United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
DANIEL C. AGUILAR, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, AGENCY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 12). For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiff's Complaint for Damages will be dismissed
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a
claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
facts of this case, as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint
for Damages (ECF No. 3), are as follows. During the relevant
time, Plaintiff was a canteen worker at the Department of
Federal Affairs Canteen Services facility in Marion, Indiana.
Starting on February 20, 2014, Plaintiff was granted four
hundred and twenty hours of FMLA leave and began taking
intermittent leaves of absence from work. Sometime in July of
2014, Plaintiff called to request leave and Defendant's
management official responded, “what's wrong with
you.” From July 2014, through September 2014, Plaintiff
took an extended period of continuous FLMA leave. By August
19, 2014, Plaintiff had exhausted his allotted FLMA leave.
August 8, 2014, Defendant's Human Resource Specialist
sent an email to the canteen chief at the Marion facility
stating that Plaintiff had called and left a voice mail
indicating that he wanted to resign. On October 3, 2014, the
canteen chief sent a Return of Duty Letter to Plaintiff
seeking clarification of Plaintiff's employment status
and requesting that Plaintiff return to work immediately.
Also on October 3, 2014, Plaintiff's union representative
emailed the canteen chief to ask about Plaintiff's
employment status and to communicate Plaintiff's desire
to return to work. Defendant responded on March 3, 2015, by
sending a letter to Plaintiff formally documenting
Plaintiff's resignation and providing him with options
for post-employment benefits.
January 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed his formal complaint of
discrimination with Defendant alleging he was subjected to
harassment and a hostile work environment based on his
disability and in reprisal for prior EEO activity. Defendant
issued its Final Agency Decision on December 16, 2016.
Plaintiff appealed the Final Agency Decision to the EEOC.
However, on July 6, 2017, and before the EEOC issued its
decision, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court under
Cause No. 1:17-cv-280. Plaintiff moved to dismiss that cause
without prejudice on January 22, 2016 (Cause No. 1:17-cv-280,
ECF No. 25). In relevant part, Plaintiff's Motion to
Dismiss Without Prejudice states that Plaintiff is seeking
dismissal “in that he has not finalized the
administrative process with defendant and . . . [t]he parties
[sic] counsel have discussed said dismissal and Defendant has
no objection.” (Id.). Plaintiff's motion
was granted on January 23, 2018.
EEOC rendered its Decision on July 26, 2018, affirming the
Final Agency Decision's determination that there was no
discrimination. Thereafter, on October 9, 2018, Plaintiff
filed his Complaint for Damages in the Grant County, Indiana,
Circuit Court. (ECF No. 3). Defendant removed the action to
this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). (ECF No.
1). Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 12) and
Memorandum in Support (ECF No. 13) on February 4, 2019.
Plaintiff filed his Response (ECF No. 14) on March 4, 2019.
This matter is now ripe for review by the Court.
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject
first asserts that this Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim. Defendant argues
that the Grant Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction over the
claim, and therefore this Court also lacks jurisdiction under
the derivative jurisdiction doctrine. As set forth below,
this Court concludes that the Grant Circuit Court did have
jurisdiction over the claim. However, even if the Grant
Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction, that would not create a
jurisdictional bar here. Accordingly, this Court concludes
that Defendant's subject matter jurisdiction argument
should be rejected.
Civ. P. 12(b)(1) provides that a case will be dismissed if
the court lacks the statutory authority to hear and decide
the dispute. The standard of review for a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion to dismiss depends on the purpose of the motion.
See United Phosphorous, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322
F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003). If subject matter jurisdiction
is not evident from the face of the complaint, a court must
analyze the motion like any other motion to dismiss and
assume for purposes of the motion that the allegations in the
complaint are true. Where, as here, the complaint is formally
sufficient, but the contention is that there is no subject
matter jurisdiction, the movant may use affidavits and other
materials to support the motion. The burden of proof on the
Rule 12(b)(1) issue is on the party asserting jurisdiction.
Concurrent Jurisdiction over Title VII Claims
enforcement provision of Title VII provides that
“[e]ach United States district court and each United
States court of a place subject to the jurisdiction of the
United States shall have jurisdiction of actions brought
under this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3).
In Yellow Freight Sys., Inc. v. Donnelly, 494 U.S.
820 (1990), a unanimous Supreme Court interpreted this
provision as providing for concurrent jurisdiction between
state and federal courts over Title VII actions. Defendant
acknowledges Yellow Freight but suggests that this
Court should find exclusive jurisdiction in the federal
courts for Title VII claims against federal employers,
relying on Bullock v. Napolitano, 666 F.3d 281 (4th
Cir. 2012). The Court declines Defendant's suggestion.
issue on which the courts in Yellow Freight and
Bullock diverge is how to interpret Congress'
omission of any reference to state court jurisdiction in 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). The Supreme Court in Yellow
Freight determined that principles of federalism
mandated a finding of concurrent jurisdiction unless Congress
explicitly provided otherwise.
Under our system of dual sovereignty, we have consistently
held that state courts have inherent authority, and are thus
presumptively competent, to adjudicate claims arising under
the laws of the United States. To give federal courts
exclusive jurisdiction over a federal cause of action,
Congress must, in an exercise of its powers under the
Supremacy Clause, affirmatively divest state courts of their
presumptively concurrent jurisdiction.
Yellow Freight, 494 U.S. at 823 (citations omitted).
Accordingly, the Supreme Court found that the lack of
reference to state court jurisdiction was “strong, and
arguably sufficient, evidence that Congress” did not
intend exclusive federal jurisdiction. Id. Although
the Court noted that the legislative history was
“persuasive” in showing an anticipation by
Congress that Title VII cases would be handled by federal
courts, the Court concluded that “such anticipation
does not overcome the presumption of concurrent jurisdiction
that lies at the core of our federal system.”
Id. at 826.
Fourth Circuit took a conflicting position regarding the
effect of Congressional silence in Bullock. While
Yellow Freight concentrated on Congress' ability
to divest state courts of jurisdiction, Bullock
focused on the sovereign's ability to confer jurisdiction
via its waiver of sovereign immunity. As stated by the
Sovereign immunity is “jurisdictional in nature,
” FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994), and
“the terms of [a sovereign's] consent to be sued
in any court define that court's jurisdiction to
entertain the suit, ” United States v.
Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941) (emphasis added).
Sovereign immunity is not only a bar to liability but also a
bar to the courts in which suits against the United States
can be filed, see id. at 588-91, and to the remedies
claimed, see Shaw, 478 ...