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Diede v. UNC Healthcare

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

January 23, 2018

UNC HEALTHCARE, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on the 26 April 2017 motion to dismiss filed by defendant UNC Healthcare. (DE # 12.) Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition on 18 May 2017. (DE # 18.) UNC Healthcare did not file a reply brief, and the time within which to do so has expired. This matter is therefore ripe for disposition.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiff Annmarie Diede was employed by UNC Healthcare in the Central Processing Department from 19 January 2015 to 21 April 2015. (Compl., DE # 4, ¶¶ 2, 5.) Following the termination of her employment, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and a proposed complaint in this court. (DE # 1.) Plaintiff's complaint names the following as defendants in this action: UNC Healthcare; Beth Paganini-Finch; Bradley Jensen; Christina Vanessa Daniels, Rajai Hussari, and Jerry Unknown. (DE # 4, at 1.) In the complaint, plaintiff alleges that she was sexually harassed by Hussari, and that she was terminated following her complaints about Hussari's conduct in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff also alleges a state law claim for assault and battery against Hussari. (Id. at 4.) She seeks recovery of back pay, reinstatement of her former job, and a trial by jury on all issues. (Id. at 5.)

         On 20 January 2017, Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, II granted plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered that plaintiff's complaint be filed. (DE # 3.) In the same order, Judge Numbers provided a memorandum and recommendation on frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), in which he recommended that some of plaintiff's claims be dismissed without prejudice, in part, because she failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Id.) Judge Numbers also recommended that the court dismiss plaintiff's claims against all defendants except for UNC Healthcare and Hussari. (Id.) On 24 February 2017, the court adopted, in its entirety, the reasoning in Judge Number's memorandum and recommendation and dismissed plaintiff's battery claim and all claims against Paganini-Finch, Daniels, Jensen, and Unknown. (DE # 7.) Plaintiff's claims of hostile work environment, retaliation, and assault against UNC Healthcare and Hussari remain.

         II. ANALYSIS

         In its motion to dismiss, UNC Healthcare moves for dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dism., DE # 13, at 5.) In the alternative, UNC Healthcare seeks dismissal of the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction due to plaintiff's failure to properly serve it under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5), or in the further alternative dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Id. at 10, 12.) Because the issue of subject matter jurisdiction is dispositive, the court does not consider UNC Healthcare's alternative arguments.

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a court must dismiss all or part of an action over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Whether subject matter jurisdiction exists is a threshold question that must be addressed by the court before considering the merits of the case. Jones v. Am. Postal Workers Union, 192 F.3d 417, 422 (4th Cir. 1999). A plaintiff seeking federal jurisdiction has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995). “In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the district court is to regard the pleadings 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. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted).

         B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         UNC Healthcare contends that plaintiff's Title VII claims for hostile work environment and retaliation should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1) because she failed to comply with the applicable administrative requirements. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. Mot., DE # 13, at 5-7.) Additionally, UNC Healthcare asserts that dismissal is appropriate because it is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to plaintiff's Title VII and state law claims. (Id. at 8-10.)

         1. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         Turning first to the applicable administrative requirements, before filing a Title VII claim in federal court, a plaintiff must first exhaust her administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”). Jones v. Calvert Group, Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)). “The allegations contained in the administrative charge of discrimination generally limit the scope of any subsequent judicial complaint.” Hentosh v. Old Dominion Univ., 767 F.3d 413, 416 (4th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). Although courts “recognize that EEOC charges often are not completed by lawyers and as such must be construed with utmost liberality, ” courts are “not at liberty to read into administrative charges allegations they do not contain.” Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711 F.3d 401, 408 (4th Cir. 2013) (citations and quotation marks omitted). “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 pursued in a lawsuit under Title VII. Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 963 (4th Cir. 1996).

         Although plaintiff claims that she filed a charge of discrimination in her complaint, plaintiff did not attach her EEOC charge of discrimination as an exhibit. Instead, plaintiff attached the EEOC notice of right to sue letter as an exhibit to the complaint, (Pl.'s Ex. F, DE # 1-2, at 38), along with the EEOC determination regarding her charge of discrimination, (Pl.'s Ex. G, DE # 1-2, at 40). UNC Healthcare argues that because the EEOC charge is not in the record, the court cannot properly determine whether the claims in plaintiff's ...

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