United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
Carla Pennington, a former employee of Defendants,
filed this lawsuit against Defendants for alleged violations
of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”) and the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”). Plaintiff also asserts state law claims
for damage to reputation and intentional infliction of
emotional distress. Presently before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 10). For the
following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED
IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
began working for Defendants as an LPN in 2008. (Doc. 1, ¶
22). In 2015, Plaintiff became the admissions director, a
position she held until her termination. (Id. at
¶¶ 22-23). Throughout her employment history with
Defendants, Plaintiff received favorable job performance
evaluations as well as regular pay increases and other
employment benefits, including health benefits and paid time
off. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25).
March 27, 2017, Plaintiff received a referral for a new
resident. (Id. at ¶ 26). Over the next several
days, Plaintiff attempted to contact the individual's
family members but received no response. (Id.).
Plaintiff left for a scheduled vacation on March 31, 2017.
(Id.). The admission paperwork for the new resident
was not completed before Plaintiff's departure.
(Id.). Plaintiff informed the “back up
team” about the potential new resident. (Id.).
She also alleges that her supervisor was aware that someone
needed to cover the admissions process in Plaintiff's
returned from vacation on April 4, 2017. (Id. at
¶ 27). The paperwork for the new resident remained
incomplete. (Id.). Plaintiff's supervisor
instructed Plaintiff to finish the paperwork, and Plaintiff
complied. (Id.). Almost three months later, on June
21, 2017, Defendants terminated Plaintiff for violating
company policy when she delayed completing admission
paperwork for this new resident. (Id. at
¶¶ 8, 28).
who was over the age of 40 at the time of her termination,
contends that Defendants discriminated against her on the
basis of her age. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 29).
Defendants replaced Plaintiff with an employee under the age
of 40 who was not qualified for the position. (Id.
at ¶¶ 30-31). Plaintiff further alleges that
Defendants treated her differently than other similarly
situated, younger employees, who engaged in similar or more
egregious conduct than Plaintiff but who were not terminated.
(Id. at ¶ 31).
time of Plaintiff's termination, she was on medical leave
pursuant to the FMLA. (Id. at ¶29).
Consequently, Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants
terminated her in retaliation for exercising her FMLA rights.
(Id. at ¶ 45). Plaintiff additionally contends
that Defendants violated the FMLA by refusing to reinstate
her to the same or similar position upon her return to work
and instead terminating her. (Id. at ¶ 47).
alleges that she filed a timely charge of discrimination with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). (Id. at ¶ 9). The EEOC
issued Plaintiff a right to sue letter dated October 24,
2018, and this lawsuit followed.
MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept “all
well-pleaded facts . . . as true, and the reasonable
inferences therefrom are construed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Bryant v. Avado
Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999).
To avoid dismissal, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). The complaint must “give the defendant fair
notice of what the [plaintiff's] claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(quotation marks and citation omitted). And, while a
complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it
must provide “more than labels or conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. (quotation marks and
citation omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough
to raise a right of relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (citations
plausibility standard is not akin to a probability
requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint
pleads facts that are merely consistent with a
defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks and citation
omitted). Further, while a court must accept all factual
allegations in a complaint as true, this principle “is
inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, ” are insufficient. Id.
“And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed
even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those
facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and
unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation
marks and citation omitted).
“generally may not look beyond the pleadings” to
consider extrinsic documents when evaluating a motion to
dismiss. United States ex rel. Osheroff v. Humana,
Inc., 776 F.3d 805, 811 (11th Cir. 2015); see
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) (When “matters outside the pleadings
are presented and not excluded by the court, the motion must
be treated as one for summary judgment, ” and the
“parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to
present all the material that is pertinent to the
motion.”). But this Circuit has adopted the
“incorporation by reference doctrine, ” which
permits a court to consider a document attached to a motion
to dismiss without requiring the court to convert the motion
into one for summary judgment. Horsley v. Feldt, 304
F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002). “[W]here the
plaintiff refers to certain documents in the complaint and
those documents are central to the plaintiff's claim,
then the Court may consider the documents part of the
pleadings for purposes of Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.”
Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla.,
Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1368-69 (11th Cir. 1997); see
also SFM Holdings, Ltd. v. Banc of Am. Sec., LLC, 600
F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2010) (“In ruling upon a
motion to dismiss, the district court may consider an
extrinsic document if it is (1) central to the
plaintiff's claim, and (2) its authenticity is not
Defendants' primary arguments in support of their motion
to dismiss is that Plaintiff did not timely exhaust her
administrative remedies prior to filing suit. In her
Complaint, Plaintiff states only that she filed a timely
charge of discrimination with the EEOC. (Doc. 1, ¶ 9).
Plaintiff does not provide the date she allegedly filed her
charge, nor did she attach a copy of her charge to her
Complaint. Defendants therefore attached to their motion a
copy of the charge of discrimination signed by Plaintiff on
April 24, 2018, and received by the EEOC on April 26, 2018.
(Doc. 12). Plaintiff responded by attaching a statement
entitled “EEOC Charge, ” which she purportedly
signed and dated November 29, 2017, and submitted to the
EEOC. (Doc. 17-1). These documents directly address the
question of administrative exhaustion, and neither party
challenges their authenticity. Further, “[c]ourts
routinely consider a plaintiff's EEOC charge . . . to
resolve the question of whether a plaintiff has exhausted
administrative remedies without converting a motion to
dismiss . . . to a motion for summary judgment.”
Pettiford v. Diversified Enter. of S. Ga., Inc., No.
7:18-CV-105 (HL), 2019 WL 653813, at *2 (M.D. Ga. Feb. 15,
2019) (citing Chestnut v. Ethan Allen Retail, Inc.,
971 F.Supp.2d 1223, 1228 (N.D.Ga. 2013)). Accordingly, the
Court concludes that it may consider the documents attached
to Defendants' motion and Plaintiff's response
without converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary
argue that Plaintiff's claims for age discrimination are
subject to dismissal because Plaintiff did not file her
charge of discrimination within 180 days of the last alleged
discriminatory act. Alternatively, Defendants contend that
Plaintiff's age discrimination claims should be dismissed
because Plaintiff has not presented enough factual detail to
state a claim under the ADEA. Defendants also move to dismiss
Plaintiff's claims for FMLA retaliation, damage to
reputation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress
for failure to state a claim.