United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
Jeffrey S. Stroman, Plaintiff,
York County Department of Social Services, Defendant.
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Jeffrey S. Stroman, proceeding pro se,
brought this employment discrimination action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915, raising claims pursuant to the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12101, et seq., and the Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 28 U.S.C.
§§ 2601, et seq. (ECF Nos. 12 & 16.)
This matter was recommitted to the assigned magistrate judge
with instructions from the assigned district judge to address
the FMLA and ADA claims in the context of the defendant's
motion to dismiss. (See Order, ECF No. 46 at 3;
Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 21.)
the issuance of the district judge's order, Stroman filed
an amended complaint which the court construed as a motion to
amend because, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
15(a), Stroman must now obtain leave of court or the
defendant's consent to amend his pleading. In his motion
to amend, Stroman seeks to add new claims pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29
U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (ECF No. 49.) In response,
the defendant argues Stroman's motion to amend is
untimely and futile. (ECF No. 51.)
approximately three years, Stroman was a full-time employee
of the York County Department of Social Services (“the
Department”) and held the position of Human Services
Specialist II. At some point during this employment, Stroman
began having medical issues and informed the Department's
human resources liaison that he needed to take sick leave.
According to Stroman, he was approved by human resources to
take leave under the FMLA. Stroman alleges that while out on
FMLA leave, he continued to submit medical documentation to
his employer showing his continued need to remain on leave;
however, after he had been on leave for approximately five
weeks, the Department's director informed him by letter
that he would be terminated if he did not provide
“additional medical information.” Stroman alleges
that he complied, but that he received a letter dated March
22 informing him that he was being terminated from his
position. Additionally, Stroman alleges that, apparently as a
result of his termination, his health insurance was
discontinued, he was unsuccessful in applying for employment
benefits, and he was denied disability insurance. Stroman
alleges that he was terminated as a result of his medical
condition in violation of the FMLA and Title I of the ADA,
and he appears to allege that the events that followed his
termination are evidence of retaliation by the Department in
violation of the FMLA and ADA. (See generally Am.
Compl., ECF No. 12; see also Order, ECF No. 16.)
motion, the defendant seeks dismissal of Stroman's claims
based on Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6). Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) examines whether the complaint fails to state facts
upon which jurisdiction can be founded. It is the
plaintiff's burden to prove jurisdiction, and the court
is to “regard the pleadings' allegations as mere
evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the
pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for
summary judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768
(4th Cir. 1991). To resolve a jurisdictional challenge under
Rule 12(b)(1), the court may consider undisputed facts and
any jurisdictional facts that it determines. The court may
dismiss a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on any
of the following bases: “(1) the complaint alone; (2)
the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in
the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed
facts plus the court's resolution of disputed
facts.” Johnson v. United States, 534 F.3d
958, 962 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Williamson v.
Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir. 1981)).
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) examines the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged
on the face of the plaintiff's complaint. Edwards v.
City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “[f]actual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The “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). A
claim is facially plausible when the factual content allows
the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged. Id. When considering a
motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the
factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The court “may
also consider documents attached to the complaint,
see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c), 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)
(citing Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526
n.1 (4th Cir. 2006)).
court observes that it is required to liberally construe
pro se complaints. Id. Such pro se
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys, id.; Gordon v. Leeke,
574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district
court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed
by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a
potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972).
When a federal court is evaluating a pro se
complaint, the plaintiff's factual allegations are
assumed to be true. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings
means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to
state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it
should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a
complaint to include claims that were never presented,
Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999),
construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him,
Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993), or
“conjure up questions never squarely presented”
to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d
1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff's FMLA and ADA Claims
sole defendant, York County Department of Social Services, is
a local office of an arm of the State of South Carolina.
See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-30-10-(A)(20) (enabling
statute creating the department of social services as a state
agency within the executive branch); S.C. Code Ann. §
43-1-10. The State of South Carolina and its agencies are
immune from suit for damages in federal court under the
Eleventh Amendment. See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S.
706, 712-13 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v.
Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996); Hans v.
Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890); see also Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101-02
(1984). While immunity does not bar suit where a state has
given consent to be sued, or where Congress abrogates the
sovereign immunity of a state, neither of those exceptions
applies in the instant case. See S.C. Code Ann.
motion, the defendant contends that Stroman's FMLA
claim-because it is brought pursuant to the self-care
provision of the FMLA-is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
The court agrees, as Supreme Court precedent is clear on this
point. See Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Md., 566
U.S. 30 (2012) (distinguishing the FMLA's self-care
provision from its family-care provision and affirming that
Eleventh Amendment immunity protects states from suits under
the FMLA's self-care provision for money damages). As
described above, Stroman's claim unequivocally relates to
medical leave taken by Stroman for his own medical condition,
rather than to take care of a family member. Accordingly,
Stroman's FMLA claim fails as a matter of law.
Stroman's Title I ADA claim is also barred by the
Eleventh Amendment. See Bd. of Trustees of the Univ. of
Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356 (2001) (holding that
Congress has not abrogated the States' Eleventh Amendment
immunity from suits for money damages under Title I of the
ADA, which prohibits ...