SUMMERS v. HOWARD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
MEMORANDUM OPINION re Order 16 . Signed by Judge Royce C. Lamberth on 3/7/18. (lsj)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
HOWARD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL,
Case No: 16-cv-01953-RCL
On September 30, 2016, plaintiff Irorere Summers filed suit under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act against defendant Howard University Hospital. Ms. Summers amended her complaint
on October 14, 2016. EOF No. 4. In her Amended Complaint, Ms. Summers alleges that on or
about June 11,2014, she filed a formal Charge of Discrimination withthe U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the D.C. Office of Human Rights. Plaintiff further
alleges the EEOC issued hera Notice ofRight to Sue onMarch 23,2016. The Amended Complaint
asserts three claims for relief: (1) the defendant unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiffon
the basis ofher national origin inviolation ofTitle VII; (2) the defendant discriminated against the
plaintiff on the basis of her disability; and (3) the defendant unlawfully retaliated against the
plaintiff onthe basis of her national origin and disability.
Defendant moved to dismiss all claims' pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), on the basis that the
plaintiffs Complaint was untimely filed and, in the altemative, that the plaintifffailed to state any
Defendant provided notice that the Motion to Dismiss could be converted to aMotion for Summary
Judgment at the Court's discretion.
claim upon which relief may be granted. ECF No. 11. For the reasons stated below, the Court
GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss.
Under Title VII, a plaintiff must file a civil action within 90 days of receiving notice from
the EEOC of a right to sue. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(l). The 90-day time limit is not
jurisdictional; rather it is functions like a statute of limitations and may be raised in a pre-answer
dispositive motion. See Smith-Haynie v. Dist. of Columbia, 155 F.3d 575, 577-79 (D.C. Cir.
1998). Courts strictly construe the 90-day deadline and will dismiss suits filed even one day late.
See, e.g.. Woodruffv. Peters, 482 F.3d 521,525 (D.C. Cir. 2007); Wiley v. Johnson, 436 F.Supp.2d
91,96 (D.D.C. 2006).
Here, the plaintiff acknowledged that her right to sue letter was issued March 23, 2016.
Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court on September 30, 2016, well beyond the 90-day
requirement. Assuming the Court presumed that the plaintiff received the right to sue letter five
days after it was issued, see Washington v. White, 231 F. Supp. 2d 71, 75 (D.D.C. 2002), the
plaintiff filed suit approximately 192 days after the letter was issued and 96 days after the
limitations period expired.
Plaintiff argues that the suit should not bedismissed as untimely because she attempted to
file suit within the 90-day time limit and the Court should grant her "special leniency." ECF No.
14 at 8. The Amended Complaint reads as follows: "On May 20''^ 2016 a complaint was filed,
within 90 days after Plaintiff received the Notice ofRight to Sue on her EEOC complaint. This
complaint was retumed unfiled due to its failure to comply with the requirements of the court."
ECF No. 4 at H6. Plaintiff provides no further color in her Amended Complaint as to why her
original unfiled complaint failed to comply with court requirements, does not provide the date that
the court allegedly rejected the unfiled complaint, and why her suit was only filed on the docket
over 4 months later.
In her Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, the plaintiff asserts that she was proceeding
pro se at the time, but again fails to provide any explanation for why the filing was inadequate.
She does allege that the Complaint was only filed in September because of "significant time lapse
by the court" in returning her unfiled complaint and due to "further delay  caused by the postal
service forwarding the mail after [she] relocated [fromD.C. to Illinois]." ECF No. 14 at 8. Given
those alleged facts, the plaintiff asks the Court to equitably toll the statute of limitations.
The court's equitable power to toll statutes of limitations "will be exercised only in
extraordinary and carefully circumscribed instances." Mondy v. Secretary ofthe Army, 845 F.2d
1051, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 1988). Plaintiffs bear the burden of pleading and proving that the court
should exercise itsequitable power. Bayer v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 956 F.2d 330,333 (D.C. Cir.
1992). They must demonstrate that they exercised due diligence; courts will not excuse what
amounts to a "garden variety claim of excusable neglect." Irwin v. Department ofVeterans Affairs,
498 U.S. 89, 96(1990).
Here, the plaintiff has notjustified equitable tolling. Sheprovides no concrete evidence as
to why her alleged original complaint was returned unfiled. She does not explain why she failed
to inform the court of her move, which could have allowed future correspondence to reach her
faster. And she does not appear to have followed up with the court to confirm whether her
complaint was filed. Plaintiff provides no evidence to indicate that she diligently pursued her
claim and her argument for equitable tolling does not rise above a "garden variety claim of
excusable neglect." That plaintiff was proceeding pro se does not excuse her lack ofdiligence in
this case. See Anderson v. Local 201 Reinforcing Rodmen, 886 F. Supp. 94, 97 (D.D.C. 1995);
Ruizv. VilsacK 763 F. Supp. 2d 168,173 (D.D.C. 2011).
Accordingly, in the absence of equitable tolling, dismissal of the plaintiffs suit as barred
by the statute of limitations is appropriate. The Court therefore GRANTS the defendant's Motion
to Dismiss, ECF No. 11, on those grounds and need not address whether the plaintiff has stated a
claim upon which relief can be granted. The case is DISMISSED. A separate Order accompanies
this Memorandum Opinion.
It is SO ORDERED.
Royce C. Lamberth
United States District Judge
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