United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
DONALD N. PITTMAN, Plaintiff,
BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF GEORGIA, et al., Defendants.
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Paul
Jones, Denise Eady, and Kendall Isaac have moved to dismiss
in part Plaintiff Donald Pittman's complaint. Doc. 8. In
response, Plaintiff amended his complaint, rendering moot
Defendants' motion to dismiss with one
exception. Doc. 18. The amended complaint retains the
age discrimination claim under Georgia's Fair Employment
Practices Act of 1978 against the Board, which Defendants
moved to dismiss. Docs. 8-1 at 7; 18 at 17. Accordingly, the
Court will now address the merits of the “FEPA”
claim. For the following reasons, Defendants' partial
motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and the FEPA
claim is DISMISSED without prejudice.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a pleading
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To avoid dismissal pursuant to
Rule12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter to “‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “At
the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are
accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are
construed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466
F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). However, “where 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)). “[C]onclusory
allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal
conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent
dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v.
Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations
omitted). The complaint must “give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Where there are
dispositive issues of law, a court may dismiss a claim
regardless of the alleged facts. Marshall Cty. Bd. of
Educ. v. Marshall Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174
(11th Cir.1993) (citations omitted).
Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act Claim against the
amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Board of
Regents violated Georgia's FEPA. Doc. 18 at 17-18.
However, the Board argues that “[t]here is no evidence
that Plaintiff complied with the administrative
prerequisites” to bring an FEPA claim in court. Doc. 12
at 6. The Court agrees. O.C.G.A. § 45-19-36
“provides that a person aggrieved by an unlawful
practice may file an administrative complaint; it addresses
the filing of administrative, rather than judicial
complaints.” Solomon v. Hardison, 746 F.2d
699, 704 (11th Cir. 1984). This provision requires a
plaintiff to file a complaint with the administrator of the
Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, who then determines
whether there is reasonable cause that the respondent has
engaged in an unlawful practice. Id. “The
filing of suit in court occurs only after the
aggrieved individual has proceeded through the administrative
framework in the applicable provisions.” Id.
(emphasis added); see also Edward v. Shalala, 846
F.Supp. 997, 1001 n.7 (N.D.Ga. 1994) (“Under
Georgia's FEPA, complainants must, as in Title VII cases,
go through administrative procedures and cannot institute
suit unless and until an unfavorable decision is made by the
administrative body.” (citation omitted)).
case, Plaintiff's amended complaint does not allege that
Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Georgia Commission on
Equal Opportunity. Rather, Plaintiff raises two arguments:
(1) he claims this Court “has pendant jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's FEPA claim” and this satisfies
GCEO's exhaustion requirement; and (2) he claims that,
because he timely filed his complaint with the EEOC, and
because “the process for filing a charge of age
discrimination with the EEOC and the GCEO are nearly
identical, ” requiring him to file a complaint with the
GCEO would be “duplicative.” Docs. 10 at 8; 16 at
5. Neither argument merits much discussion.
Plaintiff contends that because the Title VII and FEPA claims
involve a common nucleus of operative fact, this Court has
pendant jurisdiction over the FEPA claim. Doc. 10 at 8.
Plaintiff then contends that based on the purpose of pendant
jurisdiction “to streamline litigation and to decrease
the temporal and financial costs inherently associated with
litigation, ” fulfilling federal EEOC requirements is
an appropriate substitute when bringing state claims of
discrimination. Id. at 9. To support this
proposition, he cites a case which held that “superior
courts in Georgia have subject matter jurisdiction over
timely Title VII claims filed pursuant to EEOC notification
to the claimant. . . .” Collins v. Dept. of
Transp., 208 Ga.App. 53, 56, 429 S.E.2d 707, 709 (1993).
Clearly, that case involved whether a superior court has
original jurisdiction over Title VII claims and in no way
suggests that filing an EEOC complaint is a substitute for
filing a complaint with the GCEO. See Id. at 56, 429
S.E.2d at 710 (“The superior courts' appellate
jurisdiction over state FEPA claims does not affect their
original jurisdiction over Title VII claims.”). Thus,
Plaintiff's reliance on Collins is misplaced.
Even if this Court had pendant jurisdiction over GCEO
appeals, that would not obviate GCEO's exhaustion
even if the EEOC and GCEO have a similar process for filing a
charge of age discrimination, GCEO's exhaustion
requirement must still be met to bring a state FEPA claim. As
discussed above, Georgia's FEPA requires an aggrieved
individual to file a claim with the administrator of the
GCEO, who may then refer the case to a special master or
issue a notice of rights letter. O.C.G.A. § 45-19-36.
Plaintiff did not exhaust his state administrative remedies
before bringing his FEPA claim. The failure to do so is
significant. While Plaintiff states in his amended complaint
that he received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC (Doc. 18
at 3), there is no language in the FEPA indicating that
filing a complaint with the EEOC substitutes the state
administrative procedure for filing one with the GCEO.
Indeed, these are two separate procedures. See Owens v.
Pineland Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Substance
Abuse Servs., 2012 WL 2887007, at 3 (S.D. Ga.) (finding
that because “Plaintiff's Complaint only indicates
that she received a right to sue letter from the EEOC”
and “nothing regarding a claim filed with the GCEO,
” dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative
remedies is appropriate). Accordingly, because Plaintiff
failed to exhaust his state administrative remedies within
180 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred,
Plaintiff's claim pursuant to Georgia's Fair
Employment Practices Act is DISMISSED without
prejudice. See § 45-19-36(b) (setting
forth the exhaustion requirement).
foregoing reasons, Defendants' partial motion to dismiss