United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
LOZANO, Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), filed by Hearthside Food
Solutions, LLC (“Hearthside”), incorrectly
denominated as Heartside Food Solutions, LLC, on June 17,
2016. (DE #16.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion
October 29, 2015, Plaintiff Aretha Goodaker
(“Goodaker”) filed a complaint against Hearthside
in the LaPorte County Circuit Court, claiming Hearthside
violated the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”) and the laws and Constitution of the
State of Indiana. (DE #4 at ¶ 1.) Goodaker's
complaint states that she worked for Hearthside from
approximately November 11, 2014, through April 16, 2015.
(Id. ¶ 4.) Goodaker alleges that on March 18,
2015, she informed her manager that she had medical
limitations requiring accommodations. (Id. ¶
5.) Goodaker further alleges that Hearthside denied her
accommodations and retaliated against her because she claimed
rights guaranteed by the ADA. (Id. ¶ 6.)
Moreover, Goodaker asserts that on April 16, 2015, she was
fired by Hearthside as a result of her disability and because
she claimed rights guaranteed by the ADA. (Id.
filed a notice of removal on November 11, 2015. (DE #1 at
¶ 4.) On June 17, 2016, Hearthside filed the instant
motion to dismiss. Hearthside alleges that Goodaker's
complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction because Goodaker failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies under the ADA by not timely filing a
verified charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) prior to
initiating this lawsuit. The motion is fully briefed and ripe
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may
move to dismiss claims over which the federal court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the “power
to decide” and must be conferred upon a federal court.
In re Chicago, Rock Island & Pac. R.R. Co., 794
F.2d 1182, 1188 (7th Cir. 1986). Federal courts are courts of
limited jurisdiction. Hart v. FedEx Ground Package System
Inc., 457 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2006). The party
asserting that jurisdiction exists has the burden of
establishing that the cause lies within the federal
court's limited jurisdiction. Id. In reviewing a
Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the court may look beyond
the complaint to review any extraneous evidence submitted by
the parties to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction
exists. United Transp. Union v. Gateway Western R.R.
Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996).
bring suit under the ADA, a plaintiff must first file a
timely charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC. 42
U.S.C. 2000e-5(b), (e) and (f); 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a).
The ADA adopts the enforcement procedures governing Title VII
actions, including the filing procedures and timing
requirements. 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) (incorporating the
filing requirements found in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e) as
the filing requirements under the ADA). In a deferral state
such as Indiana, a charge is timely if filed “within
300 days ‘after the alleged unlawful employment
practice occurred.'” Stepney v. Naperville Sch.
Dist. 203, 392 F.3d 236, 239 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). If a plaintiff does not file
her charge within this window, “his claim is
time-barred and he may not recover.” Roney v. Ill.
Dep't of Transp., 474 F.3d 455, 460 (7th Cir. 2007).
statute further requires that “[c]harges shall be in
writing under oath or affirmation.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-5(b). Most Courts consider this verification
requirement is mandatory. Gray v. Morrison Mgmt.
Specialists, Inc., No. 1:10-CV-460JD, 2012 WL 3960318,
at *9 (N.D. Ind. Sep. 7, 2012)(“Most courts, when
confronted with similar facts, have found it to be a simple
affair: the verification requirement is a statutory
prerequisite, and failure to meet it means the suit may not
proceed.”). It “is meant to provide some degree
of insurance against catchpenny claims of disgruntled, but
not necessarily aggrieved, employees.” Id.
(citing Edelman v. Lynchburg College, 535 U.S. 106,
to Hearthside, Goodaker completed an intake questionnaire
with the EEOC on April 16, 2015, alleging disability
discrimination while employed at Hearthside. On April 28,
2015, the EEOC notified Hearthside that Goodaker filed a
charge of discrimination under the Americans with
Disabilities Act. Id. On May 13, 2015, the EEOC sent
Goodaker a letter and attached the draft EEOC Form 5, which
included the allegations from her intake questionnaire. The
letter from the EEOC also stated the following:
Before we initiate an investigation, we must receive your
signed Charge of Discrimination (EEOC Form 5). Please sign
and return the charge within 30 days of this letter.
(DE # 17-1 at 7). Hearthside alleges that the EEOC's
official file contains no such perfected charge, nor did it
ever receive one from Goodaker. Id. As a result, the
EEOC did no further investigation and notified Goodaker by
way of a right to sue letter that it was dismissing her
charge on or about July 30, 2015. Id.
contends that she did in fact file a claim with the EEOC, but
concedes that she failed to send a verified charge of
discrimination to the EEOC. (DE #24 at 7). Hearthside argues
that Goodaker's failure to meet her statutory obligation,
by not verifying her EEOC discrimination charge prior to the
EEOC issuing its right to sue letter, should result in a
dismissal due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
filed the instant motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies under Rule 12(b)(1), asserting a lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. However, “a failure to
exhaust administrative remedies should not be evaluated under
Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
Williams v. Potter, 2008 WL 4449549, at *2 (N.D.
Ind. Sep. 25, 2008) (quoting H.H. ex. Rel Hough v. Ind.
Bd. of Special Education Appeals,501 F.Supp.2d 1188
(N.D. Ind. 2007)); see also Gray, No. 1:10-CV-460JD,
2012 WL 3960318 at * 9 (“[T]he verification requirement
is not a jurisdictional prerequisite for suit, such
that a plaintiff's failure to comply divests the federal
court entirely of its ability to hear the case.”).
Failure to exhaust administrative ...