United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION ORDER
J. BOYLE, JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. Doc. 7. For
the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the motion.
an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Lyndsey Johnson
worked for Defendants Servitas LLC and Servitas Management
Group LLC (collectively “Servitas”) as a vice
president. She claims that Servitas violated the Texas
Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) by discriminating
against her because of her sex and disability and by
retaliating against her for requesting an accommodation under
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Doc. 1-2, Compl.,
¶¶ 62, 71, 80. Johnson filed her suit in Texas
state court, but Servitas removed the case to this Court on
the basis of federal-question jurisdiction. Doc. 1, Notice of
Removal, 3. Johnson filed a motion to remand, Doc. 7, which
is now ripe for resolution.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Howery
v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001).
District courts “must presume that a suit lies outside
this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing
federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal
forum.” Id. Servitas is that party here.
U.S.C. § 1441(a) allows a defendant to remove any civil
action to federal court if that action falls within the
district court's original jurisdiction. This case was
removed on the basis of federal-question jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1331. A district court has federal-question
jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331. The most direct way a case arises
under federal law is “when federal law creates the
cause of action asserted.” Gunn v. Minton, 568
U.S. 251, 257 (2013). But there is a backdoor to federal
court reserved for a “small and special” group of
state-law claims. Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v.
McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 699 (2006). “That is,
federal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a
federal issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually
disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in
federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance
approved by Congress.” Gunn, 568 U.S. at 258.
regardless of how a removing defendant wants to enter federal
court, courts must employ the well-pleaded complaint rule to
determine whether there is federal-question jurisdiction.
PlainsCapital Bank v. Rogers, No. 16-41654, 2017 WL
4838393, at *3 (5th Cir. Oct. 25, 2017) (per curiam). Under
the well-pleaded complaint rule, “district court[s]
must look to the way the complaint is drawn to see if it . .
. claim[s] a right to recover under the Constitution and laws
of the United States.” Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S.
678, 681 (1946). Put another way, “federal jurisdiction
exists only when a federal question is presented on the face
of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386,
392(1987). So if a plaintiff wants her case to stay in state
court, she must ensure her claims rely exclusively on state
law. Id. This ability makes the plaintiff “the
master of the claim.” Id.
argues that this Court has jurisdiction over Johnson's
state-law claims because (1) she alleged a federal Title VII
claim in her charge of discrimination (Charge) and (2) her
TCHRA claims necessarily involve the ADA, a federal law. Doc.
1, Notice of Removal, 1-3; see also Doc. 10,
Defs.' Resp., 6. Johnson moves the Court to remand the
case, maintaining that her complaint only contains state-law
claims. Doc. 8, Br. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. to Remand,
6-9. Johnson explains that the references she makes to the
ADA in her petition and elsewhere were solely for the purpose
of demonstrating that Servitas knew she had requested an
accommodation for her disability, not to state an ADA claim.
Id. And according to Johnson, she had to allege
Servitas knew about her ADA request to avoid dismissal.
Id. Since Servitas carries the burden of
establishing federal jurisdiction, the Court will address
Servitas's arguments in turn; if they are merritless, the
Court must remand.
first argues that this case should stay in federal court
because Johnson asserted a sex discrimination claim under
Title VII. Doc. 1, Notice of Removal, 1-2. But Johnson's
Title VII claim only appears in her Charge, not in her
complaint. And it is Johnson's complaint, not the Charge,
that matters. See Bell, 327 U.S. at 681. Indeed,
“[a] mere reference to Title VII violations in [a]
charge [of discrimination] . . . will not establish federal
question jurisdiction for purposes of a motion to remand
where Plaintiff has chosen not to plead them and
affirmatively indicates his intention to plead only state[-]
law claims.” Christiason v. Merit Tex. Props.,
L.L.C., 393 F.Supp.2d 435, 437-38 (N.D. Tex. 2005);
see also Williamson v. Pay & Save, Inc., 205
F.Supp.3d 863, 867 (W.D. Tex. 2015) (“[T]he
fact that Plaintiff relied on her [c]harge to prove that she
exhausted her administrative remedies does not create federal
question jurisdiction.”). Johnson, as the master of her
claims, has decided not to include a Title VII claim in her
complaint, so the Court may not exercise federal jurisdiction
on that basis. Had Johnson “attached and fully
incorporated the Charge into [her] complaint, ” then
perhaps the outcome would be different. Davoodi v. Austin
Indep. Sch. Dist., 755 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 2014).
next argues that the Court has jurisdiction because
Johnson's TCHRA claims necessarily involve the ADA. Doc.
1, Notice of Removal, 3. Put another way, Servitas asserts
that Johnson's TCHRA claims cannot be resolved without
first interpreting the ADA, which means Johnson necessarily
invokes federal law in her complaint. Id. As
mentioned above, federal courts have “jurisdiction over
a state law claim . . . if a federal issue is: (1)
necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial,
and (4) capable of resolution in federal court without
disrupting the federal-state balance approved by
Congress.” Gunn, 568 U.S. at 258.
necessarily-raised element comes first. “A federal
issue is ‘necessarily raised' when a court must
apply federal law to the facts of the plaintiff's
case.” Bd. of Comm'rs of the Se. La. Flood
Prot. Auth.-E. v. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co., 29 F.Supp.3d
808, 853 (E.D. La. 2014). The Court concludes that
application of the ADA is unnecessary to resolve
Johnson's case. Johnson's complaint mentions the ADA
many times. See, e.g., Doc. 1-2, Compl.,
¶¶ 37, 44, 54, 57, 78-79. But the complaint does
not contain a request for ADA-related relief or ADA-related
allegations. The closest the complaint gets is in paragraph
78: “Plaintiff engaged in protected activity when she
requested a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and when
she asserted in her letters submitted to Defendants that
Defendants were violating her ADA rights.” Id.
¶ 78. Johnson is not alleging that Servitas violated the
ADA, but that she told Servitas that it was. Her ADA-related
allegations are factual, not legal. See Hardin v. Morgan
Bldgs. & Spas, Inc., No. CIVA SA-07-CA-388-FB, 2007
WL 2021775, at *2 (W.D. Tex. June 26, 2007) (remanding in
spite of factual reference to federal law). And Johnson
needed to allege in her complaint that she submitted an
ADA-related complaint to Servitas to avoid dismissal-a TCHRA
plaintiff must plead that she put her employer on notice of
the discriminatory practices. Esparza v. Univ. of Tex. at
El Paso, 471 S.W.3d 903, 914 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2015, no
pet.). In sum, “[b]ecause [Johnson] only asserts a
state-law cause of action and seeks ...