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Tagirova v. Elizabeth City State University

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Northern Division

September 11, 2017

DR. TATIANA A. TAGIROVA, Plaintiff,
v.
ELIZABETH CITY STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES C. DEVER III, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 2, 2016, Dr. Tatiana Tagirova ("Tagirova" or "plaintiff') filed a pro se complaint against Elizabeth City State University ("ECSU" or "defendant"), alleging discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). See Compl. [D.E. 1, 1-1]. On November 14, 2016, ECSU moved to dismiss Tagirova's complaint [D.E. 12]. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)-(2), (6). OnDecemberl, 2016, Tagirova responded in opposition [D.E. 15]. OnDecember 16, 2016, ECSU replied [D.E. 16]. On April 27, 2017, Tagirova moved for leave to amend her complaint to add two new parties as defendants [D.E. 35]. As explained below, the court grants ECSU's motion to dismiss in part, denies it in part, and denies Tagirova's motion for leave to amend.

         I.

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) tests subject-matter jurisdiction, which is "the court's statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 89 (1998) (emphasis omitted); see Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 453 (4th Cir. 2012). "[T]he party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing its existence." Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 104; see, e.g.. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the court may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. See, e.g.. Richmond. Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). However, if a defendant "contend[s] that a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based, " then "all 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 Rule 12(b)(6) consideration." Adams v. Rain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982); see Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192-93 (4th Cir. 2009). Thus, "when a defendant asserts that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to support subject matter jurisdiction, " a court must "assume the truthfulness of the facts alleged" in the complaint and any attached materials. Kerns, 585 F.3d at 193; see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).

         A district court has jurisdiction to consider an employee's ADA claims only to the extent the employee included those claims in a timely EEOC charge. See, e.g., Sydnor v. Fairfax Cty., 681 F.3d 591, 593-94 (4th Cir. 2012); Jones v. Calvert Grp.. Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009); Webb v. N.C. Dep't of Crime Control & Pub. Safety. Alcohol Law Enf 't Div., 658 F.Supp.2d 700, 707-09 (E.D. N.C. 2009). "Even after a plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, the administrative framework plays a substantial role in focusing the formal litigation it precedes." Chacko v. Patuxent Inst., 429 F.3d 505, 509 (4th Cir. 2005). The EEOC charge's content determines the scope of a plaintiff s right to maintain an ADA claim in court. See id.; Hentosh v. Old Dominion Univ., 767 F.3d 413, 416 (4th Cir. 2014); Webb, 658 F.Supp.2d at 707-08. This court lacks jurisdiction over ADA claims that exceed the scope of the EEOC charge. See, e.g.. Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus.. Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 407-09 (4th Cir. 2013); Jones, 551 F.3d at 300; Chacko, 429 F.3d at 509-10.

         "Only those discrimination claims stated in the initial charge, those reasonably related to the original complaint, and those developed by reasonable investigation of the original complaint may be maintained in a subsequent [ADA] lawsuit." Jones. 551 F.3d at 300 (quotation omitted); see Sydnor, 681 F.3d at 594; Chacko. 429 F.3d at 509-10. "Thus, factual allegations made in formal litigation must correspond to those set forth in the administrative charge." Bonds v. Leavitt, 629 F.3d 369, 379 (4th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). For example, "a claim in formal litigation will generally be barred if the EEOC charge alleges discrimination on one basis, such as race, and the formal litigation claim alleges discrimination on a separate basis, such as sex." Jones. 551 F.3d at 300; see Chacko. 429 F.3d at 509-10. Nonetheless, because laypersons often initiate the EEOC administrative process, courts construe EEOC charges liberally. See Sydnor. 681 F.3d at 594; Chacko. 429 F.3d at 509.

         Tagirova filed three EEOC charges between November 2014 and July 2016. See[D.E. 1-1, 1-2, 1-3]. These EEOC charges encompass the following ADA claims: (1) disability discrimination, (2) failure to accommodate, (3) retaliation, and (4) disability harassment. Id. The EEOC charges do not encompass any Title VJJ claims.[1] To the extent Tagirova purports to assert a Title VJJ claim in this action, the court dismisses any such claim because Tagirova did not properly exhaust her administrative remedies. Thus, this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over any Title VII claim.

         II.

         Tagirova moves to amend her complaint to add as a defendant the University of North Carolina-General Administration and the Board of Governors. See [D.E. 35]. A party may amend her complaint once as a matter of course, provided that the amendment is filed either within 21 days of service or21 days after service ofa responsive pleading or Rule 12(b), (e), or (f) motion. See Fed. R. Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Further amendments are allowed "only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). On September 2, 2016, Tagirova filed her complaint. See [D.E. 1]. On April 27, 2017-more than 21 days after ECSU served its Rule 12(b) motion-Tagirova filed her motion to amend. See [D.E. 35]. ECSU does not consent to the amendment; therefore, the court must resolve Tagirova's motion to amend.

         Although leave to amend should be freely given under Rule 15(a)(2), it is not appropriate where the amendment "would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be futile." Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986); see Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual Citv Vision. Inc., 650 F.3d 423, 439 (4th Cir. 2011). If the court would lack subject-matter jurisdiction over a proposed claim in an amended complaint, the attempted amendment is futile. See U.S. ex rel. Ahumada v. NISH, 756 F.3d 268, 274, 279-82 (4th Cir. 2014); Harris v. Army Review Bd. Agency, No. 4:15-CV-122-D, 2016 WL 4578074, at *5 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 31, 2016) (unpublished); see also Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006) (en banc).

         As discussed, a plaintiff who wishes to pursue an ADA claim in federal court must first exhaust her EEOC remedies. See Sydnor. 681 F.3d at 594; Jones. 551 F.3d at 300. Claims that "exceed the scope of the EEOC charge ... are procedurally barred.", 711 F.3d at 407 (quotation omitted). "[A] plaintiff fails to exhaust [her] administrative remedies where... [her] administrative charges reference different time frames, actors, and discriminatory conduct than the central factual allegations in [her] formal suit." Chacko, 429 F.3d at 506.

         Tagirova did not name the University of North Carolina-General Administration or the Board of Governors in her EEOC charges. See [D.E. 1-1] 2; [D.E. 1-2] 2; [D.E. 1-3] 2. Thus, Tagirova has not exhausted her EEOC remedies against these entities, and this court lacks subject- matter jurisdiction over any ADA claims against them. Accordingly, Tagirova's proposed amendment is futile, and the court denies leave to amend.

         III.

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint's legal and factual sufficiency. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 677-80, 684 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 554-63 (2007); Giarratano v. Johnson,521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation omitted); see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302. In considering the motion, the court must construe the facts and reasonable inferences "in the light most favorable to the [nonmoving party]." Massey v. Ojaniit, 759 F.3d 343, 347, 352-53 (4th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted); see Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013). A court need not accept as true a complaint's legal conclusions, "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted); ...


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