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Brown v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals

October 4, 2007

RE: JEANNETTE BROWN
v.
NOVARTIS PHARMACEUTICALS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR . FEDERAL BLDG . & U.S. COURTHOUSE 50 WALNUT STREET, P.O. BOX 419 NEWARK, NJ 07101-0419 (973) 645-6340

LETTER OPINION

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court adjudicates this matter on the papers. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons expressed herein, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

Background and Procedural History

Novartis hired pro se Plaintiff Jeanette Brown as an Administrative Assistant on July 15, 2001. (Pl.'s Brief Descr. Facts, Appended to Compl. ("Pl.'s Descr. Facts") at 1.) In early January 2004, Plaintiff left her position on short-term disability leave. (Id.) On January 12, 2004, Plaintiff underwent surgery for the removal of tumors on both feet. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that she originally planned to return to work on May 30, 2004, but was advised not to do so by her doctor. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff subsequently received a letter from Novartis's Human Resources Department stating that if she did not return to work by July 6, 2004, her position with the company would be terminated. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that she could not return to work by that time, and was terminated from her employment with Novartis effective July 6, 2004.*fn1 (Id. at 3; Compl. ¶¶ 5, 9.)

On September 25, 2006, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. On October 24, 2006, the EEOC sent Plaintiff a letter (1) dismissing her charge for failure to timely file with the EEOC, and (2) notifying Plaintiff of her right to file suit within 90 days of the date of the letter. A copy of the EEOC's letter is appended to the Complaint.

On January 23, 2007, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint in this Court, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated from her employment at Novartis. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff also alleges that Novartis changed her job description without notice while she was out on disability leave, and that Novartis failed to inform her that her termination date was ultimately changed from July 6, 2004 to August 31, 2004.*fn2 (Id. ¶¶ 9-10; Pl.'s Descr. Facts at 1-3.) Novartis argues that Plaintiff's Complaint is clearly time-barred, and moves for dismissal on that basis.

12(b)(6) Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claims or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). In deciding such a motion, a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975). If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears beyond doubt that "no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations," a court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

Although ordinarily treated as an affirmative defense, the statute of limitations may be raised on a motion to dismiss where the allegations made on the face of the complaint show that the cause of action is time-barred. Benak v. Alliance Capital Mgmt. L.P., 435 F.3d 396, 400 n.14 (3d Cir. 2006).

Discussion

I. Timeliness of Plaintiff's EEOC Charge

In order for Plaintiff to maintain a suit for employment discrimination under Title VII, she must establish that she has exhausted her administrative remedies. Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1020 (3d Cir. 1997). In this case, the required administrative remedy was the timely filing of a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. See Watson v. Eastman Kodak Co., 235 F.3d 851, 854 (3d Cir. 2000). Novartis argues that because ...


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