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Jenkins v. Indiana Department of Child Services

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

June 23, 2015

TAMARA L. JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendant Indiana Department of Child Services ("DCS") (Filing No. 9). Plaintiff Tamara L. Jenkins ("Ms. Jenkins"), a former employee of DCS filed this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), alleging employment discrimination based on her disability as well as retaliatory discharge for filing charges of discrimination and for seeking disability compensation (Filing No. 1 at 2). Ms. Jenkins is seeking damages for back pay and emotional distress and the demotion of her former supervisor. DCS moves to dismiss this action on the bases that the Complaint was filed after expiration of the statute of limitations and because of Eleventh Amendment immunity. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS DCS's Motion to Dismiss.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that has fails to "state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008). The complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court explained that the complaint must allege facts that are "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Stated differently, the complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Additionally, "[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

"[Courts] consider documents attached to the complaint as part of the complaint itself. Such documents may permit the court to determine that the plaintiff is not entitled to judgment." Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Dismissal is appropriate "when a party has included in its complaint facts that establish an impenetrable defense to its claims.'" Hecker, 556 F.3d at 588 (quoting Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1086 (7th Cir. 2008).

A plaintiff's failure to file her complaint within the period provided by the applicable statute of limitations provides an affirmative defense. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012). While "a plaintiff is not required to plead facts in the complaint to anticipate and defeat affirmative defenses, " if the complaint "nonetheless sets out all of the elements of an affirmative defense, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Id. (citing Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009)).

II. BACKGROUND

Ms. Jenkins began her employment with DCS in July 2007 as an account clerk. During her employment, she suffered from debilitating stress, anxiety, and depression, which was exacerbated by a hostile work environment (Filing No. 1-2 at 4). Her doctor placed her on medical leave from work because of her disability (stress, anxiety, and depression) beginning in June 2010 through November 2010. Ms. Jenkins returned to work for a brief period of time but then began missing work and on some occasions failed to notify her supervisors of her absence. Because of her stress, anxiety, and depression, Ms. Jenkins missed work while she participated in an intensive outpatient program administered by the St. Vincent Stress Center from December 20, 2010 through February 28, 2011. After receiving medical documentation regarding Ms. Jenkins's work absences, DCS retroactively approved Ms. Jenkins's participation in the stress center's program under the department's disability plan.

Ms. Jenkins's doctor released her to return to work on February 28, 2011, but by March 17, 2011, she still had not returned to work. DCS sent a certified letter to Ms. Jenkins stating that her absences were unauthorized and giving her until March 25, 2011, to return to work. The letter explained that a pre-deprivation meeting would be held on March 25, 2011 with or without her attendance, to address her unauthorized absences. Ms. Jenkins did not return to work on March 25, 2011 and did not attend the pre-deprivation meeting due to her mental health status. Ms. Jenkins received a letter from DCS stating that she was suspended without pay for 30 days pending dismissal (Filing 1-1 at 2).

On April 20, 2012, Ms. Jenkins filed a Charge of Discrimination (the "Charge") based on disability and retaliation with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. The Charge was forwarded to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") the same day. On April 27, 2012, the EEOC sent an acknowledgment letter to Ms. Jenkins, notifying her that it had received the Charge submitted under the ADA (Filing No. 1-1 at 3). Ms. Jenkins stated in the Charge that she was discriminated against because of her disability and her discipline was in retaliation for her prior charges of discrimination and filings for disability compensation. She also stated that she never received notification from DCS that she was actually dismissed or terminated, and that she should not have been dismissed or terminated because she was on disability leave at that time.

In its Dismissal and Notice of Rights decision dated June 14, 2012, the EEOC informed Ms. Jenkins that it was closing her file because her charge "was not timely filed with the EEOC, in other words, you waited too long after the dares of the alleged discrimination to file your Charge." Ms. Jenkins was informed that she waited too long after the adverse employment action to file her Charge of Discrimination (Filing No. 1-1 at 1). The EEOC's Dismissal and Notice of Rights decision also informed Ms. Jenkins of her "Notice of Suit Rights, " which informed her that she could file a lawsuit in court but that it must be initiated within ninety days of her receipt of the notice or her right to sue would be lost. Id.

Ms. Jenkins failed to initiate this litigation within ninety days of receiving the June 14, 2012 notice. Instead, she waited approximately two years and three months to file her pro se Complaint in this Court on September 17, 2014. Her Complaint asserts the same claims that she asserted in her EEOC Charge under the ADA and alleges discrimination based on her disability and employment ...


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