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Jones-Louis v. Donahoe

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 3, 2014




This cause is before the Court on Defendant Patrick R. Donahoe's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction [Docket No. 14], filed on September 30, 2013 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

Factual Background

Plaintiff Jacquelyn Jones-Louis, who is proceeding without the assistance of counsel, has not produced a clear account of the facts underlying her allegations. Cognizant of our responsibility to construe liberally the factual allegations of pro se plaintiffs, we attempt to give a fair reconstruction of the harm she claims to have suffered. See Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001); Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 1998). Because of the extreme paucity of information contained in the Complaint, for these purposes we rely partly on the factual summary contained in the EEOC's notice of decision on Plaintiff's employment action before that body, which Plaintiff has attached here. See Pl.'s Ex. 2.

Plaintiff formerly worked as a mail processing clerk for a United States Postal Service ("USPS") facility in Indianapolis, Indiana.[1] Pl.'s Ex. 2 at 1. In April 2007, she suffered a knee injury on the job. After an initial visit with a physician's assistant and with a doctor some days later, Plaintiff reports that she was seen by a knee surgeon in August 2007 and underwent a surgery on the knee in March 2008. Pl.'s Resp. 6. Plaintiff then suffered another on-the-job injury in October 2008. Id. [2] After suffering these injuries, Plaintiff applied for and received-for a time-a "limited duty" work assignment. Pl.'s Ex. 2 at 1. She also applied for disability benefits from the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) for the period April to June 2007; this appears to have been the time when, in the aftermath of the initial injury, she was unable to work entirely.

In January 2009, Plaintiff received notice from OWCP that her disability application had been rejected; OWCP subsequently informed her in February 2009 that her limited duty assignment had expired, and that she would be required to return to her normal job. Id. Citing inadequate documentation of her injury by Plaintiff's treating doctor, USPS management asserted that it was unable to allow her to continue working on limited duty status. Plaintiff refused to return to her normal job duties, and she stopped reporting to work entirely after management sent her home in January 2010. Id. at 2. After she did not respond to requests to report for investigative interviews and provide further documentation of her injury, Plaintiff was terminated in May 2010 for failing to comply with leave-related "call in" procedures and failing to report to work for 70 consecutive days. Id; Pl.'s Ex. 1 at 1 ("[T]he initial reason for my termination as I understand it is that I failed to use the call-in' system provided by the USPS Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system.").

According to Plaintiff, she did not "call in" her absences from work because she understood such a notification to management to be necessary only for "non-job related accident or illness"; since she regarded her knee injury as "work-related, " she did not think the call-in requirement applied to her. Plaintiff also believes that the USPS terminated her for failing to appear at an "investigative interview" that was to have occurred as part of the inquiry into the justification for her prolonged absence from work. Pl.'s Ex. 1 at ¶ 4. She contends further that her termination occurred outside of the normal progressive discipline process, under which she should have received a "letter of warning" and "letter of intent" before her final dismissal. Id. at ¶ 2.[3]

Plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint after her dismissal, alleging that the USPS harassed her on the bases of her African American race, her female sex, and her disability; she also alleged that her termination was a reprisal for having engaged in (unspecified) previous protected EEO activity. Pl.'s Ex. 2 at 2. She reported in this EEO complaint that "management refused to fill out paperwork and threw forms at her, placed her off the clock and ultimately removed her." Id. After initially submitting a request for a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Law Judge, Plaintiff withdrew the request; the USPS consequently issued a final decision reaffirming her dismissal pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1612.110(b). Id.

On August 31, 2010, Plaintiff filed an appeal from that final decision to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that her termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq. After review, EEOC affirmed the USPS's decision on February 13, 2013. Pl.'s Ex. 2 at 2-3. As the Commission explained: "The record yields little insight into why Complainant did not try to cooperate in an effort to save her job, but it also contains no evidence that her race, sex, disability or prior protected activity were factors in the management's actions." Id. at 3.

Plaintiff timely filed her Complaint in this Court on May 9, 2013.[4] Docket No. 1.

Legal Analysis

Standard of Review

Defendant seeks dismissal of this suit pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), on the grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction. As we shall explain, however, Defendant raises-and we address-the possibility that Plaintiff may be attempting to advance other legal theories. To the extent that Defendant seeks dismissal of such theories on the basis of the complaint's insufficiency, we ...

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