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Herbig v. Martin

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 17, 2013

BARBARA O'NEAL HERBIG, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion addresses Defendant Lockheed Martin's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 4, and accompanying Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 4-1; and Plaintiff's Opposition, ECF No. 8. Defendant has not filed a Reply, and the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2.a. A hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a resident of Maryland and was employed by Defendant as a project engineer beginning in November 2005. Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1; see Pl.'s Opp'n 2. Plaintiff worked for Defendant until her employment was terminated in May 2012. Compl. ¶ 14. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she was "diagnosed with [a]nxiety, [d]epression, and [e]xtreme [s]tress on or about February 2012." Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff states that a medical provider diagnosed her disability as having a duration of twelve months and that during this period of disability, she "was ordered by her treating physician to work only [a] six (6) hour schedule and later updated to a [seven] (7) [] hour schedule." Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiff asserts that despite these recommendations from her doctor, "Defendant ordered Plaintiff to resume a full eight hour work schedule and communicated with Plaintiff its intention to terminate Plaintiff if she fail[ed] to work the eight hour schedule." Id. ¶ 12. Importantly, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant "failed to make any reasonable accommodation for Plaintiff despite several requests, " and ultimately terminated Plaintiff in May 2012. Id. ¶¶ 12-14.

Approximately seven months prior to her termination, on October 31, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. See id. ¶ 15. On August 21, 2012, Plaintiff received a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" letter and subsequently filed suit on November 19, 2012, alleging one count of disability discrimination under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Id. ¶¶ 16-21.

On January 9, 2013, Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, arguing first, that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies "by filing a charge of discrimination within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory action, " as required, and second, that she failed to "set out a prima facie case of disability discrimination." Def.'s Mem. 3-6. Specifically, with regard to Defendant's first argument, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff is precluded from bringing suit because her charge of discrimination, filed with the EEOC in October 2011, "does not disclose any of the allegations" stated in the Complaint and that the claims stated in Plaintiff's charge are not "reasonably related" to those claims "maintained in [her] subsequent lawsuit." Id. at 3-4. With regard to Defendant's second argument, Defendant argues that Plaintiff "fails to establish that she can be considered a qualified person with a disability" and that she "provides no factual basis that would make Defendant liable for failing to" provide a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA. Id. at 4-6.

In her Opposition, Plaintiff argues that she has exhausted her administrative remedies because the claims stated in the Complaint are "reasonably related" to those stated in her Charge of Discrimination - that is, they share a common "place of work, actor, and type of discrimination" and therefore, "were sufficient to put the employer on notice that it was accused of not providing a reasonable accommodation to a disabled individual." Pl.'s Opp'n 6. Plaintiff also argues that she has indeed pleaded a sufficient claim for relief and offers at least four pages of additional facts not present in her original Complaint to support this assertion.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendant has styled its Motion to Dismiss as one pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Def.'s Mot. 1. However, in its Motion, Defendant asserts first that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies prior to bringing suit. Def.'s Mem. 3. This argument raises the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Jones v. Calvert Grp., Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009) (stating that "a failure by the plaintiff to exhaust administrative remedies concerning a Title VII claim deprives the federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction over the claim"); Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children's Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D. Md. 2010) (citing Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003)). Accordingly, Defendant's Motion shall be treated first as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and second, as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 1 (requiring the Court to construe the rules of procedure "to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding"); see also Snead v. Bd. of Ed. of Prince George's Cnty., 815 F.Supp.2d 889, 894 (D. Md. 2011) (stating that "questions of subject matter jurisdiction must be decided first, because they concern the court's very power to hear the case") (internal quotation marks omitted).

A. Motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a party may assert a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, by motion, as a defense to a claim for relief. A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on two theories. See, e.g., Fontell v. MCGEO UFCW Local 1994, Civil No. AW-09-2526, 2010 WL 3086498, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 6, 2010); Walker v. United States Dep't of the Army, 60 F.Supp.2d 553, 555 (E.D. Va. 1999). First, a defendant may assert that "a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based." Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). In this instance, "the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a 12(b)(6) consideration." Id. Second, a defendant may allege that the "the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint are not true." Fontell, 2010 WL 3086498, at *3. When this occurs, "the Court may... consider matters beyond the allegations in the complaint." Id. The Court "regard[s] the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, " and its consideration of additional evidence does not "convert[] the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Ry. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991); see Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219 ("A trial court may consider evidence by affidavit, depositions or live testimony without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment."). Here, Defendant asserts that despite Plaintiff's statement to the contrary, she has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as required. Def.'s Mem. 3-4. Thus, Defendant's motion to dismiss follows the second theory and challenges the truthfulness of the jurisdictional allegations in the Complaint. See id. As such, the Court may "consider matters beyond the allegations in the complaint" in ruling on Defendant's Motion. See Fontell, 2010 WL 3086498, at *3.

Notably, when a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins, Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999); El-Amin v. Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n Local No. 333, Civil No. CCB-10-3653, 2011 WL 2580630, at *2 (D. Md. June 28, 2011). "A court should grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.'" El-Amin, 2011 WL 2580630, at *2 (quoting Evans, 166 F.3d at 647).

B. Motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, Civil No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose "is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'" Id. (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Rule 8, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see Velencia, 2012 WL ...


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