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HICKS v. IBM

April 16, 1999

BRENDA HICKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
IBM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT RICKER'S MOTION
  TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR RELIEF UNDER SECTION 296(6) OF
  THE NEW YORK STATE EXECUTIVE LAW AND OTHERWISE DENYING THE
  INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Plaintiff Brenda Hicks, who is half Native American and half African American, brought this employment discrimination claim against her current employer IBM, and against four employees, for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and New York's Executive Law §§ 296 and 297. The complaint alleges that the four individual Defendants implemented racially discriminatory job assignments, failed to provide commensurate training, and permitted the existence of a racially oppressive work environment. The individual Defendants have filed this motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the grounds that neither 42 U.S.C. § 1981 nor the relevant sections of the Executive Law give rise to a claim against an individual as opposed to a contracting party. Defendant IBM has not joined in the motion. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

Background

The complaint alleges as follows: since 1983, Plaintiff has been an employee of IBM, assigned to the MET laboratory located in East Fishkill, New York. (Cmplt. ¶ 9.) During her years at IBM Fishkill, she has received positive reviews and, in 1993, was promoted from Production Operator to Senior Lab Technician. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 10, 37.)

Each time a racially offensive incident occurred, Plaintiff notified her lab manager, Defendant George Walker ("Walker"). (Cmplt. ¶¶ 17, 22.) Plaintiff alleges that both Ricker and Walker failed to assign her diverse work assignments in comparison to her Caucasian co-employees. (Cmplt. ¶ 45.) Further, Plaintiff asserts that Walker failed to take adequate steps to alleviate the harassment. (Cmplt. ¶ 28.)

In April of 1998, Plaintiff reported her complaints to Defendant J.J. Sinnott ("Sinnott"), Vice President of Human Resources. (Cmplt. ¶ 29.) Sinnott assigned the matter to Defendant Dr. Katherine Frase ("Frase"), another Vice President of Human Resources. (Cmplt. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff alleges that Frase failed to make any meaningful investigation and recommendation for corrective action. (Cmplt. ¶ 31.) Sinnott established a procedure for Plaintiff to meet with Walker on a weekly basis to report the work that Plaintiff was assigned and whether it had been completed. (Cmplt. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff contends that this procedure resulted in micro-management of her work and that Walker threatened her continued employment with IBM. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 34, 35.)

Plaintiff subsequently brought this action alleging that IBM and the individual Defendants, Ricker, Walker, Sinnott, and Frase have violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and New York Executive Law §§ 296 and 297.

Discussion

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6), this court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Cohen v. Koenig, 25 F.3d 1168, 1172 (2d Cir. 1994). The court should grant a motion to dismiss only if, after viewing plaintiff's allegations in a favorable light, it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of her claim. See Valmonte v. Bane, 18 F.3d 992, 998 (2d Cir. 1994).

Individual Liability under § 1981

42 U.S.C. § 1981 states:

  (a) All persons within the jurisdiction of the United
  States shall have the same right in every State and
  Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be
  parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal
  benefits of all laws and proceedings for the security
  of persons and property as is enjoyed by white
  citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment,
  pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of
  every kind, and to no other.
  (b) For purposes of this section, the term "make and
  enforce contracts" includes the making, performance,
  modification, and termination of contracts, and the
  enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, ...

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