Pearson v. City of Hampton
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 17 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. The Court GIVES Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint within fifteen (15) days of the filing of this Order. Signed by District Judge Raymond A. Jackson on 12/16/16 and filed on 12/19/16. (tbro)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
Newport News Division
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:15-cv-135
CITY OF HAMPTON, VIRGINIA,
MEMORANDUM OPINIONAND ORDER
This matter comes before the court on a Motion submitted by the City of Hampton,
Virginia ("Defendant") to dismiss the Amended Complaint of Albert Pearson ("Plaintiff) for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Having
reviewed the Parties' filings in this case, the Court finds this matter is ripe for judicial
determination. For the reasons set forth below. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint, alleging racial discrimination by
Defendant's employees. ECF No. 4. On September 30, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff leave
to file an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 14. On October 20, 2016, Plaintiff, through counsel,
timely filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 16. On November 4, 2016, Defendant filed the
instant Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
ECF No. 17.
The Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff, an African-American employee of the
City of Hampton Public Works Department, was subjected to unequal treatment by his
Caucasian supervisors because of his race. The Amended Complaint further alleges that
Plaintiffs employment was terminated as retaliation for his having lodged a formal complaint
about the aforementioned unequal treatment.
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss argues that this Court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs Amended Complaint because Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that
he exhausted all administrative remedies before filing.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) is appropriate when
a defendant seeks to defend against a claim by asserting that the court in which the claim is filed
does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). "The burden
of proving subject matter jurisdiction on a motion to dismiss is on the plaintiff, the party
asserting jurisdiction." Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). "If the court
determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
The threshold issue here is whether the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiffs claims of racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII. "Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 creates a federal cause of action for employment discrimination.
Before a federal court may assume jurisdiction over a claim under Title VII, however, a claimant
must exhaust the administrative procedures enumerated in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b)." Davis v. N.
Carolina Dep't ofCorrection, 48 F.3d 134, 136-37 (4th Cir. 1995).
The first step in that administrative procedure involves the plaintiff filing a "charge" with
the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). See Balas v. Huntington
Ingalls Indus., Inc., 711 F.3d 401,407 (4th Cir. 2013); Bryant v. Bell Ail. Maryland, Inc., 288
F.3d 124,132 (4th Cir. 2002). The EEOC then investigates the charge's claims and determines
whether it will grant the plaintiff the right to sue his employer. Therefore, as a jurisdictional
matter, "Title VII claims may only be brought in federal court after the EEOC has investigated
the [charge's] claim, made a determination as to the claim's merit, and issued a right-to-sue
notice." Davis v. N. Carolina Dep't ofCorrection, 48 F.3d 134, 138 (4th Cir. 1995). It is
adherence to this procedure that gives a federal court subject matter jurisdiction over Title VII
Plaintiff in the instant case adhered to this procedure. Despite not filing the charge with
the Court, Plaintiff attached his right-to-sue letter to the Amended Complaint. The existence of
the right-to-sue letter demonstrates that Plaintiff has met the jurisdictional requirements to bring
suit, including the filing of a charge. Indeed, the right-to-sue letter references "EEOC Charge
No. 437-2014-00807." This, combined with the allegations Plaintiff makes in his Amended
Complaint, gives the Court subject matter jurisdiction over the instant matter.
However, Defendant is correct in arguing that the charge is critically important in a Title
VII suit. "The scope of the plaintiffs right to file a federal lawsuit is determined by the charge's
contents." Jones v. Calvert Grp., Ltd., 551 F.3d 297, 300 (4th Cir. 2009). "Only those
discrimination claims stated in the initial charge, those reasonably related to the original
complaint, and those developed by reasonable investigation of the original complaint may be
maintained in a subsequent Title VII lawsuit." Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80
F.3d 954, 963 (4th Cir. 1996). While the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter,
the scope of that jurisdiction is unclear without knowing which discrimination claims were stated
in the charge. The Court requires ftirther information on this point.
"[A] party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the
court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P.
15(a)(2). It is in the interest ofjustice for the Court to give Plaintiff leave to file a second
amended complaint for the purpose of establishing the scope of the Court's jurisdiction in this
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
Additionally, the Court GIVES Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint within fifteen
(15) days of the filing of this Order. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order
to the Parties.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United dilates District Judge
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