Azuh v. Providence-Providence Park Hospital
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING Defendant's Motion to Dismiss 16 . Signed by District Judge Laurie J. Michelson. (KJac)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 17-10585
Honorable Laurie J. Michelson
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS 
Chinye Azuh was a resident physician at Providence Park Hospital. She believes that
Providence discriminated against her because of her race and because she was pregnant during her
residency. Azuh also maintains that this discrimination led her to quit the program. She thus sued
Providence alleging multiple claims of discrimination and retaliation under state and federal law.
Providence moves to dismiss the case on the grounds that Azuh did not file suit within 180 days
of the alleged discriminatory activity as she agreed she would in her employment application.
For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Providence’s motion to dismiss.
The following non-conclusory allegations are accepted as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 679 (2009).
Azuh is an African-American woman who graduated from medical school in December
2013. (R. 1, PID 2.) At the end of March 2014, Providence accepted Azuh into its residency
program at the hospital’s Southfield campus. (Id.) A few days later, Azuh informed Providence
that she was pregnant. (Id.)
In June 2014, soon after Azuh began her residency program, Dr. Karen Mitchell, the
Program Director of Providence’s Family Medicine Residency, called Azuh into a meeting. (R. 1,
PID 3.) In this meeting, Mitchell instructed Azuh, over Azuh’s objection, to take three months of
maternity leave, which would delay her graduation from the residency. (Id.) Mitchell also
expressed concerns about Azuh’s ability to cope with the residency after having her child. (R. 1,
PID 3–4.) Around that same time, another resident informed Azuh that individuals had been
talking about her and voiced similar concerns about her ability to cope after returning from leave.
(R. 1, PID 4.) Azuh was warned by this resident: “You had better do what you need to do so your
child issues do not affect your work here.” (Id.) Azuh completed her first two rotations. (Id.) Then,
at the end of July 2014, she took about a month’s maternity leave. (Id.)
Upon her return in August 2014, Azuh felt overly-scrutinized in her work and experienced
an increasingly hostile work environment. (R. 1, PID 5.) She was bullied and residents and
physicians refused to speak to her. (R. 1, PID 5.) Mitchell even started a rumor that Azuh was
having difficulty coping with residency after childbirth. (Id.) And Azuh’s advisor, Dr. Martha
Rumschlag, began asking her personal questions, including about her children and husband, her
sleeping and eating habits, and her childcare routines. (Id.) Rumschlag further suggested that Azuh
start therapy. (Id.) Still, Azuh completed two more rotations in her residency.
In the winter of 2014, Rumschlag met with Azuh and informed her that she should leave
the program before she got fired. (R 1, PID 7.) She also told Azuh that she would be required to
undergo neuropsychological testing. (Id.)
Shortly after the meeting, Azuh met with Mitchell and relayed that Rumschlag wanted her
to leave the program, that she was being treated differently than other residents, and that she
wanted a different advisor. (R. 1, PID 7–8.) Azuh further told Mitchell that she was being harassed
by attending physicians, senior residents, and supervisors. (R. 1, PID 8.) Mitchell warned Azuh
that Rumschlag was the Chair of the Clinical Competency Committee and that the psychological
testing was mandatory. (Id.)
After her meeting with Mitchell, Azuh was restricted in the number of patients she could
see. (Id.) This made it difficult for her to reach program goals. (Id.) Azuh also continued to be
mistreated to the point that she “would feel compelled to resign.” (R. 1, PID 9.) So Azuh began to
apply for alternative residency programs, but her efforts were frustrated by Mitchell’s refusal to
provide her a letter of recommendation. (R. 1, PID 10–11.) The other programs also stopped
contacting Azuh after they spoke with Mitchell. (Id.)
In February, 2015, Azuh met with Mitchell and Dr. Thomas Anan, her family medicine
supervisor, to discuss her performance in her current rotation. (R. 1, PID 11.) Anan provided a
good evaluation. (Id.) At that same meeting, Azuh was informed that, despite having scored well
above average on her board exams, her contract would not be renewed and that she would still be
required to undergo neuropsychological testing “for academic purposes.” (R. 1, PID 11–12.)
In April 2015, Azuh signed her second-year residency agreement. (R. 1, PID 12–13.) She
was informed, however, that her second year would be delayed by three months because of her
maternity leave. (R. 1, PID 13.) Azuh continued to undergo the required psychological testing. (R.
1, PID 13–15.) She also found herself to be the only resident instructed to manage patients
overnight, the only resident not allowed to present her cases to the next team after her shift, and
the only resident forbidden from attending the second-year retreat with her colleagues. (R. 1, PID
In September 2015, Azuh informed Mitchell that she felt compelled to leave the residency
program because of discrimination, harassment, and poor treatment. (R. 1, PID 16.) Mitchell
informed her that fewer credits than she earned would transfer to a new program. (R. 1, PID 16–
17.) Azuh left the program one month later in October 2015. (R. 1, PID 17.)
She then filed a charge with the EEOC and, in January 2017, received a right-to-sue letter.
