United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lisa Laster, a former employee of Defendant NAI, The Michael
Companies ("NAI"), has filed a civil action
alleging employment discrimination under the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§
12101-12213 (2012). Pending before the Court is NAI's
Motion to Dismiss Count III of Laster's Complaint, a
claim for retaliation, on the ground that she has failed to
exhaust administrative remedies relating to this claim.
Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds no
hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.
December 17, 2007, NAI hired Laster as a property accountant.
While employed with NAI, Laster suffered injuries to her
shoulder, which limited her lifting ability. Laster notified
NAI that she planned to have surgery on October 23, 2044 to
repair her shoulder, and NAI approved leave until January 5,
2015 under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"),
29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654 (2012); 5 U.S.C.
§§ 6381-6387 (2012). On December 30, 2014,
Laster's physicians notified NAI that Laster would
require several workplace accommodations and that she would
not be able to return to work until January 26, 205. On
January 13, 2015, Laster's physicians extended the date
of her return to work by another week, anticipating her
return on February 2, 2015. On January 27, 2015, NAI notified
Laster that her FMLA leave had expired and terminated her
effective January 29, 2015, four days before her anticipated
return. In its letter notifying Laster of her termination,
NAI stated that it was "essential that this position is
occupied." Compl. ¶ 31, ECF No. 1. NAI had not
contacted Laster or her physicians to discuss the possibility
of an earlier or modified return date.
28, 2015, Laster filed Charges of Discrimination against NAI
with the Prince George's County Human Relations
Commission ("PGHRC") and the United States Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On the
Charge of Discrimination form ("the Charge"),
Laster checked the box alleging discrimination based on
disability, but she left the box for retaliation blank.
Laster asserted that the discrimination occurred between
October 21, 2014 and January 29, 2015. In the narrative
section of the EEOC form, Laster alleged that NAI
"discriminated against [her] on the basis of [her]
disability," and that NAI "failed to provide . . .
.requested reasonable accommodation[s]." Charge at 1,
Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 17-1. The narrative described
NAI's initial approval of FMLA leave, the two subsequent
requests Laster's physician made to extend the leave and
for duty modification,, and NAI's letter terminating her
employment because of the expiration of her FMLA leave. The
narrative concluded, "I believe that the Respondent
failed to provide me with the reasonable accommodation
requests made by my doctor and terminated my position because
of my disability." Id. at 2.
August 13, 2015, PGHRC notified NAI of the discrimination
charge under the ADA. On October 21, 2016, the PGHRC
concluded its investigation by finding insufficient evidence
to support Laster's allegation. PGHRC's letter
described Laster's allegation as that NAI had "ended
her employment because of her disability" but did not
refer to a retaliation claim. PGHRC Letter of Determination
at 2, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4, ECF No. 17-4.
PGHRC's determination, Laster pursued her claims with the
EEOC. In contrast to the PGHRC, the EEOC concluded after
investigation that NAI had "denied [Laster] a reasonable
accommodation" and that the reason given for
Laster's "discharge was pretext and violated the
ADA." EEOC Letter of Determination at 2, Mot. Dismiss
Ex. 5, ECF No. 17-5. On April 19, 2018, the EEOC notified the
parties of its determination that NAI had discriminated
against Laster based on disability, without reference to a
13, 2018, the EEOC sent Laster a Notice of Right to Sue upon
the failure of the conciliation process. On October 15,
2018, Laster filed the instant suit alleging
three counts under the ADA: (1) wrongful termination; (2)
denial of reasonable accommodation; and (3) retaliation. NAI
has moved to dismiss the retaliation count.
moves to dismiss Laster's ADA retaliation claim on the
grounds that Laster has not exhausted her administrative
remedies as to this claim because she failed to check the box
for retaliation on her Charge of Discrimination form filed
with the PGHRC and the EEOC. Laster concedes that she failed
to do so, but argues that exhaustion was accomplished because
the retaliation claim is "reasonably related" to
the Charge such that her retaliation claim could "be
expected to follow from a reasonable administrative
investigation" into the Charge claims. Sydnor v.
Fairfax Cty., 681 F.3d 591, 594 (4th Cir. 2012).
NAI seeks dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, since the
filing of the Motion, the United States Supreme Court has
held that the exhaustion requirement under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e-2000e-17, is "a processing rule,
albeit a mandatory one, not a jurisdictional prescription
delineating the adjudicatory authority of courts."
Fort Bend Cly. v Davis, 139 S.Ct. 1843, 1851 (2019).
The Court therefore construes NAI's Motion as seeking
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court
ordinarily may not consider evidence outside the pleadings on
a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(d). Here, the Motion is premised on documents
outside the Complaint, including the Charge and written
correspondence and findings issued by the PGHRC and the EEOC.
Although consideration of these documents requires treatment
of the Motion as seeking summary judgment, see id,
the Court finds that such treatment is appropriate here.
First, the parties were on notice, based on the original
filing of the Motion under Rule 12(b)(1), that the Court
would consider the documents attached to the Motion.
Following the ruling in Davis, the Court provided
the parties with the opportunity to submit supplemental
briefs to address the impact of that ruling on the Motion,
and Laster did not assert that the Court should not consider
the attached documents. Finally, the Court finds that
discovery is not required to resolve the issue of exhaustion
of administrative remedies, as the issue can be resolved on
the papers attached to NAI's Motion. See Gay v.
Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985) (finding that
"(w]hen a party is aware that material outside the
pleadings is before the court, the party is on notice that a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion may be treated as a motion for summary
judgment," and the court may convert the motion to one
for summary judgment where the parties have been "given
a reasonable opportunity to present all material made
pertinent to such a motion."). The Court will therefore
treat NAI's Motion as one seeking summary judgment.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court grants
summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In assessing a motion, the Court must
believe the evidence of the non-moving party, view the facts
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and draw
all justifiable inferences in its favor. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). "A
material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond
Auto Glass,242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A dispute of ...