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THOMAS v. WESTCHESTER COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION

November 21, 2002

PAULETTE M. THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WESTCHESTER COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION AND WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR Marrero, United States District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Paulette Thomas ("Thomas") filed a complaint (the "Complaint") alleging that defendants Westchester County Health Care Corporation ("WCHCC") and Westchester Medical Center ("WMC," and together with WCHCC, the "Defendants") (i) discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and (ii) retaliated against her for filing a sexual harassment claim, in violation of Title VII. Thomas also filed two identical claims under the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Executive Law § 296 ("NYSHRL"). Defendants in turn filed a motion pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss Thomas's Complaint in its entirety. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. MOTION TO DISMISS

A district court may grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) only if it appears beyond doubt that the non-moving party could prove no set of facts that would entitle it to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spaldinq, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Valmonte v. Bane, 18 F.3d 992, 998 (2d Cir. 1994). On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court accepts all well-pleaded factual assertions in the complaint as true and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Hishon, 467 U.S. at 73; see also McGinty v. State of New York, 193 F.3d 64, 68 (2d Cir. 1999).

A recent Supreme Court ruling in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002), further instructs that in order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint in an employment discrimination case need only include a simple statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and giving the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. See id. at 512-13. While the Supreme Court did not require a plaintiff to plead a prima facie case of discrimination, it did note that a court may dismiss a complaint "`if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'" Id. at 514 (quoting Hishon, 467 U.S. at 73).

When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court's review is confined to the pleadings themselves, with a few well-established exceptions. To go beyond the allegations in the Complaint would convert the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. See Friedl v. City of New York, 210 F.3d 79, 83-84 (2d Cir. 2000). At this stage of the proceedings in the instant case, the Court declines to convert the motion. Nevertheless, the Court's consideration of documents attached to, or incorporated by reference in the Complaint, and matters of which judicial notice may be taken, would not convert the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. See Leonard F. v. Israel Discount Bank of New York, 199 F.3d 99, 107 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Intermedics v. Ventritex, 775 F. Supp. 1258, 1261 (N.D. Cal. 1991) (when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court may take judicial notice of, among other things, "records and reports of administrative bodies . . . ."). Documents that are integral to plaintiff's claims may also be considered, despite plaintiff's failure to attach them to the complaint. See Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 46-48 (2d Cir. 1991) cert. denied, 503 U.S. 960 (1992).

B. TREATMENT OF EXHIBITS

As a threshold matter, the Court must decide the proper treatment of certain exhibits submitted by the Defendants in connection with their motion to dismiss. Specifically, the Defendants have attached a portion of the transcript from the disciplinary hearing (the "Transcript") brought against Thomas pursuant to Section 75 of the New York State Civil Service Law, see N.Y. Civil Service Law § 75 (McKinney 1999) (the "Civil Service Law"), and a Report of the Impartial Hearing Officer (the "Report") that resulted from the hearing. While the material from this hearing is briefly mentioned in Thomas's Complaint, it is not annexed as an exhibit thereto.

In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider documents attached as an exhibit thereto or incorporated by reference, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); De Jesus v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., Inc., 87 F.3d 65, 69 (2d Cir. 1996), documents that are "integral" to plaintiff's claims, even if not explicitly incorporated by reference, Cortec Indus., Inc., 949 F.2d at 46-48, and matters of which judicial notice may be taken. See Allen v. WestPoint-Pepperell, Inc., 945 F.2d 40, 44 (2d Cir. 1991). In the instant case, Thomas did not attach the Transcript or Report as an exhibit to her Complaint, so it would not be warranted to consider the documents on that ground.

To be incorporated by reference, the Complaint must make a clear, definite and substantial reference to the documents. See B.V. Optische Industrie de Oude Delft v. Hologic, Inc., 909 F. Supp. 162, 167 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ("[T]he Court concludes that a clear and definite reference to extraneous submissions not attached to the complaint is necessary for a plaintiff to assure their consideration in a motion to dismiss."); Halbrecht v. Prudential-Bache Properties, Inc., 1992 WL 336757, at *11 (D. Conn. 1991) (Cabranes, J.) ("Although the Complaint includes several references to the [Confidential Private Placement Memorandum], these references are not substantial enough to constitute incorporation by reference."); see also Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1066 (2d Cir. 1985) ("The documents here were to some extent quoted, but limited quotation does not constitute incorporation by reference.") The Complaint refers briefly in one paragraph to the disciplinary hearing that was conducted and the resulting Report. Such a brief reference does not qualify as clear, definite or substantial.

However, Thomas bases all four claims for relief on the course of conduct in which the Defendants engaged, alleging that through such conduct Defendants discriminated against Thomas on the basis of her gender and retaliated against her on the basis of her sexual harassment complaint. Since the primary course of conduct Thomas refers to in her Complaint is the instigation of disciplinary proceedings against Thomas under the Civil Service Law and the enforcement of the punishment recommended under those proceedings, Thomas must rely on the contents of the Transcript and Report in order to explain what the actual unlawful course of conduct was on which the Defendants embarked. Consequently, these documents are integral to her Complaint, even if they are not attached as an exhibit. Because these documents are integral, because Thomas knew of and possessed them, and because there is no dispute as to their authenticity, the Court may consider them without converting the Defendants' motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Parrino v. FHP, Inc., 146 F.3d 699, 705 & n. 4 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. White Conosol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) ("Where, however, an attached document is integral to the plaintiff's claims and its authenticity is not disputed, the plaintiff `obviously is on notice of the contents of the document and the need for a chance to refute evidence is greatly diminished.'")); Cortec Indus., Inc., 949 F.2d at 48 ("[These] were documents plaintiffs had either in its possession or had knowledge of and upon which they relied in bringing suit. It did not lack notice of those documents; these papers were integral to its complaint.").

Even if the Transcript and Report were not integral, such documents could still be considered by the Court because the Court "may take judicial notice of the records of state administrative procedures, as these are public records, without converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment." Evans v. The New York Botanical Garden, 2002 WL 31002814, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. September 4, 2002); see also Mack v. South Bay Beer Distribs., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986) ("[A] court may take judicial notice of `records and reports of administrative bodies.'"), overruled on other rounds by Astoria Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 111 (1991); Morelli v. Cedel, 1997 WL 61499, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. February 13, 1997) ("[A]lthough it is not mentioned in the complaint, I note that on February 29, 1996, the [New York State Division of Human Rights] issued a Determination and Order after Investigation which concluded that there was no probable cause to believe that Cedel engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice.").

Here, the disciplinary hearings were brought against Thomas by Defendants under the Civil Service Law, which empowers a state employer to conduct a quasi-judicial administrative hearing on the question of a civil service employee's alleged misconduct and/or incompetence. See N.Y. Civ. Serv. L. § 75. As such, these hearings are proceedings of an administrative body, see Marino v. Ameruso, 837 F.2d 45, 47 (2d Cir. 1988) (referring to Section 75 hearing as a finding of an administrative agency), and therefore subject to judicial ...


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