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CANTY v. WACKENHUT CORRECTIONS CORPORATION

April 7, 2003

ELEASE CANTY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WACKENHUT CORRECTIONS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur D. Spatt, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This case involves allegations of race, gender and age discrimination by Elease Canty ("Canty" or the "plaintiff") against Wackenhut Corrections Corporation ("WCC" or the "defendant"). Presently before the Court is the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R.Civ.P.").

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the complaint, which the Court takes to be true. At the outset, the Court notes that neither the complaint nor the plaintiff's opposition papers identify her race or age. Without much elaboration, the plaintiff contends that during her five years of employment at WCC, a private correctional facility, she was subjected to various patterns of discriminatory practices with respect to promotional opportunities. In particular, the plaintiff claims that she first experienced these discriminatory practices in January 1997 when she was denied promotion to a supervisory position. Around this time, Canty claims that she filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Five months after filing the grievance, the defendant informed the plaintiff that her original appointment date was stalled because her paperwork had been mishandled. Although not entirely clear in the complaint, it appears that the defendant informed her that they were in the process of placing her in a class which would help train Canty for a supervisory position.

Subsequently, on an unspecified date, the plaintiff formally applied for a supervisory position. The plaintiff claims that she had previous law enforcement career as a supervisory captain for the New York City Department of Corrections. Despite her professional experience, the plaintiff asserts that she was denied the position. The plaintiff contends that the defendant explained to her that WCC had a mandatory procedure in which an employee was required to work six months in-house before being considered for a supervisory position.

In November 1997, the plaintiff learned that the mandatory procedure was a fabrication when the defendant hired two male outside candidates as supervisory staff, who were of Puerto Rican descent. In addition, the defendant promoted another employee who had worked less than one year to a supervisory position, and the plaintiff asserts that the defendant failed to post this position in order for any employee to apply. Furthermore, in the summer of 1998, WCC hired an outside male candidate for a supervisory position although the job posting stated that the vacancy was for in-house personnel only. The defendant also promoted an in-house employee to the position of Lieutenant without posting the vacancy.

The plaintiff further claims that the defendant terminated her from employment because of a severe physical injury to her right knee. Canty asserts that the defendant denied her short and long term disability coverage after WCC unsuccessfully attempted to invade her privacy by writing her doctors and asking them to relinquish copies of her medical records without her consent.

On December 3, 2001, Canty filed a complaint against the defendant alleging race and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). On October 4, 2002, WCC filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) on the ground that the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

The standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Murray v. Connetquot Cent. Sch. Dist., et al., No. 02-7228, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 26137, at *3 (2d Cir. Dec. 16, 2002). The Court must thus accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id. The Court may dismiss the complaint only if "`it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Phelps v. Kapnolas, 308 F.3d 180, 184 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 78 S.Ct. 99 (1957)).

In deciding the present motion, the Court is mindful that the plaintiff is proceeding pro se and that her submissions should be held "`to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. . . .'" Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 101 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed.2d 163 (1980) (per curiam) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595 (1972)). Indeed, district courts should "read the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and interpret them `to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). Nevertheless, the Court is also aware that pro se status "`does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. . . .'" Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.3d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983) (citations omitted).

B. The Plaintiff's Title VII Claims of Racial and Gender Discrimination
Individuals may bring Title VII claims in federal court only after filing a timely charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC and receiving an EEOC right-to-sue letter. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e); Legnani v. Alitalia Linee Aeree Italiane, S.P.A., 274 F.3d 683, 686 (2d Cir. 2001). Administrative exhaustion is an essential element of Title VII's statutory scheme, the purpose of which is to avoid unnecessary judicial action by the federal courts by "[giving] the administrative agency the opportunity to investigate, mediate, and take remedial action." Stewart v. United States Immigration & Naturalization Serv., 762 F.2d 193, 198 (2d Cir. 1985).

WCC's contention that administrative exhaustion is a jurisdictional requirement is incorrect. Although some earlier Second Circuit cases have suggested that exhaustion is a jurisdictional requirement, the Second Circuit recently rejected this position and held that exhaustion "is a precondition to bringing a Title VII claim in federal court rather than a jurisdictional requirement." Francis v. City of New York, 235 F.3d 763, 768 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Courts have explained that "[t]he significance of this distinction is that insofar as the district court's subject matter jurisdiction does not depend on the exhaustion of administrative remedies, the requirement is theoretically `subject to ...


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