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Rowlette v. Lifebridge Health

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 4, 2019



          Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge.

         Bryant Rowlette ("Plaintiff), proceeding pro se, is a former employee of Lifebridge Health ("Lifebridge" or "Defendant") in Baltimore, Maryland. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff was employed as part of Lifebridge's Vocational Services Program ("VSP") on January 22, 2017. pef. Mot. To Dismiss, ECF No. 13-1 at 2.) The VSP is a program offered by the Defendant to provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities and economic need in Baltimore. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated from his employment under this program on March 16, 2017.[1] (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 5-6.) On July 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (ECF No. 13-4.)[2] In the EEOC complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he had received no explanation for his discharge but that he believed the discharge was because of his race and disability. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 5-6.) Finding that Plaintiffs charge was untimely filed, the EEOC closed Plaintiffs file and issued him a Right to Sue Notice on July 9, 2018. (ECF No. 13-5.) Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court on August 31, 2018. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that his discharge from employment at Lifebridge was due to his race, gender, sex, and disability. (Def. Ex. 2, ECF No. 13-4.) He alleges his termination was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint asserting that the Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only applies to state actors. (Def. Mot To Dismiss, ECF No. 13.)

         Now pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13) is GRANTED.


         This Court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe the pleadings of pro se litigants. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that this Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a cognizable claim, Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Or. 1990), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). In making this determination, this Court "must hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally." White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989).

         I. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         Defendant has moved to dismiss the Complaint based on Plaintiffs failure to satisfy Tide VII and the ADA's administrative exhaustion requirements. At the time Defendant filed its Motion, the courts of this circuit adhered to the rule that the failure to exhaust administrative remedies under Title VII deprives federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction over subsequently asserted claims. See Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297 (4th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, Defendants invoked Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In this most recent Term of Court, the United States Supreme Court held that Tide VII's administrative exhaustion requirements are not jurisdictional in nature and therefore "must be timely raised to come into play." Fort Bend Cty. v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 1843, 1846 (2019). The exhaustion requirements are more properly considered "claim-processing rules" which, although not jurisdictional in nature, nevertheless must be followed. Id. at 1849, 1851 (holding that Tide VII's claim-processing rules are "mandatory" and that the court must enforce them). The import of Fort Bend is that Defendants may waive arguments related to administrative exhaustion by failing to raise them in a timely fashion. Timely raised, such objections may still warrant dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules. See, e.g., Stewart v. Iancu, 912 F.3d 693, 701-702 (4th Cir. 2019) (holding that Tide VII's mandatory 180-day waiting period requirement is akin to a mandatory claim-processing rule and further considering whether dismissal was appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6) for plaintiffs alleged failure to adhere to the rule); see also Carter v. Montgomery Cty., TDC-18-2249, 2019 WL 3804765, at 2 (D. Md. Aug. 13, 2019) (construing motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Fort Bend).

         II. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) 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." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

         To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). A complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint must, however, set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if ... [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and ... recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal quotations omitted). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see A Society Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011).

         While ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court's evaluation is generally limited to allegations contained in the complaint. Goines v. Calley Cmty. Servs, Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 166-67 (4th Cir. 2016). However, courts may also consider documents explicitly incorporated into the complaint by reference. Id. at 166 (citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007)). In addition, a court may "consider a document submitted by the movant that was not attached to or expressly incorporated in a complaint, so long as the document was integral to the complaint and there is no dispute about the document's authenticity." Id. (citing Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Nav. Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007)). A document is "integral" when "its Very existence, and not the mere information it contains, gives rise to the legal rights asserted.'" Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794 F.Supp.2d 602, 611 (D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted) (emphasis omitted). Considering such documents does not convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. Goldfarb v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015).

         Accordingly, in ruling on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, this Court will consider Plaintiffs EEOC Charge. See Bowie v. Univ. of Maryland Med. Sys., No. ELH-14-03216, 2015 WL 1499465, at 3 n.4 (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2015) ("Courts commonly consider EEOC charges as integral to a plaintiffs Complaint, i.e., effectively a part of the pleading, even if the EEOC charge is not filed with the Complaint.") (citations omitted).


         Defendant argues that Plaintiffs Title VII and ADA claims are barred because he did not properly exhaust his administrative remedies. (Def. Mot. To Dismiss, ECF No. 13.) Additionally, Defendant argues that the Plaintiffs Section 1983 claim should be dismissed because Lifebridge is not a state actor. (Id. at 10.) In this case, Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies because he failed to file a timely complaint with the EEOC. Additionally, Section 1983 only applies to state actors or those acting "under color of a statute, ...

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