Khan v. UNC Health Care Sys., 1:20CV977

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
Writing for the CourtLORETTA C. BIGGS, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Decision Date24 September 2021
PartiesSHAFQAT KHAN, Plaintiff, v. UNC HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, Defendant.
Docket Number1:20CV977

SHAFQAT KHAN, Plaintiff,
v.

UNC HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, Defendant.

No. 1:20CV977

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

September 24, 2021


MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LORETTA C. BIGGS, DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff, Shafqat Khan (“Khan”), initiated this action on October 29, 2020, against Defendant, UNC Health Care System (“UNC Health”), alleging discriminatory employment practices under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), and the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, (ECF No. 9.) For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Khan was employed by UNC Health from October 2015 to March 24, 2020. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 7, 38.) He was initially hired as a Health Unit Coordinator, (ECF No. 12 at 1), before his promotion to an Administrative Specialist role three years later, (ECF No. 1 ¶ 7). Khan “suffers from non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, ulcerative colitis, splenomegaly, hematuria, and kidney stones.” (Id. ¶ 8 (footnotes omitted).) As a result, Khan sought intermittent leave under FMLA, which was approved on or about July 26, 2018 (“First FMLA Plan”). (Id. ¶ 9.) Under the First FMLA Plan, Khan was allowed “leave for 1 to 2 episodes every month, each episode lasting up to 8 hours, ” from July 26, 2018, through January 26, 2019. (Id.) Additionally, on February 13, 2019, Khan's “work schedule permanently changed to 8:30am to 5:00pm, ” which Khan alleges was for the purpose of accommodating his disability. (Id. ¶ 12.) The First FMLA Plan was extended from January 1, 2019, through April 3, 2019, (Id. ¶ 10), and then was subsequently extended from April 4, 2019, through July 25, 2019. (Id. ¶ 11.)

The extension from April 4, 2019, through July 25, 2019, (“Second FMLA Plan”) modified the terms of the First FMLA Plan. (Id.) Under this Second FMLA Plan, Khan was allowed leave for “2 episodes every week with each episode lasting up to 8 hours, ” as well as “leave for one appointment every 3 months and leave for 1 additional appointment every 3 weeks.” (Id.) In July 2019, Khan requested and was approved intermittent leave under FMLA from July 26, 2019, through January 19, 2020 (“Third FMLA Plan”). (Id. ¶ 17.) The Third FMLA Plan also provided for a modification of the leave term plans, allowing “leave for 2 episodes a week, lasting up to 8 hours, one appointment every 3 months, and 1-3 additional appointment[s] each month.” (Id.) While on intermittent FMLA leave, Khan received a verbal and written warning from UNC Health regarding tardies and attendance issues. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 31.) Both warnings were subsequently rescinded. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 32.) Also, during this period of intermittent FMLA leave, Khan applied for two positions at UNC Health: Administrative Coordinator for Pediatric Surgery and Administrative Coordinator for General and Acute Care Surgery. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 34.) Khan received an interview for both positions, but ultimately was not awarded either position. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22, 34.)

On January 8, 2020, Khan notified UNC Health through email that he (1) would be starting disability paperwork, (2) would “be out of the office until further notice, ” (3) would “let [UNC Health] know as things progress, ” and (4) would let UNC Health know when he would “be able to return, based off the recommendation of [his] medical providers.” (ECF No. 1-9 at 1.) On January 16, 2020, Khan submitted the documentation to have his FMLA leave recertified. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 25.) The next day, Khan was contacted by UNC Health's Business Manager “regarding recertification for continuous FMLA leave.” (Id. ¶ 26.) On that same day, Khan contacted UNC Health's Senior Business Partner “requesting to start a formal complaint for FMLA interference and disability discrimination.” (Id. ¶ 27.) Khan was then approved for continuous FMLA leave from January 20, 2020, through February 11, 2020. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.)

Khan underwent a surgical procedure on March 12, 2020. (Id. ¶ 35.) The following day, Khan alleges that UNC Health's Business Manager called him from a non-work phone number regarding his FMLA leave. (Id. ¶ 36.) Kahn informed UNC Health on March 16, 2020 that he anticipated that he would be “out until at least June or July, but it could be much longer than that as well.” (ECF No. 1-15 at 2.) Khan also requested “not to be contacted during [his] leave, as [he] want[ed] to focus on getting better.” (Id.) UNC responded notifying Khan that “he was out of FMLA leave and was instead on unapproved leave.” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 37.) Khan's employment at UNC Health was terminated on March 24, 2020. (Id. ¶ 38.) Khan alleges that when he was terminated, he still “had remaining FMLA hours that could have been utilized and continued to recoup FMLA hours weekly.” (Id. ¶ 40.)

Khan filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) first on January 31, 2020. (Id. ¶ 33.) He then amended his charge on March 25, 2020, to include his termination. (ECF No. 10-2 at 2.) On August 31, 2020, the EEOC issued Khan his Right to Sue Letter, (ECF No. 1 ¶ 39), and Khan subsequently commenced this action on October 29, 2020, (ECF No. 1). UNC Health brings this motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 9.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. 12(b)(1)

Under Rule 12(b)(1), a party may seek dismissal based on the court's “lack of subjectmatter jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold issue that relates to the court's power to hear a case and must be decided before a determination on the merits of the case. Constantine v. Rectors & Visitors of George Mason Univ., 411 F.3d 474, 479- 80 (4th Cir. 2005). A motion under Rule 12(b)(1) raises the question of “whether [the plaintiff] has a right to be in the district court at all and whether the court has the power to hear and dispose of [the] claim.” Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 452 (4th Cir. 2012). The burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction rests with the plaintiff, and the trial court may “consider evidence by affidavit, depositions or live testimony without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). Furthermore, when evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the court should grant the motion “only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

B. 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint, ” including whether it meets the pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2). See Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), thereby “giv[ing] the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In assessing a claim's plausibility, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co., 708 F.3d 527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). A claim is plausible when the complaint alleges facts that allow the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. However, “mere conclusory and speculative allegations” are insufficient, Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013), and a court “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments, ” Vitol, 708 F.3d at 548 (quoting Jordan v. Alt. Res. Corp., 458 F.3d 332, 338 (4th Cir. 2006)).

Generally, on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court cannot consider documents beyond the complaint without converting the motion into a motion for summary judgment. See Occupy Columbia v. Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 116 (4th Cir. 2013). The court can, however, properly consider “documents attached to the complaint, as well as those attached to the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the complaint and authentic.” Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

The Court will, therefore, consider certain documents attached to Khan's Complaint and UNC Health's Memorandum of Law in support of its Motion to Dismiss-the authenticity of which have not been challenged by either party.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Sovereign Immunity

In support of its motion to dismiss Khan's claims, UNC Health argues that this Court lacks the ability to address Khan's claims because he failed to allege “an abrogation of the sovereign immunity to which UNC Health . . . is otherwise entitled[.]” (ECF No. 10 at 17.)

The Eleventh Amendment provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. “[T]he doctrine of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment...

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