McCampbell v. Owens State Community College
Memorandum Opinion and Order : I grant OSCC's motion to dismiss on all claims. McCampbell's state law claims, her claims for compensatory damages under the ADA and the FMLA, and her claim for injunctive relief under the ADA are barre d by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). She fails to state a claim for injunctive relief under the FMLA, and any such claim is dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Related Doc # 11 ). Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick on 4/1/2014.(S,AL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Valerie D. McCampbell
Case No. 3:13-cv-01984
OPINION & ORDER
Owens State Community College,
Before me is the motion of Defendant Owens State Community College (“OSCC”) to
dismiss Plaintiff Valerie McCampbell’s first amended complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 11). The parties have completed briefing on OSCC’s motion. For the reasons
stated below, OSCC’s motion is granted and McCampbell’s complaint is dismissed in its entirety.
McCampbell previously was employed by OSCC. She was placed on administrative leave
and ultimately terminated in late 2011. She asserts claims for violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), discrimination in violation
of Ohio Rev. Code Chap. 4112 and Ohio public policy, and defamation in violation of Ohio law.
(Doc. No. 7 at 1). She seeks reinstatement, to complete training on a computer program related to
her work, access to her work computer while working at home, expungement of her employment
record, back-pay, and punitive damages. (Doc. No. 7 at 7). OSCC asserts her claims are barred by
the doctrine of sovereign immunity. To the extent McCampbell asserts a claim under the FMLA for
injunctive relief, OSCC argues she fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
A party may seek the dismissal of a claim on the ground that a federal court lacks jurisdiction
over the subject matter of the claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). When a party asserts a claim against a
state, including a claim for monetary damages against state officials in their official capacities, the
state may avoid liability by asserting the doctrine of sovereign immunity as a bar to the federal
court’s jurisdiction over the claim. Ernst v. Rising, 427 F.3d 351, 358 (6th Cir. 2005); (citing Alden v.
Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 713 (1999) and Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 664-66 (1974)).
“In assessing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), [a] court construes the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepts the plaintiff’s factual allegations as true, and
determines whether the complaint ‘contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Heinrich v. Waiting Angels Adoption Servs., Inc., 668 F.3d
393, 403 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)) (alteration in original).
“A plaintiff’s complaint must provide ‘more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’” Heinrich, 668 F.3d at 403 (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Courts are not required to accept as true legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful
in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do
not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)) (alterations in original).
A. SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution bars claims asserted in federal
court against a State or “‘an arm of the State,’” unless the State has elected to waive its immunity.
Ernst, 427 F.3d at 358 (quoting Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280
(1977)). Ohio law waives the State’s sovereign immunity with respect to some state court lawsuits,
but those lawsuits may proceed only in the Ohio Court of Claims. Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 397
(6th Cir. 1999); O.R.C. 2743.02(A).
In determining whether OSCC is an arm of the State and thus protected from suit in federal
court by Ohio’s sovereign immunity, a court must consider its status “under Ohio’s law of sovereign
immunity and the Court of Claims Act,” the sources of its revenue, whether it performs a
governmental function, whether it is a corporate or non-corporate entity, and “the fiscal and
academic restraints” Ohio law imposes on OSCC. Hall v. Med. Coll. of Ohio, 742 F.2d 299, 307 (6th
Cir. 1984). My colleague Judge David Katz previously considered this question. Stevenson v. Owens
State Cmty. Coll., 562 F. Supp. 2d 965 (N.D. Ohio 2008). Judge Katz reasoned: (1) Ohio courts have
concluded state community colleges such as OSCC are protected by Ohio’s sovereign immunity; (2)
any recovery against OSCC likely would be satisfied with state funds; (3) OSCC performed a similar
governmental function as the former Medical College of Ohio did in Hall; and (4) OSCC is a noncorporate entity without the ability to sue or be sued. Id. at 968-970. Judge Katz concluded that
OSCC “is properly considered an arm of the state,” and thus entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Id. at 970.
