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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 are the plaintiff's Written Objections (Doc. No. 25) to the magistrate judge's December 19, 2016 Order purporting to grant the defendant's Motion to Dismiss Improper Parties (Doc. No. 21). For the reasons discussed herein, the court construes the magistrate judge's Order as a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). The court will overrule the plaintiff's Objections, accept the R&R, and grant the motion to dismiss the individual defendants named in this action.

         I. Standard of Review

         The Federal Magistrates Act of 1968 authorizes the district courts to “designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court, ” except for those matters deemed “dispositive.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). A magistrate judge may be designated to hear and consider dispositive motions, but, with respect to such motions, the magistrate judge must submit to the district court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of the motion by the district judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         The initial matter presented here is whether the Motion to Dismiss Improper Parties, filed under Rule 12(b)(1), is a dispositive or non-dispositive motion. Generally, pretrial matters that a magistrate judge is precluded from “determining” pursuant to § 636(b)(1)(A) are called “dispositive” because they are “dispositive of a claim or defense of a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. The Sixth Circuit applies a “functional analysis of the motion's potential effect on litigation” to determine whether a particular motion is dispositive. Vogel v. U.S. Office Prods. Co., 258 F.3d 509, 514-15 (6th Cir. 2001). “The list of dispositive motions contained in § 636(b)(1)(A) is nonexhaustive, and unlisted motions that are functionally equivalent to those listed in § 636(b)(1)(A) are also dispositive.” Id. at 515.

         The motion in this case, styled as a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, is a dispositive motion, because it is potentially dispositive of the plaintiff's claims against the defendants seeking dismissal. Accordingly, the court construes the magistrate judge's Order as a Report and Recommendation.

         When an objection is lodged against a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a dispositive matter, the district court applies a de novo standard of review. In conducting this review, courts reexamine the relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate judge to determine whether the recommendation should be “accept[ed], reject[ed], or modif[ied], in whole or in part[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         II. The Complaint

         According to the allegations in the Complaint, the plaintiff resides in Montgomery County, Tennessee. She is employed as a teacher by the United States Department of Defense Education Activity (“DoDEA”) in a U.S. overseas school operated on Camp Humphreys Army Base in South Korea. In October 2014, she requested leave without pay under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 2601 et seq. (“FMLA”), due to personal medical problems. She was initially denied the requested leave. 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.)

         Based on these and other allegations, the plaintiff filed her Complaint initiating this action, naming as defendants the Secretary of the Department of Defense in his official capacity, as well as six individual identified as DoDEA employees, including Steven Won, Jennifer Kehe, Susan (Shelly) Kennedy, Dr. Judith Allen, Thomas Brady, and Linda Curtis. The Complaint purports to assert claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”) (Compl. Count One, ¶¶ 23-30) and the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”) (Compl. Count Two, ¶¶ 31-35).

         The Complaint also includes language indicating that the plaintiff intends to bring claims under the FMLA against defendants Steven Won, Jennifer Kehe, Susan (Shelly) Kennedy, Dr. Judith J. Allen, Thomas Brady, and Linda Curtis. (Compl. ¶¶ 36a-36f.) Other than the reference to Dr. Allen in paragraph 26, however, the plaintiff does not incorporate into the Complaint any factual allegations concerning these defendants; she simply identifies their roles within the DoDEA and provides their service addresses. (Compl. ¶ 3.) She also filed with the court an Index Complaint of FMLA Denial's and Documentation [sic] (Doc. No. 16), which appears to be intended to supplement the Complaint. Attached to this Index is a copy of all the documents the plaintiff sent to the Department of Labor in connection with her administrative complaint concerning the denial of her initial request for FMLA leave-approximately 350 pages of exhibits. This documentation indicates that defendants Shelly Kennedy, as school principal, along with Dr. Allen, as District Superintendent, and Steven Won, Supervisory Human Resources Specialist, were responsible, at different levels, for reviewing and either granting or denying the plaintiff's requests for medical leave. Jennifer Kehe, a Labor and Employee Relations Specialist in the DoDEA Pacific Human Resources Division, communicated some of these decisions to the plaintiff. (See Doc. No. 16-4.)

         The Complaint also states that it is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and it references the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 5), but it does not state the basis for relief under either statute.

         III. The Motion and the Magistrate's Recommendation

         In their Motion to Dismiss Improper Parties and supporting Memorandum, the defendants argue that the claims against the six individual defendants-Won, Kehe, Kennedy, Allen, Brady, and Curtis-must be dismissed, because the only proper defendant in a federal employment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII or ...

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