The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR MARRERO, District Judge
Pro se plaintiff Dr. Monique C. Gourdine ("Gourdine") brings this
action against her former employer, Cabrini Medical Center ("Cabrini")
alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the grounds of
race, gender, and military status in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The complaint further alleges breach of
contract, fraud, and forgery. Also named as defendants are two of
Cabrini's physicians, Drs. Simon Young ("Young") and Samer Bondokji
("Bondokji") (collectively, the "Individual Defendants," and together
with Cabrini, "Defendants"). Cabrini and the Individual Defendants deny
Gourdine's allegations and move this Court to dismiss her complaint on
various grounds. For the reasons discussed in greater detail below, the
Court grants the motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety.
Gourdine's claims are dismissed with prejudice, with the exception of her
breach of contract claim, which is dismissed without prejudice.
The instant action arises from Gourdine's employment as a medical
resident at the Cabrini Medical Center in New York. Gourdine commenced a
one-year residency at Cabrini's Department of Podiatry on July 1, 1999.
Gourdine's employment was governed by a written agreement executed by
Gourdine, an African-American female, and Cabrini. The agreement required
Cabrini to provide an educational program that meets the standards of the
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the
Council on Podiatric Medical Education (the "CPME"). (See Def.
Mem. at Ex. A, (the "Contract"), at 1.) The Contract provides that
Gourdine's employment was to run from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000 and
that "[t]here is no guarantee that a House Staff Officer will be offered
a position at the next level." (Contract at 2, 8.)
Gourdine commenced her employment in July 1999 pursuant to the
Contract. She was one of four residents working in Cabrini's podiatric
residency program at that time. One of the other residents was Bondokji,
who is a white male. The
other two residents included a white male and an African American
male. Young was the Director of Podiatry at the time of Gourdine's
employment. Gourdine claims that during her residency at Cabrini,
Bondokji harassed and ridiculed her by unfairly criticizing her work in
front of others. According to Gourdine, she complained to Dr. Kanuck
("Kanuck"), the Chief Resident, and to Young, but they did nothing to
correct the problem. At some point, Gourdine also spoke to personnel at
Cabrini's Human Resources Department, but Gourdine claims that this did
nothing to change the situation. Gourdine alleges that Young himself made
inappropriate comments to her and in retaliation for her complaints, that
she was treated less favorably than the other residents, that she
received less training, and was not given her surgical certificate.
Specifically, Gourdine points to a meeting where Young allegedly alluded
to Gourdine's "big mouth." Gourdine recounts another incident at a social
event where Young allegedly stated that Gourdine would have been better
off marrying a Jewish man rather than an African-American man.
To further establish her discrimination claim, Gourdine also asserts
that she was given less desirable shifts and less training; was generally
treated more harshly than the other residents; and was made to apologize
to hospital personnel for matters that were not her fault. According to
Gourdine, Cabrini, and in particular, Young, did not properly
accommodate her commitment as a reservist with the United States Navy.
Gourdine claims that she and the other African-American resident were
intentionally not invited to mandatory weekly meetings so that
information could be withheld from them. According to Gourdine, Cabrini
failed to follow its internal procedures for dealing with claims of
harassment and discrimination.
At the conclusion of the one-year residency in June of 2000, Cabrini
had only one available position for a second-year podiatric resident,
which was offered to Bondokji.*fn2 It is Gourdine's contention that
Cabrini discriminated against her by not offering her a second-year
position and instead, offering the only position to Bondokji, a white
male. Gourdine claims that when her residency ended, she was wrongfully
terminated without receiving her medical certificate, in breach of her
the Contract and in retaliation for her complaining of how she was being
treated at Cabrini. Gourdine asserts that she was led to believe that her
one-year program was for a podiatric surgical residency, and not for a
podiatric medical residency, as Cabrini asserts.
Gourdine also alleges that the signatures on a
verification document that Cabrini relies upon to demonstrate that
she was made aware that a second-year position was not guaranteed may
have been forged (the "Verification Document").*fn3 She also alleges a
claim of "possible fraud" in connection with the alleged forgery.
In February 2001, Gourdine filed a complaint with the United States
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where she asserted the
same claims of discrimination as in the instant action. After conducting
an investigation, the EEOC notified Gourdine that it was unable to
conclude that the information it obtained established any violation of
Title VII. Accordingly, the EEOC ceased further investigation and issued
Gourdine a "Right to Sue" letter, which is required to initiate an action
in federal district court.
Defendants contest that their treatment of Gourdine was any different
from how they treated the other residents, either with regard to training
or in any other fashion.*fn4 Cabrini disputes Gourdine's claim that she
received less training than her colleagues. Defendants admit that
Gourdine and Bondokji had some "personality conflicts," but they
contend that they attempted to address this issue in an equitable
fashion. Defendants deny that Gourdine was ever treated unfairly in the
process and that they discriminated against her in any way. According to
Cabrini, Bondokji was the only resident selected for the second-year
program because only one such position was available and it was
determined that he was the best qualified to assume the position.
Defendants further argue that there was no breach of the Contract
because Gourdine completed her one-year residency under its terms and
thus, she was not discharged. Defendants point to the clause in the
Contract that specifically states that employment beyond the first year
was not guaranteed and, relying on the Verification Document, claim that
Gourdine was orally informed of this provision by Young and others on
more than one occasion. According to Defendants, Gourdine inquired as to
the possibility of a second-year residency, but was told by Young that no
decision could be made until final approval for positions was granted by
the CPME. Furthermore, Cabrini explains that Gourdine did not receive her
surgical certificate because she did not complete the proper training,
and that even if she had, Cabrini lacks the authority to issue the
In the Complaint, Gourdine seeks unspecified damages, attorney's fees,
her surgical certificate, and the salary that
she would have received had she been given her certificate.
Gourdine alleges violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
et seq., breach of contract, forgery, and fraud.*fn5
Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint
on the grounds that the Complaint fails to meet the pleading requirements
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Defendants also seek dismissal
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and under Rule 12(b)(6) for the failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. Gourdine opposes the motion.
A. DEFENDANTS' MOTION UNDER RULE 8
Defendants move this Court to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety on
the grounds that it fails to satisfy the strictures of Rule 8 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, Defendants argue that the
Complaint neither sets forth "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" nor is " [e] ach averment
. . . simple, concise and direct." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) & (e)(1).
The Court does not agree.
Although the Complaint may be cumbersome to read and
somewhat voluminous, especially when all the exhibits are taken
into account, the Court finds that the pleadings are sufficiently
organized and understandable for counsel to sift through and distill the
salient allegations and claims, as this Court has endeavored to do.
Perhaps such a submission may be unacceptable from a party represented by
counsel. Gourdine, however, appears pro se. Thus, the Court grants her
much greater leeway in this regard. Furthermore, despite their
protestations that it would be unfair to require them to answer the
Complaint, Defendants have indeed filed an answer setting forth their
admissions, denials, and affirmative defenses. (See Def. Mem.
at Ex. F.) Thus, the Court finds that there is no basis to dismiss the
Complaint on these grounds. Defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 8 is
In the alternative, Defendants move for dismissal under Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). As the United States Supreme
Court has explained, "[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is
clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could
be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (citation omitted). When, as in this
case, the plaintiff is not represented by counsel, the
Second Circuit has instructed courts to "construe [the complaint]
broadly, and interpret [it] to raise the strongest arguments that ...