I find Judge Katz’s reasoning persuasive and adopt his conclusion here. Because OSCC is
an arm of the State of Ohio, the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars McCampbell’s claims for
monetary damages under the ADA and the FMLA. Whitfield v. Tennessee, 639 F.3d 253, 257 (6th Cir.
2011); Diaz v. Michigan Dep’t of Corr., 703 F.3d 956, 962 (6th Cir. 2013). Sovereign immunity also
bars McCampbell’s claims for injunctive relief under the ADA. Lawson v. Shelby County, 211 F.3d
331, 335 (6th Cir. 2000); Gentry v. Summit Behavioral Healthcare, 197 F. App’x 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2006).
Moreover, federal law prohibits a plaintiff from suing a state or a state entity in federal court
for violations of state law. Ernst, 427 F.3d at 365. Ohio has not waived its immunity to lawsuits in
federal court alleging violations of Ohio law. Turker v. Ohio Dep’t of Rehab. & Corr., 157 F.3d 453,
457 (6th Cir. 1998). Therefore, McCampbell’s claims for disability discrimination, violation of Ohio
public policy, and defamation are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
B. FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Courts will liberally construe complaints filed by pro se parties when determining whether a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110
(6th Cir. 1991) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) and Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)). There are limits to this liberality, as pro se pleadings must “provide the opposing party
with notice of the relief sought . . . .” Frengler v. Gen. Motors, 482 F. App’x 975, 977 (6th Cir. 2012);
see also Lillard v. Shelby Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 76 F.3d 716, 724 (6th Cir. 1996).
The FMLA permits eligible employees to take unpaid leave if the reason for the employee’s
leave request falls into one of four categories: (1) in order to care for a newborn son or daughter; (2)
following the adoption or foster-care placement of a child with the employee; (3) in order to care for
a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; and (4) to address the employee’s own
serious health condition. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1); Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland, 132 S. Ct.
1327, 1332 (2012). The first three provisions often are referred to as family-care provisions, while
the fourth often is referred to as the self-care provision. Coleman, 132 S. Ct. at 1332.
In her brief in opposition to OSCC’s motion to dismiss, McCampbell argues OSCC
interfered with her rights under the FMLA by disciplining and ultimately terminating her “while [she
was] on medical leave.” (Doc. No. 13 at 4). In her complaint, McCampbell alleges she took FMLA
leave for her personal illnesses after December 2010 and was able to fulfill her job duties despite the
need for frequent absences under the FMLA. (Doc. No. 7 at 1, 5-6). McCampbell did not allege in
her first amended complaint that she was disciplined or terminated while utilizing FMLA leave or
that OSCC disciplined or terminated her because she utilized FMLA leave. The first amended
complaint does not include factual or legal allegations sufficient to state plausible claims for
interference with or retaliation for McCampbell’s use of FMLA leave. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)
(complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to
relief”); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (pleadings must give the defendant “fair notice” of
the grounds on which plaintiff’s claim rests). McCampbell fails to state a claim for violation of the
FMLA upon which relief may be granted.
C. OTHER CLAIMS
In her brief in opposition, McCampbell stated she “should have” included race
discrimination claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Doc.
No. 13 at 3-4). McCampbell did not include these claims in her first amended complaint and may
not raise them now in opposition to OSCC’s motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Begala v. PNC Bank, Ohio,
Nat’l Ass’n, 214 F.3d 776, 784 (6th Cir. 2000) (“What plaintiffs may have stated, almost as an aside,
to the district court in a memorandum in opposition to the defendant’s motion to dismiss is . . . not
a motion to amend.”).
For the reasons stated above, I grant OSCC’s motion to dismiss on all claims.
McCampbell’s state law claims, her claims for compensatory damages under the ADA and the
FMLA, and her claim for injunctive relief under the ADA are barred by the doctrine of sovereign
immunity and dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). She fails to state a claim for injunctive relief
under the FMLA, and any such claim is dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
s/Jeffrey J. Helmick
United States District Judge
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