(R. 1-1.) Providence now seeks to dismiss Azuh’s lawsuit on the ground that her discrimination
and retaliation claims are time barred pursuant to a statute of limitations provision in an
employment application signed by Azuh. (R. 16.)
When a defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(c), the motion is evaluated under
the same legal standards as Rule 12(b)(6). Lindsay v. Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 437 n. 5 (6th Cir. 2007).
Under Rule 12(b)(6), the plausibility standard governs. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009);
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Under that standard, a court first culls legal
conclusions from the complaint, leaving only factual allegations to be accepted as true. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679. The inquiry then becomes whether the remaining assertions of fact “allow the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable[.]” Id. at 678.
On a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the complaint and any exhibits attached
thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to
defendant’s motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the complaint and are central to
the claims contained therein. See Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir.2001).
Providence asserts that Azuh signed an employment application that bound her to bring a
lawsuit within 180 days of the activity underlying the legal action. But she filed both her charge
with the EEOC and her complaint more than 180 days after she left the program. So Providence
says her complaint must be dismissed. While Azuh raises a number of substantive arguments in
response, she also contends that a motion to enforce a contractually shortened statute of limitations
should be done under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and not Rule 12. (R. 19, PID 252–54.)
On this complaint, the Court agrees.
In resolving a motion to dismiss, the Court “is not permitted to consider matters beyond
the complaint,” Mediacom Southeast LLC v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 672 F.3d 396, 399 (6th
Cir. 2012), unless they are referred to in the complaint and are central to the claims in the
complaint, Bassett v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008).
Providence’s motion relies upon a provision in Azuh’s employment application, which it attaches
to its motion along with her residency-program agreement. (R. 16-3, 16-4.) Notably, Azuh never
attached these documents to her complaint, nor are the documents central to her discrimination
and retaliation claims. Thus, the employment application and residency-program agreement do not
afford a basis to dismiss on the pleadings.
Providence resists this conclusion by reliance on a select batch of cases. But the cases are
all distinguishable from Azuh’s. In Greenberg v. Life Insurance Co. of Virginia, the Sixth Circuit
affirmed a decision to consider the insurance policies attached to defendants’ motion, because
those policies were “referred to throughout the complaint” and because each cause of action in the
complaint arose out of those policies. 177 F. 3d 507, 514 (6th Cir. 1999). In Weiner v. Kalie &
Co., the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision to consider a benefit plan attached to
defendant’s motion because the plaintiff’s claims were based on rights under the plan. 108 F. 3d
86, 89 (6th Cir. 1997). They did not, however, agree with the lower court’s inclusion of other
documents, as they were not mentioned directly or indirectly in the complaint. Id. Lastly, in Brown
v. Walgreens Income Prot. Plan for Store Managers, the court considered the administrative record
attached to defendant’s motion, as the plaintiff brought a claim based on the denial of disability
benefits under an ERISA plan. No. 10-14442, 2012 WL 1060093, *2 (E.D. Mich. March 29, 2012).
Thus, the administrative record of plaintiff’s disability proceedings was central to the plaintiff’s
claim and verified what was in the complaint. Id.
Here, nothing in Azuh’s complaint is reliant on her employment application. Indeed, the
employment application is not referenced in the complaint. Nor does the complaint rely heavily
on the terms and effect of the employment application. So the employment application does not
verify the contents of her complaint. The Court will therefore not consider the employment
application on a motion to dismiss. See Mediacom Southeast LLC, 672 F.3d at 399. And without
this document, Providence cannot establish that Azuh filed her complaint in violation of any
contractual statute of limitations.1 While Azuh does briefly reference her second-year residency
agreement in her complaint (R. 1, PID 12–13), that document does not contain a statute of
limitations provision and therefore cannot establish that Azuh filed her complaint in violation of
any contractual statute of limitations. As Providence never asks the Court to consider its motion
as one for summary judgment in the event the Court did not consider the documents part of the
complaint—and Azuh requests discovery should the motion be converted—the Court will not do
so. See, e.g., Chambers v. Sun West Mortg., Co., No. 13-399, 2014 WL 1577514, *5 (S.D. Ohio
Apr. 18, 2014), adopted by, No. 13-00399, 2014 WL 1922838 (S.D. Ohio, May 14, 2014)
(explaining that “[i]n a case such as this where matters outside the pleadings are presented with a
motion to dismiss, the Court has two options: first, the Court may exclude the additional material
and decide the motion to dismiss based only on the complaint; or second, the Court may treat the
The Court will dismiss Providence’s motion without prejudice. Providence can, if they
so choose, raise this argument again in a motion for summary judgment.
motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment and rule on the motion as provided in Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56.”).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Providence’s motion to dismiss. (R. 16.)
s/Laurie J. Michelson
LAURIE J. MICHELSON
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: April 10, 2018
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record
and any unrepresented parties via the Court=s ECF System to their respective email or First Class
U.S. mail addresses disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on April 10, 2018.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?