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CRUZ v. OXFORD HEALTH PLANS

United States District Court, S.D. New York


November 17, 2004.

RICHARD CRUZ, Plaintiff,
v.
OXFORD HEALTH PLANS, INC., Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES FRANCIS, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The plaintiff, Richard Cruz, brings this action for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation against the defendant, Oxford Health Plans, Inc., ("Oxford"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the New York State Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law §§ 290 et seq. Oxford has moved pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to strike from the amended complaint*fn1 (1) allegations about an alleged consensual affair that Mr. Cruz's supervisor supposedly had with an Oxford doctor, and (2) allegations about proceedings before an unemployment commission which led to the denial of Mr. Cruz's unemployment benefits. For the following reasons, Oxford's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

Background

  In his amended complaint ("Am. Compl."), Mr. Cruz alleges that he was sexually harassed by a manager, Laurie DeRosa, and that he was discriminated against on the basis of his gender because he rejected Ms. DeRosa's sexual advances. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2). His theory is that "Ms. DeRosa believed her work environment was a source of a `dating pool' for her, and that once her advances to plaintiff were spurned, she moved on to other prospects at work." (Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Strike at 2). As circumstantial evidence in support of his allegations that Ms. DeRosa sexually harassed him, Mr. Cruz alleges that:

Through former colleagues at Oxford, plaintiff heard that during the later part of 2002, Ms. DeRosa was terminated from Oxford Health Plans for "gross sexual misconduct," which upon information and belief, constituted engaging in sexual activity with a medical Director on the premises of Oxford.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 51). As Mr. Cruz was discharged in March of 2000, the alleged sexual affair occurred after his termination. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8).

  Mr. Cruz also alleges that he was retaliated against as a result of his complaints regarding Ms. DeRosa's sexual advances, his complaints regarding unequal and unfair treatment, and his reports of sexual harassment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3). He alleges that Oxford retaliated in part by challenging his unemployment benefits:

After such termination [from Oxford], and after plaintiff's filed charges with the New York State Division of Human Rights, plaintiff's unemployment benefits were challenged and terminated by defendant.
Only after a letter was written by plaintiff's attorney to the Unemployment division outlining plaintiff's discrimination charges and defendant's denial of benefits as further retaliation towards him were such benefits reinstated.
(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 49-50). Discussion

  A. Legal Standard

  Pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court "upon motion made by a party . . . may order stricken from any pleading . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Motions to strike are disfavored, and should be granted only if the allegations in question have no bearing on the litigation. See Sunshine Cellular v. Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc., 810 F. Supp. 486, 499-500 (S.D.N.Y. 1992); Zinaman v. USTS New York, Inc., 798 F. Supp. 128, 135 (S.D.N.Y. 1992).

  B. Application of the Legal Standard to Oxford's Motion

  1. Sexual Affair

  Mr. Cruz's allegations concerning Ms. DeRosa's alleged sexual affair with a medical director on the premises of Oxford must be stricken. Although "other instances of hostility directed at persons other than the plaintiff may lend some support to a plaintiff's claims of a hostile work environment, . . . there is no sexual harassment without a showing of adverse effect on the terms and conditions of employment." Parrish v. Sollecito, 01 Civ. 5420, 2002 WL 1072227, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2002) (striking plaintiff's allegation that a manager who harassed her had a sexual relationship with an employee in another office as "scandalous, . . . impertinent[,] and of extremely unlikely relevance"). This case is analogous to Parrish, as Mr. Cruz has failed to indicate that Ms. DeRosa's alleged relationship adversely affected his working environment. Since Mr. Cruz did not learn of the affair until after his employment was terminated, it seems impossible for it to have had such an effect. Further, as in Parrish, "nothing suggests that the relationship . . . constitutes . . . an instance of hostility or harassment against [the employee involved]." Id. at *2. Also, the relationship cannot be evidence of a pattern of discriminatory conduct, because there is no allegation that the affair was anything other than consensual.

  Mr. Cruz cites cases in which the court declined to strike allegations concerning sexual harassment after the claim of sexual harassment claim was dismissed. See Eaton v. American Media Operations, 96 Civ. 6158, 1997 WL 7670, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 9, 1997) (allegations that president of defendant company sexually harassed plaintiff may be admissible to show general gender bias and therefore to prove discriminatory intent, even though sexual harassment claim was dismissed); Crespo v. New York City Transit Authority, 01-CV-0671, 2002 WL 398805, at *12 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 7, 2002) (allegations concerning dismissed harassment and hostile work environment claims not stricken because they might have bearing on discriminatory intent which plaintiff must establish for sex and national origin discrimination claims). These cases are distinguishable from the present case, however, because they involve actions alleged to have affected the plaintiffs' workplace environment, unlike Mr. Cruz's allegations with respect to Ms. DeRosa's alleged affair.

  Accordingly, paragraph 51 is stricken from Mr. Cruz's amended complaint.

  2. Unemployment Compensation Proceedings

  In paragraphs 49 and 50 of his amended complaint, Mr. Cruz alleges that Oxford retaliated against him by opposing his application for unemployment benefits. It may be that, particularly because Mr. Cruz apparently ultimately prevailed on his unemployment claim, he did not suffer any adverse employment action. See Fairbrother v. Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, 306 F. Supp. 2d 154, 165 (D. Conn. 2003); Barriera v. Bankers Trust, No. 98 Civ. 3641, 2003 WL 22387099, at *7-8 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 20, 2003) (no adverse employment action when plaintiff was awarded unemployment benefits even if defendant opposed plaintiff's unemployment claim). However, "a motion to strike under Rule 12(f) is the appropriate remedy for the elimination of redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter in any pleading," but "it is neither an authorized nor a proper way to procure the dismissal of all or part of a complaint." 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1380, at 644 (2d ed. 1990) (footnote omitted). Specifically, "[t]he motion to strike . . . is not intended for use in determining the sufficiency of any pleading." Id. at 644 n. 1 (quoting Charles C. Montgomery, Changes in Federal Practice Resulting from the Adoption of the New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 1 F.R.D. 337, 345 (1940)).

  Therefore, the plaintiff's retaliation claim may be challenged on summary judgment, but it is not subject to being stricken. Conclusion

  For the reasons set forth above, Oxford's motion is granted to the extent that the allegations concerning Ms. DeRosa's consensual sexual affair are stricken from the amended complaint, but denied to the extent that the allegations concerning Oxford's challenge to the plaintiff's unemployment benefits are not stricken.

  SO ORDERED.


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