On March 16, 1994, Shanes went to Jones's office with a union representative and recounted the incident regarding the termination/ resignation to both of them. Jones arranged a meeting with Michael Wittenberg ("Wittenberg"), the County's Director of Labor Relations, for the following day and told Shanes that he would take no further action until that meeting.
However, as soon as the union representative left the OET offices, Jones handed Shanes a letter of termination, effective March 18, 1994. John Zakian, Assistant to the County Executive, aware of the hostile work environment, expressly approved the termination. That day, Clementoni told Shanes that she was fired for complaining about the sexual harassment and the County's failure to take remedial action.
On March 17, at the meeting with Shanes, Jones and Wittenberg, Wittenberg directed that the termination letter be held in abeyance until the completion of the affirmative action investigation. For the next eight months, Shanes's employment status with the County remained "terminated" with the effective date of the termination stayed.
On April 7, 1994, Shanes filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("the "EEOC"), charging Jones, Clementoni, Cunningham, and the County with discrimination pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq.
After Shanes filed her EEOC complaint, defendants refused to associate or communicate with her, made her the subject of false disciplinary complaints, threatened her, denied her emergency leave time, and refused to allow her to take a previously approved vacation.
On June 7, 1994 Shanes commenced an action in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the grounds of defendants' retaliating against her EEOC complaint (Shanes I). Throughout Shanes I, defendants perpetuated a work environment hostile to Shanes. They forbid Shanes from performing any job duties, separated her from the other OET offices, and accused her of being a "problem," ransacked her office and threatened her life. In November, 1994, Shanes resigned. That month, Shanes prevailed in Shanes I and was awarded damages. On May 27, 1995, just after she received her right to sue letter, Shanes brought this action pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000 et seq.
1. Motion to Dismiss Standards
A complaint must be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) only if "it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957); see also Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011, 1014 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 118 L. Ed. 2d 548, 112 S. Ct. 1943 (1992). In addition, in deciding a motion to dismiss, the court must read the facts alleged in the complaint "generously" drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Cosmas v. Hassett, 886 F.2d 8, 11 (2d Cir. 1989). The trial court's role is to appraise the legal merits of the complaint and not to weigh the evidence which might be introduced at trial. See Ricciuti v. New York City Transit Authority, 941 F.2d 119, 124 (2d Cir. 1991) (plaintiff is not compelled to prove his case at the pleading stage). The issue "is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974). Finally, the trial court should grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion "only if is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984) (citing Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46).
2. Res Judicata
Defendants move to dismiss the complaint in this case under the doctrine of res judicata because the factual issues underlying the claims were previously addressed in Shanes I. Our Court of Appeals applies res judicata to bar a second suit if the two actions stem from the same transactions or series of transactions regardless of the underlying theories. Woods v. Dunlop Tire Corporation, 972 F.2d 36, 38 (2d Cir. 1992), cert. denied 506 U.S. 1053, 113 S. Ct. 977, 122 L. Ed. 2d 131 (1993) (citing Grubb v. Public Utilities of Ohio, 281 U.S. 470, 479, 74 L. Ed. 972, 50 S. Ct. 374 (1930).
In Woods, plaintiff brought a federal labor action while her charges of discrimination were pending with the EEOC and the DHR. The court granted the defense's summary judgment motion in the original federal action. The EEOC and the DHR found no probable cause and issued Right to Sue letters, and plaintiff brought a Title VII action based on the same facts. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint in the second federal action on the grounds of res judicata, noting that the district court "correctly determined that the present action involves the same transaction, and therefore the same cause of action, for res judicata purposes. Woods, 972 F.2d at 38. The Court went on to explain:
a judgment on the merits in one suit is res judicata in another where the parties and subject matter are the same, not only as respects matters actually presented to sustain or defeat the right asserted but also as respects any other available matter which might have been presented to that end.