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Johnson v. Arcelormittal LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 19, 2017

TREVIA JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ARCELORMITTAL LLC, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss Complaint, filed by the defendants, Arcelormittal LLC, Arcelormittal USA LLC, and Arcelormittal Burns Harbor LLC, on September 2, 2016. (DE #11.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED. As set forth in the body of this order, the claims brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as amended are hereby DISMISSED, while the claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, et seq. REMAIN PENDING.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, Trevia Johnson (“Plaintiff”) filed her Complaint against the defendants, Arcelormittal LLC, Arcelormittal USA LLC, and Arcelormittal Burns Harbor LLC (collectively, “Defendant”), [1] on June 8, 2016. (DE #1.) In it, she alleges claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as amended (“Title VII”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, et seq. (“Section 1981”). On September 2, 2016, Defendant filed the instant partial motion to dismiss, arguing that the Title VII allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint fall outside of the scope of her underlying administrative charge and should be dismissed for a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (DE #12.) Plaintiff filed her response on September 16, 2016. (DE #14.) Defendant filed a reply on September 23, 2016. (DE #16.) The motion is ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), [2] a court must accept all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Parish v. City of Elkhart, 614 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). While a complaint is not required to contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must allege facts that state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true . . . .” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted).

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court generally only considers the factual allegations of the complaint and any reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those allegations. See Gessert v. United States, 703 F.3d 1028, 1033 (7th Cir. 2013). The court may examine information from documents attached to a motion to dismiss “if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim.” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 729 (7th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted). Such documents may be considered by the court in ruling on the motion to dismiss without converting the motion into a motion for summary judgment. See Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture, LLC, 714 F.3d 501, 505 (7th Cir. 2013). However, this is a “narrow exception” to the general rule that consideration of extraneous material requires conversion to a summary judgment motion. 188 LLC v. Trinity Indus., Inc., 300 F.3d 730, 735 (7th Cir. 2002). When extraneous materials are presented, it is within the court's discretion either to exclude the materials and handle the case as a straightforward motion to dismiss, or to consider the materials and convert to summary judgment. See Levenstein v. Salafsky, 164 F.3d 345, 347 (7th Cir. 1998).

         Extraneous Materials

         Plaintiff has submitted several documents for the Court to consider in ruling on the motion to dismiss: a letter sent from Defendant to Plaintiff regarding the alleged violation of a Probationary Reinstatement Agreement (DE #14-1), the administrative Complaint of Discrimination filed with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC)[3] (the “Charge” or the “Charge of Discrimination”) (DE #14-2), notes of an interview between Plaintiff and the ICRC dated November 14, 2014 (the “Complainant Interview”) (DE #14-3), a letter from a former co-worker of Plaintiff's regarding her work conditions (the “Hunter Letter”) (DE #14-4), the Notice of Finding by the ICRC (DE #14-5), and the Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter from the EEOC (DE #14-6). Only the Charge of Discrimination and the Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter are mentioned in Plaintiff's Complaint. (See DE #1, p. 2.) In a footnote in her response brief, Plaintiff asks the Court to consider the attached documents because they are “directly referenced in her Complaint or describe incidents referenced in her Complaint, and which are integral to a full and complete understanding of her position.” (DE #14, p. 2.) She does not elaborate on this assertion. In reply, Defendant argues that, with the exception of the Charge of Discrimination and the Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter, the documents are not referenced in her Complaint nor are they central to her claims, so they should not be considered by the Court.

         It is undisputed that both the Charge of Discrimination and the Dismissal and Notice of Rights letter may be properly considered for purposes of the instant motion without converting it to one for summary judgment. See Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 729 (7th Cir. 2014). However, the Court agrees with Defendant that the remaining documents do not fall within the narrow exception articulated by the Seventh Circuit:

In effect, the incorporation-by-reference doctrine provides that if a plaintiff mentions a document in his complaint, the defendant may then submit the document to the court without converting defendant's 12(b)(6) motion to a motion for summary judgment. The doctrine prevents a plaintiff from evad[ing] dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) simply by failing to attach to his complaint a document that prove[s] his claim has no merit.

Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners, 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (emphasis added). Plaintiff's attempt to expand the exception to include documents that simply “describe incidents referenced in her Complaint” goes too far. Nowhere in the Complaint are the violation letter, the Complainant Interview, the Hunter Letter, or the Notice of Finding by the ICRC even tangentially referenced. The Complaint contains allegations describing conduct relevant to her claims; while the aforementioned documents may be used as evidence in support of those factual assertions, they are not central to the claims presented. Thus, the Court declines to consider them when deciding this motion. See Metz v. Joe RizzaImports, Inc., 700 F.Supp.2d 983, 988 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (refusing to consider documents submitted in response to motion to dismiss because they “are not central in determining whether Defendants engaged in these acts” alleged in the complaint). Furthermore, because consideration of these documents would not change its analysis, [4] the Court declines to exercise its discretion to ...


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