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Carter v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 12, 2019

LIAS CARTER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Lias Carter has filed a civil action against the Department of Transportation of Montgomery County, Maryland ("the County"), alleging disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. SS12101-12213 (2012). Presently pending before the Court is the County's Motion to Dismiss. Upon review of the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         In April 2001, Carter was hired as a bus operator for Montgomery County's "Ride-On" bus system. In late April 2016, while working in that role, Carter injured his left hand while attempting to open the door latch of the bus. He was diagnosed with trigger finger and, later, carpal tunnel syndrome of his left hand. Soon after Carter underwent surgery on August 3, 2016 for the trigger finger condition, Carter began to experience pain in his right hand and was then diagnosed with trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand as well. Because of these conditions, Carter was unable to work as a bus operator and took paid sick leave from August 9, 2016 through July 8, 2017, using sick leave donated by his colleagues through a County program.

         Carter requested light duty assignments beginning in August 2016, including assignments as a bus driver observer and an office assistant, and made the same request again in January 2017. In January 2017, after Carter's supervisor told him that there was a light duty assignment available, the light duty coordinator informed Carter that there were no vacant positions. After he exhausted paid sick leave in July 2017, Carter, still unable to work, requested paid disability leave from the County. His request was denied on August 10, 2017. Instead, the County placed Carter on unpaid leave from August 10, 2017 through December 11, 2017. Carter was then terminated on December 11, 2017 because he could not perform his job as a bus operator. Carter continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries, which continue to cause him physical and emotional pain and will require substantial additional medical care in the future.

         On March 9, 2018, Carter filed a pre-charge inquiry form and affidavit ("EEOC Affidavit") with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC".. On March 14, 2018, he submitted his formal EEOC Charge of Discrimination ("EEOC Charge"), on which, in identifying the basis of his complaint, he checked only the box for disability discrimination. In the narrative section of the EEOC Charge, he stated that he had suffered an on-the-job injury and was discharged because of his inability to do his job. He did not include any details about his requests for light duty or disability leave, or a possible claim of retaliation. After filing suit in this Court on July 24, 2018, Carter filed an Amended Complaint, on November 5, 2018, in which he asserts claims of employment discrimination based on disability (Count 1) and retaliation (Count 2).

         DISCUSSION

         The County has filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(I) and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). County asserts that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Carter did not exhaust administrative remedies based on his failure to assert a retaliation claim in his EEOC Charge. In the alternative, the County argues that the Court should dismiss Carter's claims because he failed to allege that he is a qualified individual under the ADA or that he requested and was denied a reasonable accommodation, and because he has not stated the elements of either a wrongful termination or retaliation claim. After the Motion was fully briefed, the Court requested and received supplemental briefs from both parties addressing the impact of Fort Bend County v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 1843 (2019), on the Motion.

         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         The County originally sought dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(I) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based Carter's alleged failure to exhaust administrative remedies. 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. SS 2000e-2000e-17, is "a processing rule, albeit a mandatory one, not a jurisdictional prescription delineating the adjudicatory authority of courts." Davis, 139 S.Ct. at 1851. The Court will therefore construe the County's claim that Carter failed to exhaust administrative remedies as seeking dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. See Stewart v. Iancu, 912 F.3d 693, 701-02 (4th Cir. 2019) (holding that dismissal for failure to comply with Title VII's 180-day waiting-period requirement, which is a mandatory claim-processing rule, was appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6)); see also Sydnor v. Fairfax County, 681 F.3d 591, 593 (4th Cir. 2012) ("[T]he ADA incorporates [Title VII's] enforcement procedures, including the requirement that a plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies ...." (citation omitted)); Fox v. Gen. Motors Corp., 247 F.3d 169, 176 (4th Cir. 2001) ("Because the ADA echoes and expressly refers to Title VII, and because the two statutes have the same purpose-the prohibition of illegal discrimination in employment-courts have routinely used Title VII precedent in ADA cases.").

         II. Failure to State a Claim

         A. Legal Standard

         To defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice. !d. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         Unlike 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). Courts are permitted, however, to consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss "when the document is integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint, and when the plaintiffs do not challenge the document's authenticity." Zak v. Chelsea Therapeutics Int'l, Ltd.,780 F.3d 597, 606-07 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Am. Chiropractic Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc.,367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004)). The County has attached to its Motion Carter's EEOC Charge, while Carter has attached to his memorandum in opposition to the Motion ("Opposition)) both the pre- charge inquiry form and EEOC Affidavit, as well as an affidavit by Carter attesting to how and when he filed his EEOC Charge. Carter's EEOC Charge is integral to his claims because he relies on and refers to it in his Amended Complaint and does not contest its authenticity. However, since neither Carter's pre-charge inquiry form and EEOC ...


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