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Pettiford v. Diversified Enterprises of South Georgia, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

February 15, 2019

JOYCE A. PETTIFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
DIVERSIFIED ENTERPRISES OF SOUTH GEORGIA, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Joyce Pettiford, a former employee of Defendant Diversified Enterprises of South Georgia, Inc., filed this lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (Title VII), alleging that Defendant discriminated against her based on her race. Plaintiff further claims that Defendant discriminated against her based on her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (ADEA). Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 7). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiff, an African-American female, was employed by Defendant from 2012 until she was terminated on April 7, 2016. (Doc. 1, ¶ 4). Plaintiff was sixty (60) years old at the time of her termination. (Id. at ¶ 5). After Plaintiff was terminated, Defendant replaced her with a Caucasian woman who was at least twenty years younger than Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff alleges that she was illegitimately terminated and that Defendant's actions were “designed to cause her emotional injury and damages.” (Id. at ¶). Plaintiff maintains that Defendant's actions are violations of Title VII and the ADEA. (Id. at ¶ 9).

         Plaintiff first reported the alleged discrimination by filling out an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Intake Questionnaire that she submitted to the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity on May 26, 2016. (Doc. 9-2, p. 4). On the questionnaire form, Plaintiff checked the boxes for sex and age discrimination for her response to question four, which asked “[w]hat is the reason (basis) for your claim of employment discrimination?” (Doc. 9-2, p. 5). The Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity then transmitted Plaintiff's claim to the EEOC on June 1, 2016. (Doc. 9-2, p. 8). Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination that was received by the EEOC on October 5, 2016. (Doc. 7-2, p. 2). In the charge, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against her based on her age and sex when Defendant terminated her for alleged sexual harassment after a co-worker discussed a homosexual encounter with Plaintiff (Id.). The EEOC issued a Notice of Suit Rights to Plaintiff on April 10, 2018. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on July 6, 2018. On August 15, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Doc. 7).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings is properly filed “[a]fter the pleadings are closed[, ] but early enough not to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there are no material facts in dispute, and judgment may be rendered by considering the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts.” Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc., 140 F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted); Cunningham v. Dist. Att'y's Office for Escambia Cty., 592 F.3d 1237, 1255 (11th Cir. 2010). In deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the facts in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. The court may consider documents attached to the pleadings. Horsely v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002).

         A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is governed by the same standards as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Strategic Income Fund, LLC v. Spear, Leeds & Kellog Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n.8 (11th Cir. 2002) (explaining that the standard for either a Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c) motion is “whether the count state[s] a claim for relief”). The complaint must contain sufficient factual information to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010). When the plaintiff provides enough “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” the complaint is “plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Labels and conclusions” and a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient to raise a right to belief above the “speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Consideration of Documents Outside the Pleadings

         Before addressing the merits of Defendant's motion, the Court must first determine whether consideration of documents outside the pleadings, namely Plaintiff's intake questionnaire and self-serving affidavit, requires conversion of the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. The Court finds that it does not.

         Although matters outside the pleadings are not typically considered on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court may consider an extrinsic document if (1) it is central to the plaintiff's claim, and (2) its authenticity is not challenged. See Speaker v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs. Ctrs. for Disease Control & Prevention, 623 F.3d 1371, 1379 (11th Cir. 2010). Courts routinely consider a plaintiff's EEOC charge and intake questionnaire to resolve the question of whether a plaintiff has exhausted administrative remedies without converting a motion to dismiss or motion for judgment on the pleadings to a motion for summary judgment. See Chesnut v. Ethan Allen Retail, Inc., 971 F.Supp.2d 1223, 1228 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 20, 2013); Adaway v. Atwater, 2014 WL 1882333 (M.D. Ga. May 12, 2014); Nixon v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 2013 WL 6815719 (M.D. Ga. Dec. 24, 2013).

         Here, there seems to be no dispute between the parties that Plaintiff's charge of discrimination may be considered by the Court without converting the present motion to a motion for summary judgment. However, Defendant opposes the consideration of Plaintiff's intake questionnaire and self-serving affidavit attached to Plaintiff's brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. 12, p. 4). Because the intake questionnaire is central to the Plaintiff's claim that she timely filed a charge of discrimination, and because neither party disputes the authenticity of the questionnaire or the date on which it was filed, the Court will consider the document in ruling on Defendant's Motion without converting it to a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's affidavit, however, is not central to the Plaintiff's claims. The Court will not consider Plaintiff's affidavit in ruling on Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. See Quach v. Paragon Sys., Inc., 2015 WL 13719674 (N.D.Ga. Oct. 28, 2015) (declining to consider plaintiff's self-serving affidavit attached to plaintiff's response in ruling on defendant's motion to dismiss).

         B. Tit ...


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