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Davitt v. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

November 15, 2019

ALISON WAINWRIGHT DAVITT, Plaintiff,
v.
VIRGINIA POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE AND STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge

         Alison Wainwright Davitt filed this action against Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”), asserting claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and the Rehabilitation Act. Virginia Tech has moved to dismiss the Title VII claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.

         Background

         On February 19, 2019, Davitt filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Davitt alleged, among other things, that she was subjected to gender discrimination and retaliation while working for Virginia Tech's College of Veterinary Medicine.

         On March 20, 2019, the EEOC sent Davitt a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights, ” commonly known as a “right-to-sue letter.” In the letter, the EEOC issued the following “determination”: “Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.” Right-to-Sue Letter 1, Dkt. No. 13-2. The EEOC further advised as follows:

This will be the only notice of dismissal and of your right to sue that we will send you. You may file a lawsuit against the respondent(s) under federal law based on this charge in federal or state court. Your lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 DAYS of your receipt of this notice; or your right to sue based on this charge will be lost.

Id. (emphasis in original). On June 17, 2019, Davitt timely filed the instant action against Virginia Tech, asserting claims under Title VII, the FMLA, and the Rehabilitation Act .

         Virginia Tech has moved to dismiss the Title VII claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The parties have waived oral argument, and the motion is now ripe for decision.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1] To survive dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for 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)). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court “may . . . consider documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, as well as those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” United States ex rel. Oberg v. Pa. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 745 F.3d 131, 136 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Discussion

         Virginia Tech argues that Davitt failed to properly exhaust her administrative remedies prior to filing suit under Title VII. More specifically, Virginia Tech contends that this court must dismiss Davitt's Title VII claims because “the EEOC only retained authority over [Davitt's] claims for 30 days and not 180 days as required by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1).” Br. Supp. M. Dismiss 3, Dkt. No. 11. For the following reasons, the court disagrees.

         First, the court believes that Virginia Tech's argument is unsupported by a plain reading of the cited statutory provision. Section 2000e-5(f)(1) does not require the EEOC to wait 180 days before dismissing a charge. Instead, the statutory provision specifies the instances in which the EEOC must issue a right-to-sue letter, one of which is if the Commission dismisses a charge of discrimination:

If a charge filed with the Commission . . . is dismissed by the Commission, or if within one hundred and eighty days from the filing of such charge . . ., the Commission has not filed a civil action . . . or the Commission has not entered into a conciliation agreement to which the person aggrieved is a party, the Commission . . . shall so notify the person aggrieved and within ninety days after the ...

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