United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ADRIANE E.T. BOULWARE, Plaintiff,
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Adriane E.T. Boulware (Plaintiff) brought this lawsuit
against her employer, Defendant South Carolina Department of
Health and Human Services (Defendant). In her Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges claims for violations of the Family Medical
Leave Act (FMLA), breach of contract, and breach of contract
with fraudulent intent. The matter is before the Court for
review of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of the
United States Magistrate Judge recommending Defendant's
motion to dismiss be granted as to all claims. The Report was
made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil
Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
Court need not conduct a de novo review, however, “when
a party makes general and conclusory objections that do not
direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [Magistrate
Judge's] proposed findings and recommendations.”
Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982);
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). Thus, the Court will
address each specific objection to the Report in turn. As
provided above, however, the Court need not-and will
not-address any arguments that fail to point the Court to
alleged specific errors the Magistrate Judge made in the
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on August 23, 2017. ECF No.
19. Plaintiff filed objections on September 20, 2017. ECF No.
24. Defendant replied on September 28, 2017. ECF No. 25. The
Court has reviewed Plaintiff's objections, but holds them
to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment
first argues the Magistrate Judge erred by recommending
Plaintiff's claim under the FMLA self-care provision is
barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Magistrate Judge
suggests Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Md., 566
U.S. 30 (2012), is the controlling law on Eleventh Amendment
immunity and FMLA self-care claims. Under Coleman,
the Eleventh Amendment bars FMLA self-care lawsuits against
the States. 566 U.S. at 33. Plaintiff avers the Eleventh
Amendment does not bar her FMLA self-care claim. Defendant
agrees with the Magistrate Judge.
first argues her self-care claim should be controlled by
Nev. Dep't of Human Res. v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721
(2003), rather than by Coleman because her self-care
and family-care FMLA claims are inextricably intertwined. As
noted above, the Coleman Court held the Eleventh
Amendment bars suits against the States under the FMLA
self-care provision. 566 U.S. at 33. In contrast, the
Hibbs Court held the Eleventh Amendment does not bar
lawsuits against the States under the FMLA's family-care
provision. 538 U.S. at725. Plaintiff alleges her FMLA
self-care and FMLA family-care claims are inextricably
interwoven, and should thus be analyzed under Hibbs.
She provides no support for this claim, however. The Court
thus holds this contention to be without merit.
Hibbs does not control, Plaintiff argues her
situation is novel because her FMLA self-care and family-care
claims are intertwined, so the Court should not grant
Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff contends her
facts are different from other cases, but the issue she
raises is one of application of law. The law here is clear -
Coleman controls FMLA self-care claims, and
Hibbs controls FMLA family-care claims. For the
foregoing reasons, the Court will overrule Plaintiff's
objections as to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
regarding Plaintiff's FMLA self-care claim.
next objects the Magistrate Judge erred in recommending
Defendant's motion to dismiss be granted as to
Plaintiff's FMLA family-care claim. The Magistrate Judge
determined Plaintiff failed to show she suffered prejudice
from Defendant's alleged interference with her FMLA
family-care leave. The Magistrate Judge also noted the
actions Plaintiff alleged she suffered are not violations of
the FMLA. The Magistrate Judge thus concluded Plaintiff's
Complaint failed to state a factual and legal claim under the
FMLA family-care provision, and recommended granting
Defendant's motion to dismiss as to that claim. Plaintiff
contends she sufficiently alleged she was prejudiced by
Defendant's interference, and she suffered legal damages
as a from Defendant's purported violation of her FMLA
family-care rights. Defendant again agrees with the
Magistrate Judge's analysis.
claim fails for two reasons. First, Plaintiff alleges
Defendant violated her FMLA family-care rights by scheduling
a meeting during a protected doctor's appointment,
informing Plaintiff others could do her job/were a better
fit, and extending her probationary period. Under FMLA,
however, an employer is liable to the employee for only the
employee's lost compensation and benefits, other monetary
losses the employee suffered as a result of the FMLA
violation, or for equitable remedies including employment,
reinstatement or promotion. See 29 U.S.C. §
2617(a)(1). Equitable remedies are unavailable, however,
where there is no legal loss under FMLA. See Montgomery
v. Md., 72 Fed. App'x. 17, 19-20 (4th Cir. 2003).
None of the actions Plaintiff alleges Defendant engaged in
here are remediable under the FMLA.
the actions were remediable under FMLA, to state a claim for
FMLA interference, Plaintiff must show Defendant interfered
with her FMLA rights and she was prejudiced by such
interference. Ragsdale v. Wolverine World Wide,
Inc., 535 U.S. 81, 89 (2002). An employee is prejudiced,
however, only if she loses compensation and benefits, suffers
other monetary losses as a result of the FMLA interference,
or if she is denied employment, reinstatement, or promotion.
See 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(1). Although Plaintiff
requested “compensatory damages in the nature of the
value of her lost wages and benefits, front pay, together
with interest thereon, as well as liquidated damages, and . .
. . reasonable attorney's fee, ” ECF No. 1 ¶
51, the Complaint does not contain any allegations Plaintiff
suffered lost compensation or benefits, or incurred costs as
a result of Defendant's purported interference with her
FMLA family-care rights. For those reasons, the Court
overrules Plaintiff's objection to the Magistrate
Judge's suggestion as to Plaintiff's FMLA family-care
also argues the Magistrate Judge erred in suggesting the
Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff's state law claims for
breach of contract and breach of contract with fraudulent
intent. Though Plaintiff alleged the Court had supplemental
jurisdiction over her state law claims, the Magistrate Judge
stated supplemental jurisdiction cannot override the Eleventh
Amendment. On that basis, the Magistrate Judge recommended
Defendant's motion to dismiss be granted on
Plaintiff's state law claims. Plaintiff argues her FMLA
claim is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment because she
presents a novel issue which should not be controlled by
Coleman, and when Defendant entered into an
employment contract with her, it waived any sovereign
immunity it may have had from Plaintiff's contractual
claims. Finally, Plaintiff requests her state law claims be
remanded to state court if this Court cannot hear these
claims. Defendant replies that the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation was correct, Plaintiff's reliance on state
law cases regarding sovereign immunity was misplaced, and
Plaintiff's case cannot be remanded to state court
because it did not originate there.
preliminary matter, Plaintiff originally filed her claims in
this Court, not in state court. Thus, this Court cannot
remand Plaintiff's state law claims to state court.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) (indicating the
District Court can issue an Order remanding a case to the
state court where the case was originally filed).
as analyzed above, the Eleventh Amendment bars the District
Court from hearing Plaintiff's FMLA self-care claim, and
Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted under the FMLA's family-care provision.
Accordingly, Defendant's motion to dismiss is due to be
granted as to all of Plaintiff's FMLA claims. Where a
District Court has dismissed all claims over which it had
original jurisdiction, the Court may decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over related claims. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367(c)(3). Because it will dismiss Plaintiff's
FMLA claims over which it had original jurisdiction, the
Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her
state law claims for breach of contract and breach of
contract with fraudulent intent. Plaintiff's claim about
the State waiving ...