United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
EUGENE M. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF
No. 18) pursuant to Federal Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
Defendant filed an Answer (ECF No. 15) and an Amended Answer
(ECF No. 17) with the Court before filing the instant motion.
According to the Federal Rules, a motion to dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction or for failure to state a
claim “must be made before pleading if a responsive
pleading is allowed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). Therefore,
the Court converts Defendant's motion to dismiss to a
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule
12(c). Moreover, “if the court determines at any time
that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the court must
dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). The Court,
thus, has considered the motion in full.
following reasons, the Court finds that it lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over this case because Plaintiff has
failed to exhaust administrative remedies required by Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accordingly, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 18) and DISMISSES the
case without prejudice.
brings this suit to allege disability discrimination against
Defendant as Plaintiff's former employer. Defendant hired
Plaintiff as a Rehabilitation Counselor in 2013 to work in
the Huntington District Office. See Pl.'s
Compl., ECF No. 2, at ¶ 3. Prior to working,
Plaintiff was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, migraine headaches, and
depression. Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant had notice of this disability status prior to his
hiring because Plaintiff received services from the
Huntington District Office as one of Defendant's clients.
Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. The complaint references a
Right to Sue Letter issued by the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and dated August 24, 2015 to
justify bringing this case to federal court. Id. at
alleges five different causes of action against Defendant
that involve separate instances of alleged discrimination.
Plaintiff identifies that each count explains a violation of
Title VII and the ADA. Count I specifies that one week after
hiring Plaintiff, Defendant terminated services that
Plaintiff relied upon as a client, including funding and
supportive services to obtain a license as a Licensed
Practicing Counselor. Id. at ¶ 15. The
elimination of these services allegedly impacted
Plaintiff's chance to advance in his career. Id.
at ¶ 16. Count II alleges that Defendant transferred
Plaintiff's assistant to another physical location in
2014, which put Plaintiff at a disadvantage in performing his
job functions. Id. at ¶ 19. Count III explains
that Defendant required Plaintiff to conduct all interactions
with his assistant via email starting in June of 2014, which
caused Plaintiff difficulties because of his dyslexia.
Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff asserts that the other
rehabilitation counselors did not have to follow these same
communication requirements. Id. at ¶ 24. Count
IV addresses Plaintiff's denied request to transfer to
another one of Defendant's facilities, which Plaintiff
argues would serve as a reasonable accommodation.
Id. at ¶¶ 28, 32. Due to stress from
Defendant's allegedly retaliatory actions, Plaintiff was
diagnosed in November of 2014 with panic attacks and
neurological migraine headaches. Id. at ¶ 27.
Plaintiff's doctor recommended that Plaintiff transfer to
another facility to lessen the frequency of these ailments.
Id. Plaintiff argues that Defendant allowed
transfers for other employees but denied Plaintiff's
request citing company policy. Id. at ¶ 30.
Lastly, Count V challenges Plaintiff's termination,
alleging that Defendant fired Plaintiff for his disability
rather than provide a reasonable accommodation. Id.
at ¶ 37. In the prayer for relief, Plaintiff requests
compensatory and punitive damages for these alleged
violations of Title VII and the ADA.
motion raises questions regarding both the subject matter
jurisdiction of the Court and the sufficiency of
Plaintiff's pleading in his complaint. A court must first
address whether the court has jurisdiction before judging
Plaintiff's allegations on the merits of the case.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
axiomatic that a court must have subject matter jurisdiction
over a controversy before it can render any decision on the
merits. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) raises
the fundamental question of whether a court is competent to
hear and adjudicate the claims brought before it and requires
dismissal if the court lacks such jurisdiction. Federal
courts possess “only the jurisdiction authorized them
by the United States Constitution and by federal
statute.” United States ex rel. Vuyyuru v.
Jadhav, 555 F.3d 337, 347 (4th Cir. 2009). Rule 12(b)(1)
permits a party to move for dismissal for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. In such cases, the plaintiff has the
burden of establishing a factual basis for jurisdiction.
See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561
(1992); Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co.
v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). In
ruling on a 12(b)(1) motion, the court may consider the
pleadings' allegations as jurisdictional evidence.
to jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may be raised in two
distinct ways: “facial attacks” and
“factual attacks.” Thigpen v. United
States, 800 F.2d 393, 401 n.15 (4th Cir. 1986),
rejected on other grounds by Sheridan v. United
States, 487 U.S. 392 (1988). A “facial
attack” questions whether the complaint's
allegations are sufficient “to sustain the court's
jurisdiction.” Id. If a “facial
attack” is made, the court must accept the
complaint's allegations as true and decide if the
complaint is sufficient to confer subject matter
jurisdiction. Id. On the other hand, a
“factual attack” challenges the truthfulness of
the factual allegations in the complaint upon which subject
matter jurisdiction is based. Id. In this situation,
a “district court is to regard the pleadings'
allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider
evidence outside the pleadings without converting the
proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 945 F.2d at 768
(citations omitted). To prevent dismissal, “the
nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the
pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material fact
exists.” Id. (citation omitted). A dismissal
should only be granted in those instances in which “the
material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the
moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of
law.” Id. (citation omitted).
Judgment on the Pleadings Standard
analyzing a party's motion for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Federal Rule 12(c), the Fourth Circuit has
indicated that the applicable standard is the same as a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6), noting
that the “distinction is one without a
difference.” Burbach Broad Co. of Del. v. Elkins
Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-06 (4th Cir. 2002). To
overcome a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a complaint
must be plausible. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 546 (2007). This standard requires a plaintiff to
set forth the “grounds” for an
“entitle[ment] to relief” that is more than mere
“labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Id. at 555 (internal quotations and citations
omitted). A complaint must contain “sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). Facial plausibility exists when a claim contains
“factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted).
the factual allegations in the complaint as true (even when
doubtful), the allegations “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level ….”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). If the
allegations in the complaint, assuming their truth, do
“not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic
deficiency should … be exposed at the point of minimum
expenditure of time and money by the parties and the
court.” Id. at 558 (internal quotations and
citations omitted). Finally, “[a]lthough for the
purposes of a motion [for judgment on the pleadings] we must
take all of the factual allegations in ...