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Pledger v. Fairfax County

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

May 16, 2014

ANGELA PLEDGER, Plaintiff,
v.
FAIRFAX COUNTY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN A. GIBNEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the defendant's motion to dismiss. (Dk. No. 10.) The plaintiffs amended complaint alleges a single count, asserting that the defendant violated Title VII by terminating her employment after she took maternity leave.

Title VII requires that a plaintiff comply with that statute's mandatory 90-day window for filing suit in federal court-a limitation period beginning on the date the plaintiff receives her "right-to-sue" notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Here, the plaintiff filed her lawsuit more than 90 days after receiving her right-to-sue notice from the EEOC. Her complaint is time-barred, and the Court GRANTS the defendant's motion to dismiss with prejudice.

I. MATERIAL FACTS

Angela Pledger began her employment with Fairfax County in May of 2012. Her job ran along smoothly until October 23, 2012, [1] when she notified her supervisor that she would be taking maternity leave. Pledger remained on maternity leave until December 7, 2012, when she contacted Fairfax County to arrange for her return to work. Fairfax County essentially ignored Pledger's phone calls, leading her to contact her union in January, 2013. At some point afterwards-apparently in March, 2013-Pledger requested her official personnel file, as well as documentation regarding her job status, from Fairfax County. On March 13, 2013, Fairfax County provided Pledger with notice advising her (for the first and only time) that she had been terminated on October 22, 2012-the last day she worked before leaving on maternity leave.

Pledger filed a formal charge of discrimination with the EEOC on April 13, 2013. The EEOC mailed a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" form (a right-to-sue notice) to Pledger on July 31, 2013. Pledger filed her lawsuit with the Court on November 5, 2013[2]

II. DISCUSSION

The plaintiffs sole count alleges a Title VII pregnancy discrimination claim. "Title VII requires that a suit alleging its violation must be filed within 90 days of the plaintiffs receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC." Onan v. Cnty. of Roanoke, Va., 52 F.3d 321 at *2 (4th Cir. 1995) (unpublished) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1)). When Title VII's 90-day filing window closes, so does the plaintiffs opportunity to bring her complaint to federal court: "Failure to meet this deadline precludes the [federal district court] from considering the merits of the claim." Ugbo v. Knowles, 480 F.Supp.2d 850, 850-51 (E.D. Va. 2007).

The EEOC mailed its "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" to Pledger on July 31, 2013. Title VII's 90-day limitations period begins to run on the date on which Pledger received that Notice. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. Because Pledger does not provide the Court with a firm date of receipt, the Court will apply Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d)'s catch-all rule of computation "to conclude that the right-to-sue letter arrived at [the plaintiffs] home three days after it was mailed." See Beale v. Burlington Coat Factory, 36 F.Supp.2d 702, 704 (E.D.Va. 1999) (citing Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 148 n. 1 (1984)). Applying the three-day "mailbox rule" places the EEOC Notice in Pledger's hands on Saturday, August 3, 2013. From that date, Pledger had 90 days to file her lawsuit in federal court-that is, on or before Friday, November 1, 2013.

Pledger filed her complaint in this Court on November 5, 2013, four days after Title VII's filing limitation period expired.[3] While a half-week's delay may seem a trivial reason to bar a complaint, the adage that "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades" applies in equal measure to Title VII's 90-day filing deadline.[4] Pledger's claim is time-barred, and so the Court must grant the defendant's motion to dismiss.

III. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS the defendant's motion to dismiss WITH PREJUDICE.


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