Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ruiz v. Brennan

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 16, 2017

BLANCA RUIZ, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
MEAGAN BRENNAN, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service (Southwest Area) Agency, Defendant-Appellee

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before BARKSDALE, GRAVES, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

          STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge:

         Plaintiff-Appellant Blanca Ruiz filed an administrative complaint claiming disability discrimination by the United States Postal Service. After both the Postal Service and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that her case was subsumed within a pending administrative class action, Ruiz sued the Postmaster General. The magistrate judge initially dismissed Ruiz's case without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Ruiz failed to exhaust her administrative remedies on the merits of her disability discrimination claim. This court reversed and remanded to the magistrate judge to decide whether Ruiz's claim was properly subsumed within the class action.[1] On remand, the magistrate judge determined that Ruiz's claim was properly subsumed within the class action and dismissed Ruiz's case for failure to exhaust. Ruiz again appealed, and we now affirm.

         I.

         Ruiz began working as a clerk for the Postal Service in 1990. Ruiz was born with a hearing impairment, and she was also diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, a work-related injury, in 1994. After the carpal-tunnel-syndrome diagnosis, Ruiz was reassigned to a modified position at the Postal Service that she could perform despite these medical limitations.

         Sometime in 2010, Ruiz's modified-duty assignment was reviewed as part of the National Reassessment Process (NRP), a program developed to standardize the procedures for assigning work to injured-on-duty Postal Service employees. As part of the NRP, the Postal Service offered Ruiz a different position working at the front desk of a postal facility. The Postal Service told Ruiz to either accept the new position or provide updated medical information for a new modified assignment. Ruiz agreed to "try out" the new front-desk assignment. Because of her hearing impairment, Ruiz was unable to perform some of the tasks required of the new front-desk position. After only two days, on September 22, 2010, the Postal Service retracted Ruiz's job offer to work at the front desk because of her hearing impairment. That same day, Ruiz's supervisor notified her that the District Assessment Team had completed a search pursuant to NRP guidelines and was unable to identify any available tasks that Ruiz could perform with her medical limitations. Ruiz's supervisor told her not to report back to work unless contacted.

         Ruiz filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity division of the Postal Service, alleging that the Postal Service discriminated against her on the basis of her disability by denying her reasonable accommodation. The Postal Service determined that Ruiz's individual complaint was subsumed by a pending administrative class action, McConnell v. Potter, which alleged disability discrimination related to the NRP. See EEOC Appeal No. 0720080054, 2010 WL 332083, at *6, 10 (EEOC Jan. 14, 2010) (reversing final agency order rejecting certification of class). Ruiz appealed the Postal Service's decision to the EEOC. On May 18, 2011, the EEOC affirmed the Postal Service's decision, concluding that Ruiz's disability discrimination claims were properly subsumed within the McConnell class action. The EEOC decision included notice of Ruiz's right to file a civil action within 90 days of receiving the decision.

         Ruiz sued the Postmaster on August 19, 2011, again alleging employment discrimination based on the Postal Service's denial of reasonable accommodation. In response to the Postmaster's motion to dismiss, Ruiz filed an amended complaint on November 11, 2011. Ruiz's amended complaint alleged that the EEOC erred in finding her case subsumed within the McConnell class action because her case is "different from McConnell." "In view of the amended complaint, " the magistrate judge denied without prejudice the Postmaster's motion to dismiss the original complaint and ordered the Postmaster to respond to the amended complaint.

         The Postmaster then moved to dismiss Ruiz's amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), arguing that Ruiz failed to exhaust her administrative remedies on her disability discrimination claim because neither the Postal Service nor the EEOC reached the merits of her claim. The magistrate judge granted that motion and dismissed the case without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Ruiz had failed to exhaust. Ruiz appealed, and this court reversed and remanded. See Ruiz v. Donahoe, 569 F.App'x 207, 208 (5th Cir. 2014). Specifically, we determined that the magistrate judge had not addressed Ruiz's challenge to the EEOC's determination that her claim was subsumed within the McConnell class action. Id. at 212. After concluding that Ruiz had "fully exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to the class action issue, " we explained that Ruiz's lawsuit "should not have been dismissed without first addressing whether Ruiz was properly subsumed within the McConnell class action." Id. Thus, we "remand[ed] to the magistrate judge to decide whether Ruiz was properly subsumed in the class." Id.

         On remand, and after receiving supplemental briefing from the parties on the class-action issue, the magistrate judge determined that Ruiz's claim was properly subsumed within the McConnell class. The magistrate judge explained that "[Ruiz's] removal from her [modified-duty position], job offer to work at the front desk, and lack of accommodation for her hearing impairment at the front desk were all the result of the NRP, and therefore she alleges an identical claim that is properly subsumed into the McConnell class action." Because the claim had been properly subsumed into the pending class action, the magistrate judge found that Ruiz had not exhausted her administrative remedies. Although the Postmaster had moved for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the magistrate judge noted the existence of an intra-Fifth-Circuit split on whether administrative exhaustion is a jurisdictional prerequisite or merely a condition precedent to filing a lawsuit. Applying the rule of orderliness, the magistrate judge adopted the position of the earliest identified panel decision that exhaustion is a condition precedent rather than a jurisdictional prerequisite. Accordingly, the magistrate judge treated the Postmaster's motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and dismissed Ruiz's lawsuit without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Ruiz timely filed a notice of appeal.

         II.

         We review de novo the district court's decision to dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). Taylor v. City of Shreveport, 798 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2015). Additionally, we review de novo a district court's determination that the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Pacheco v. Mineta, 448 F.3d 783, 788 (5th Cir. 2006).

         "To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must provide the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement for relief-including factual allegations that, when assumed to be true, raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Taylor, 798 F.3d at 279 (quotations and citations omitted). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we may consider the contents of the pleadings along with any attachments. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). Further, we may take judicial notice of matters of public record. Norris v. Hearst Trust, 500 F.3d ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.