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MCGRATH v. NASSAU HEALTH CARE CORP.

July 29, 2002

SALLY PISTORIO MCGRATH AND JOHN MCGRATH, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
NASSAU HEALTH CARE CORP. AND ERIC S. ROSENBLUM, DEFENDANTS.



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

    MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant Nassau Health Care Corporation ("NHCC") moves pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint.*fn1 For the reasons stated below, that motion is DENIED. NHCC is directed to answer Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint within twenty days of receiving this Memorandum and Order.

BACKGROUND

This is a civil rights case. Plaintiffs Sally Pistorio McGrath ("McGrath") and John McGrath allege: (1) that NHCC's former board chairman Eric Rosenblum ("Rosenblum"), sexually harassed McGrath through a litany of lewd activities and untoward statements; and (2) that NHCC negligently permitted Rosenblum to continue those practices by not terminating him. Plaintiffs currently assert hostile work environment and quid pro quo claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the New York Executive Law, Equal Protection and First Amendment claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a New York Executive Law marital status discrimination claim, and claims for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium. (Am.Compl. ¶¶ 87-113.)

A. Factual Background

1. The Parties

McGrath was, at the time the Amended Complaint was filed, a thirty-six year old woman who resided in Jericho, New York. (Am.Compl. ¶ 2.) John McGrath is her husband. (Am.Compl. ¶ 3.)

NHCC is a New York public benefit corporation that maintains its principal place of business in East Meadow, New York. (Am.Compl. ¶ 4.) NHCC operates the Nassau University Medical Center ("Medical Center"). (Am.Compl. ¶ 5.)

Rosenblum is an attorney and the former chairman of NHCC's board of directors. (Am.Compl. ¶¶ 6-7.) He was also McGrath's supervisor. (Am.Compl. ¶ 6.) Rosenblum continues to serve as a member of NHCC's board of directors. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.)

2. McGrath's Employment at NHCC

NHCC hired McGrath as a temporary employee in June of 1999. (Am. Compl. ¶ 19.) McGrath became a full-time NHCC employee in September of 1999. (Am.Compl. ¶ 21.)

Rosenblum allegedly began sexually harassing McGrath on a consistent basis in the first week of September of 1999. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.) That alleged sexual harassment included: (1) a litany of untoward verbal and written sexual remarks and suggestions;*fn2 (2) physical and verbal intimidation;*fn3 (3) actions designed to alienate McGrath from John McGrath;*fn4 (4) vulgar gesturing; and (5) assault and battery.*fn5 (Am.Compl. ¶¶ 27, 33-40, 44-45, 48-49, 56, 58, 60, 62, 65-66, 70, 78-79.)

McGrath contends that NHCC's director of labor relations, Frank Lattimer, heard several of Rosenblum's sexually harassing comments and that he told her to "watch herself because Rosenblum was the "boss.'" (Am.Compl. ¶ 50.) McGrath also avers that she told the Medical Center's diversity department head on several occasions that Rosenblum was sexually harassing her. (Am.Compl. ¶ 51.)

As a result of that investigation, Rosenblum was removed as chairman of NHCC's board of directors. (Am.Compl. ¶ 76.) McGrath was also reassigned to work for another NHCC employee and was given a parking space closer to the building in which she worked. (Am.Compl. ¶ 77.)

On July 25, 2000, McGrath filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Am.Compl. ¶ 12.) The EEOC issued McGrath a right-to-sue letter on August 31, 2000. (Am.Compl. ¶ 13.) This suit followed.

B. Procedural History

On October 30, 2000, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint. That Complaint asserted Title VII and the New York Executive Law sexual harassment claims, negligence claims, and claims for loss of consortium. (Pls.' Mem. in Opp.Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 8.)

On August 31, 2001, the Court granted Plaintiffs leave to file an Amended Complaint. The Amended Complaint contains: (1) hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment claims under Title VII and the New York Executive Law; (2) Equal Protection and First Amendment claims brought under § 1983; (3) a New York Executive Law marital discrimination claim; (4) common law claims for assault and battery; (5) an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; and (6) a claim for loss of consortium. (Pls.' Mem. in Opp.Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 8-9.)

On October 17, 2001, NHCC moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. On December 21, 2001, the parties appeared to argue that motion.

After hearing oral argument, the Court reserved decision. The Court now denies NHCC's motion.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard on Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits both partial and complete dismissal for" "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.'" Sweet v. Sheahan, 235 F.3d 80, 84 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6)). On Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, Courts may not consider matters outside the pleadings, see Wall v. Roman, 18 Fed. Appx. 41, 42 (2d Cir. 2001); Leonard F. v. Israel Discount Bank, 199 F.3d 99, 107 (2d Cir. 1999), but may consider documents attached to pleadings, documents referenced in pleadings or documents that are integral to the pleadings. Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir. 2002). Courts must also" "take all factual allegations as true and [must] construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor.'" Wall, 18 Fed.Appx. at 42 (quoting Lee v. Bankers Trust, 166 F.3d 540, 543 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted)); Sweet, 235 F.3d at 84.

On Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, courts assess only the legal feasability of the complaint and whether plaintiffs have pled claims on which they are entitled to discovery. See Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d 14, 20 (2d Cir. 2000); Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 701 (2d Cir. 1998). Courts do not consider whether plaintiffs are ultimately likely to prevail at trial on those claims. Sims, 230 F.3d at 20; Chance, 143 F.3d at 701. Accordingly, dismissal is only appropriate if the plaintiff" "can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Tarshis v. Riese Org., 211 F.3d 30, 35 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); Lee, 166 F.3d at 543.

B. Title VII Claims

NHCC argues that McGrath's Title VII hostile work environment and quid pro quo claims should be dismissed because McGrath did not administratively exhaust those claims. NHCC contends that McGrath did not administratively exhaust those claims because the EEOC, pursuant to an administrative regulation, issued McGrath a right-to-sue letter only thirty-seven days after she filed her EEOC complaint. NHCC accordingly posits that the EEOC prematurely issued McGrath a right-to-sue letter and that her Title VII claims, brought to this Court by authority of that letter, are procedurally defective. NHCC is mistaken.

Aggrieved employees may only bring Title VII claims in federal district court after filing timely EEOC charges and receiving an EEOC right-to-sue letter. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (e) (2000); Legnani v. Alitalia Linee Aeree Italiane, S.P.A., 274 F.3d 683, 686 (2d Cir. 2001); Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 83 (2d Cir. 2001). Administrative exhaustion is a precondition to maintaining Title VII actions in district court, and plaintiffs may only pursue claims in district court that were either included in, or that are reasonably related to, allegations contained in EEOC complaints. Legnani, 274 F.3d at 686; Holtz, 258 F.3d at 83; Francis v. City of New York, 235 F.3d 763, 768 (2d Cir. 2000) (relating that administrative exhaustion is only a precondition to bringing a Title VII action in federal district court and is not a jurisdictional requirement).

Title VII imposes a 180-day waiting period from the time EEOC charges are filed until the time the EEOC must either commence an action on the complainant's behalf or issue a right-to-sue letter to the complainant. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (f)(i). However, pursuant to an administrative regulation, the EEOC may issue right-to-sue letters to complainants before the 180-day waiting period has expired if "[an authorized EEOC representative] has determined that it is probable that the Commission will be unable to complete its administrative processing of the charge within 180 days from the filing of the charge and has attached a written certificate to that effect." 29 C.F.R. § 1601.28 (a)(2) (2002).

Circuits have split on whether district courts may entertain suits commenced under right-to-sue letters issued by the EEOC before the 180-day waiting period has expired. Compare Martini v. Fed. Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n, 178 F.3d 1336, 1347 (D.C.Cir. 1999) (concluding that suits in district court based on early right-to-sue letters are premature) with Sims v. MacMillan, 22 F.3d 1059, 1060 (11th Cir. 1994) (holding that early right-to-sue letters do not preclude suit in district court), and Brown v. Puget Sound Elec. Apprenticeship & Training Trust, 732 F.2d 726, 729 (9th Cir. 1984) (concluding same), and Walker v. United Parcel Serv., 240 F.3d 1268, 1274 (10th Cir. 2001) (following Sims and Brown). The Second Circuit has not yet decided that question.*fn6 Arroyo v. WestLB Admin., Inc., 2000 WL 562425, *1, 213 F.3d 625 (2d Cir. 2000) (relating that the Second Circuit has not previously addressed that question and declining to do so).

District courts in this circuit have consistently split on the propriety of early right-to-sue letters.*fn7 Courts within the Eastern District of New York have even reached conflicting conclusions. See, e.g., Commodari v. Long Island Univ., 89 F. Supp.2d 353, 382 (E.D.N.Y. 2000) (Trager, J.) (upholding suits commenced under early right-to-sue letters); Rodriguez v. Connection Tech., 65 F. Supp.2d 107, 110 (E.D.N.Y. 1999) (Spatt, J.) (striking suits commenced under early right-to-sue letters).

Courts in this circuit that have declined to entertain early right-to-sue letter cases argue that "Congress contemplated that investigation and conciliation efforts on the part of the EEOC . . . [are] an integral part of the Title VII remedy, and that the EEOC is, therefore, required to make some effort at investigating a charge and conducting some conciliation between employer and employee during ...


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