA issued the FAD on August 7, 2015. (FAD, Doc. No. 16-5, at 13-21.) The plaintiff received the FAD on August 17 or 18, 2015. (Compl. ¶ 9; see also Pl.'s Resp. & Rebuttal ¶ 3, Doc. No. 41.)

         The plaintiff filed her Complaint in this court on April 22, 2016, expressly asserting claims under Title VII (Compl. Count One, ¶¶ 23-30) and the ADA (Compl. Count Two, ¶¶ 31- 35). As indicated above, however, the Complaint also contains factual allegations and other statements indicating that the plaintiff intends to assert claims under the FMLA. (See Compl. ¶¶ 9, 36a-36f.) The Complaint also references 42 U.S.C. § 1981, but without expressly setting forth a factual or legal basis to support a claim under § 1981.

         The court previously dismissed all claims asserted against the individual defendants named in the Complaint. Accordingly, what remains are claims against the Secretary of the Department of Defense in his official capacity.

         Now pending is the defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 35), filed with a supporting Memorandum (Doc. No. 36), and the Declaration of William Suddeth (Doc. No. 37). Attached to the Sudduth Declaration are parts of the underlying administrative record that the plaintiff already submitted, including the plaintiff's Formal Complaint of Discrimination (Doc. No. 37-2) and the FAD (Doc. No. 37-1), as well as documentation of the plaintiff's agency appeals in other administrative actions (Doc. Nos. 37-3, 37-4, 37-5). The plaintiff has filed her Response in opposition to the defendant's motion (Doc. No. 40) and a Rebuttal to Sudduth's Declaration (Doc. No. 41).

         II. Standard of Review

         The defendant's motion is filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 12(d) provides that, if the moving party presents and the court relies on matters outside the pleadings, “the motion [under Rule 12(b)(6)] must be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Sixth Circuit has clarified the scope of what the court may consider without reaching “matters outside of the pleadings.” Generally, while a plaintiff is not required to attach to the complaint documents upon which her action is based, under the Rules, “[a] copy of any written instrument which is an exhibit to a pleading . . . a part thereof for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). In addition, “when a document is referred to in the pleadings and is integral to the claims, it may be considered without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment, ” even if the document was filed by the defendant rather than by the plaintiff. Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. Ill. Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 335-36 (6th Cir. 2007). Courts may also “take judicial notice of the administrative record reflecting plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies without converting the motions into ones for summary judgment.” Allen v. Shawney, No. 11-cv-10942, 2013 WL 2480658, at *13 (E.D. Mich. June 10, 2013). See Lockett v. Potter, 259 F. App'x 784, 786 (6th Cir. 2008) (affirming the district court order granting the defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust).

         The court concludes that it is appropriate to consider the plaintiff's agency complaint as well as the FAD without converting the present motion into one for summary judgment. Both of these documents were submitted by the plaintiff as a supplement to her pleading, and she refers to both of them in her Complaint.

         Accordingly, the standard applicable to Rule 12(b)(6) motions applies. Under that standard, the court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the pro se plaintiff. Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 688 (6th Cir. 2006). Although a complaint does not need to contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must provide the grounds for her entitlement to relief, and this obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (applying Twombly). Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         III. ...

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