Lane v. Exel, Inc.
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re: 5 MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM filed by Exel, Inc. (See memo for complete details.)Signed by Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner on 3/12/18. (ki)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SAMMIE E. LANE,
EXEL, INC, d/b/a EXEL LOGISTICS,
n/k/a DHL, INC.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:17-CV-1576
(Chief Judge Conner)
Plaintiff Sammie E. Lane (“Lane”) commenced this action against his
employer, defendant DHL, Inc. (“DHL”), pursuant to the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A) & (B), and Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq. (See Doc. 1). Before the
court is a partial motion to dismiss (Doc. 5) filed by DHL. The court will grant
Factual Background & Procedural History
In June 2015, DHL hired Lane, an African American, as a forklift operator.
(Doc. 1 ¶ 6). Lane avers that, from the beginning of his employment, the work
environment was “imbued with racial animus.” (See id. ¶¶ 7-8). Less than two
months after he was hired, Lane injured his back at work. (Id. ¶ 11). Lane reported
the injury to his supervisor and requested “light duty” work multiple times, but
contends that DHL refused to accommodate him. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 14-16, 18-19). DHL
terminated Lane shortly thereafter. (See id. ¶ 20).
On November 19, 2015, Lane filed an administrative complaint with the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) which was dual-filled with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).1 (Doc. 6-1 ¶ 43).
Therein, Lane alleged disability discrimination based on DHL‟s failure to provide
reasonable accommodations after his back injury as well as retaliation because
DHL terminated him one day after he requested a reasonable accommodation.
(Doc. 6-1). The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on May 31, 2017. (Doc. 1 at 9).
Lane commenced the instant action on September 5, 2017. (Doc. 1). Lane
asserts two claims against DHL: violation of the ADA for failure to provide a
reasonable accommodation after he injured his back (Count I) and violation of Title
VII for terminating him on the basis of race (Count II). (Id. ¶¶ 22-31). DHL filed a
partial motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 5).
DHL contends that Lane failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his
Title VII claim because he did not allege racial discrimination in his PHRC
complaint. (Id. at 1; see also Doc. 6 at 5-7). Lane failed to file a timely response to
DHL‟s 12(b)(6) motion and the court directed him to do so twice. (See Docs. 9, 10).
The court cautioned Lane that failure to comply with this directive would result in
the court deeming DHL‟s motion to be unopposed. (Id.) Despite this admonition,
Lane has yet to file a response. Consequently, the court will rule on DHL‟s
The PHRC and the EEOC are in a workshare agreement where a claimant
can satisfy both agencies‟ requirements by filing a charge with one agency and
instructing the agency to dual file with the other. See Evans v. Gordon Food Servs.,
No. 14-CV-01242, 2015 WL 4566817, at *3 (M.D. Pa. July 29, 2015); see also 42 U.S.C.
unopposed motion to dismiss. See LOCAL RULE OF COURT 7.6; see also Williams v.
Lebanon Farms Disposal, Inc., No. 09-1704, 2010 WL 3703808, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Aug.
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the
dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
court must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable
reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd.,
292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).
Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide “the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (alteration in original) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court conducts
a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir.
2010). In the first step, “the court must „tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must
plead to state a claim.‟” Id. at 130 (alteration in original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim must be
separated; well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions
may be disregarded. Id. at 131-32; see Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,
210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the well-pleaded factual allegations, it
must determine whether they are sufficient to show a “plausible claim for relief.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. A
claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts “that allow the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
In addition to reviewing the facts contained in the complaint, the court may
consider “matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and
items appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran &
Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White
Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Our sister courts in the
Western District and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania have held that “an EEOC
charge of discrimination and the related documents . . . are public records which
may thus be considered without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for
summary judgment.” Elchik v. Akustica, Inc., No. 12-578, 2013 WL 1405215, at *4
(W.D. Pa. Mar. 6, 2013); see also Hercik v. Rodale, Inc., No. 03-CV-6667, 2004 WL
1175734, at *1 (E.D. Pa. May 27, 2004).
Under Title VII, a plaintiff seeking redress for alleged discrimination must
exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking relief in federal court. See 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(c); see also Watson v. Eastman Kodak Co., 235 F.3d 852, 854 (3d Cir.
2000). A complainant must file a charge of discrimination within 180 days after an
allegedly unlawful employment practice occurs. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). If the
EEOC fails to resolve the matter within 180 days after investigating the charges, the
EEOC notifies the complainant with a right-to-sue letter. Burgh v. Borough
Council, 251 F.3d 465, 469-70 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Waiters v. Parsons, 729 F.2d 233,
237 (3d Cir. 1984)). Receipt of a right-to-sue letter is a prerequisite to filing a private
action. Id. (citations omitted).
A plaintiff generally must exhaust administrative remedies with respect to
each of his claims, but a court may assume jurisdiction over claims not technically
exhausted if they are reasonably within the scope of the complainant‟s
administrative claims and would be encompassed by the agency‟s investigation.
Mandel v. M & Q Packaging Corp., 706 F.3d 157, 163 (3d Cir. 2013); Howze v. Jones
& Laughlin Steel Corp., 750 F.2d 1208, 1212 (3d Cir. 1984). In order for a court to
make this assumption, there must be a “close nexus” between the facts alleged in
the administrative complaint and any newly-raised claim. Hicks v. ABT Assocs.,
Inc., 572 F.2d 960, 967 (3d Cir. 1978); see also Antol v. Perry, 82 F.3d 1291, 1295 (3d
Cir. 1996). The relevant test is whether the alleged acts in the federal lawsuit are
fairly encompassed within the scope of the prior agency charge and related
investigation. Antol, 82 F.3d at 1295 (quoting Waiters, 729 F.2d at 237). In
determining whether a claim is contemplated in an underlying charge, courts
liberally interpret the administrative filing. Anjelino v. N.Y. Times Co., 200 F.3d 73,
94 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Hicks, 572 F.2d at 965).
DHL contends that Lane failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to
his Title VII claim for racial discrimination (Count II). (Doc. 6 at 5-7). The court
agrees. Lane‟s racial discrimination claim falls outside the scope of even the most
deferential interpretation of his administrative complaint. All three counts in
Lane‟s administrative complaint focus exclusively on his disability, his employer‟s
failure to provide him a reasonable accommodation, and his resulting termination.
(See Doc. 6-1 ¶¶ 7-42). The administrative complaint does not contain any indicia of
facts connected to racially motivated comments from Lane‟s employers or any other
language that could be construed as racial discrimination. (See id.) Lane‟s
administrative complaint consistently references his protected class as “disability”
only, specifically “shoulder and back impairment.” (See id. ¶¶ 8, 20). Indeed, racial
discrimination is not mentioned until the filing of Lane‟s complaint with this court.
(Doc. 1 ¶¶ 7-8). Lane‟s racial discrimination claim is not “fairly within the scope” of
his administrative complaint or any investigation arising therefrom. See Antol, 82
F.3d at 1295. Therefore, the court will dismiss Lane‟s Title VII claim (Count II).
The court will grant DHL‟s motion (Doc. 5) to dismiss Count II. Leave to
amend will be denied as futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103,
108 (3d Cir. 2002). An appropriate order shall issue.
/S/ CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
United States District Court
Middle District of Pennsylvania
March 12, 2018
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