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Taylor v. Cardiology Clinic, Inc.,

United States District Court, Western District of Virginia, Danville Division

February 24, 2015

BRANDI R. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
CARDIOLOGY CLINIC, INC., and HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff Brandi R. Taylor (“Plaintiff”) filed suit in this Court against Defendants Cardiology Clinic, Inc., and Healthcare Management Services, Inc. (collectively “Defendants”), on October 3, 2014. (Compl. [ECF No. 1].) After being served with a copy of the Complaint, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss on December 17, 2014. (Mot. to Dismiss, Dec. 17, 2014 [ECF No. 5].) The parties briefed the Motion fully and have consented to a decision on the briefs alone and without oral argument. I have reviewed the record, the arguments of counsel, and the relevant law. For the reasons stated herein, I will dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint without prejudice, but will retain jurisdiction over the case.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND [1]

Defendants are corporations that conduct business in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere. (Compl. ¶¶ 3–4.) The president and sole director of Defendant Cardiology Clinic, Inc., is Dr. Ajit Chauhan; the president and sole director of Defendant Healthcare Management Services, Inc., is Dr. Chauhan’s wife, Suman Chauhan. (Id. ¶¶ 6–7.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were her joint employers for purposes of this action. (Id. ¶ 5.)

In July 2013, Plaintiff began working as Dr. Chauhan’s assistant at Cardiology Clinic, Inc. (Id. ¶ 14.) Mrs. Chauhan worked as the officer manager in the office. (Id. ¶ 8.) In early October 2013, Plaintiff discovered that she was pregnant. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff informed Mrs. Chauhan that she was expecting a child, and Mrs. Chauhan allegedly instructed her to schedule her doctor’s appointments on Fridays when the office was usually only opened for half of the day. (Id. ¶ 16.) About a week later, Mrs. Chauhan allegedly told Plaintiff not to work at all on Fridays. (Id.)

During the time after Plaintiff disclosed her pregnancy, Plaintiff alleges Mrs. Chauhan made negative comments about her pregnancy, stating that she was “getting too fat and that her scrubs were too tight.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff also claims that Mrs. Chauhan stated that Plaintiff was a “liability” to the practice, and that the relevant parties were “going to have to talk about [Plaintiff’s] schedule . . . .” (Id.)

Up until the point in time when Plaintiff informed Dr. and Mrs. Chauhan about her pregnancy, Plaintiff worked full-time for Defendants. (Id. ¶ 18.) After Plaintiff informed her employers about her status, Defendants began reducing her hours to the point where she was told she would be called as needed. (Id.) After a period of time, Mrs. Chauhan told Plaintiff that the company did not need her services at all, effectively terminating Plaintiff’s employment. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed an initial charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (“EEOC”) against Cardiology Clinic, Inc., on March 20, 2014, and the EEOC issued an early right-to-sue notice on July 18, 2014 (120 days later). (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff filed a separate charge with the EEOC against Healthcare Management Services, Inc., on September 17, 2014, and received an early-right-to-sue letter on September 26, 2014, a mere nine days later. (Id. ¶ 13.) On both right-to-sue notices, the EEOC stated that it was “unlikely” that the agency would conclude its investigation prior to the 180-day time frame imposed by the applicable statute. On October 3, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against Defendants alleging that they discriminated against her on the basis of sex vis-à-vis her pregnancy status, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 20–24.) Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that, because the EEOC issued the right-to-sue notices before the 180-day statutory time period elapsed, the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the claim. (See Mot. to Dismiss, Dec. 17, 2014 [ECF No. 5].) Alternatively, Defendants argue that the Complaint fails to state a claim for punitive damages. (Id.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction is raised under Rule 12(b)(1), “the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. U.S., 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). “In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the 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.” Id. “The court must grant the motion ‘only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.’” Little v. Stock Bldg. Supply, LLC, Case No. 4:10-cv-129, 2011 WL 5146179, at *3 (E.D. N.C. Sept. 2, 2011) (quoting Richmond, 945 F.2d at 768).

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In determining facial plausibility, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Id. The Complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and sufficient “[f]actual allegations . . . to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Complaint must “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim.” Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). Although “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” a pleading that merely offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants’ primary argument to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint is their contention that, because the EEOC issued its right-to-sue notices prior to the expiration of the 180-day period set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1), Plaintiff has not exhausted her administrative ...


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