United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
December 16, 2016
ALBERT PEARSON, Plaintiff,
CITY OF HAMPTON, VIRGINIA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Raymond A. Jackson United States District Judge
matter comes before the court on a Motion submitted by the
City of Hampton, Virginia ("Defendant") to dismiss
the Amended Complaint of Albert Pearson ("Plaintiff) for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Having reviewed the Parties'
filings in this case, the Court finds this matter is ripe for
judicial determination. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a pro se
Complaint, alleging racial discrimination by Defendant's
employees. ECF No. 4. On September 30, 2016, the Court
granted Plaintiff leave to file an Amended Complaint. ECF No.
14. On October 20, 2016, Plaintiff, through counsel, timely
filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 16. On November 4, 2016,
Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs
Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
ECF No. 17.
Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff, an African-American
employee of the City of Hampton Public Works Department, was
subjected to unequal treatment by his Caucasian supervisors
because of his race. The Amended Complaint further alleges
that Plaintiffs employment was terminated as retaliation for
his having lodged a formal complaint about the aforementioned
Motion to Dismiss argues that this Court does not have
subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs Amended Complaint
because Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he exhausted
all administrative remedies before filing.
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) is appropriate when a defendant seeks to defend
against a claim by asserting that the court in which the
claim is filed does not have subject matter jurisdiction over
the claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). "The burden of proving
subject matter jurisdiction on a motion to dismiss is on the
plaintiff, the party asserting jurisdiction." Adams
v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). "If
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action."
threshold issue here is whether the Court has subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs claims of racial discrimination
and retaliation in violation of Title VII. "Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 creates a federal cause of
action for employment discrimination. Before a federal court
may assume jurisdiction over a claim under Title VII,
however, a claimant must exhaust the administrative
procedures enumerated in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b)."
Davis v. N. Carolina Dep't of Correction, 48
F.3d 134, 136-37 (4th Cir. 1995).
first step in that administrative procedure involves the
plaintiff filing a "charge" with the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). See
Balas v. Huntington Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711
F.3d 401, 407 (4th Cir. 2013); Bryant v. Bell Atl
Maryland, Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2002). The
EEOC then investigates the charge's claims and determines
whether it will grant the plaintiff the right to sue his
employer. Therefore, as a jurisdictional matter, "Title
VII claims may only be brought in federal court after the
EEOC has investigated the [charge's] claim, made a
determination as to the claim's merit, and issued a
right-to-sue notice." Davis v. N. Carolina Dep't
of Correction, 48 F.3d 134, 138 (4th Cir. 1995). It is
adherence to this procedure that gives a federal court
subject matter jurisdiction over Title VII claims.
in the instant case adhered to this procedure. Despite not
filing the charge with the Court, Plaintiff attached his
right-to-sue letter to the Amended Complaint. The existence
of the right-to-sue letter demonstrates that Plaintiff has
met the jurisdictional requirements to bring suit, including
the filing of a charge. Indeed, the right-to-sue letter
references "EEOC Charge No. 437-2014-00807." This,
combined with the allegations Plaintiff makes in his Amended
Complaint, gives the Court subject matter jurisdiction over
the instant matter.
Defendant is correct in arguing that the charge is critically
important in a Title VII suit. "The scope of the
plaintiffs right to file a federal lawsuit is determined by
the charge's contents." Jones v. Calvert Grp.,
Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). "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 Title VII
lawsuit." Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv.
Co., 80 F.3d 954, 963 (4th Cir. 1996). While the Court
has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter, the scope
of that jurisdiction is unclear without knowing which
discrimination claims were stated in the charge. The Court
requires further information on this point.
party may amend its pleading only with the opposing
party's written consent or the court's leave. The
court should freely give leave when justice so
requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). It is in the interest
of justice for the Court to give Plaintiff leave to file a
second amended complaint for the purpose of establishing the
scope of the Court's jurisdiction in this matter.
reasons set forth above, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is
DENIED. Additionally, the Court
GIVES Plaintiff leave to file a second
amended complaint within fifteen (15) days of the filing of
this Order. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to
send a copy of this Order to the Parties.
IS SO ORDERED.