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MITRA v. STATE BANK OF INDIA

September 6, 2005.

SIPRA MITRA, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE BANK OF INDIA, T.S. VAIDYANATHAN, Individually and in his Official Capacity, and S. IYENGER, Individually and in his Official Capacity, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBORAH BATTS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Sipra Mitra brings suit against Defendants the State Bank of India ("SBI"), T.S. Vaidyanathan and S. Iyenger*fn1 for allegedly discriminating against her with respect to the terms, conditions and privileges of her employment based on her sex and age in violation of the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, N.Y. Exec. Law. § 296 et seq.; N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107 et seq., and for administering voluntary retirement severance packages for employees in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. Section 1001 et seq. Presently before the Court is Defendants Vaidyanathan and Iyenger's (collectively "Individual Defendants") motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff, an American citizen of Indian national origin, was employed in SBI's New York office from 1971 until her termination in 2003. She began her employment with SBI as a Customer Support Representative. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 2).*fn2 In 1979, as a result of her excellent job performance, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Deputy Manager. (Id. ¶ 16). In 1985, Plaintiff began working as the Deputy Manager in SBI's Foreign Exchange and Money Operations Department. (Id.). In 1988, an unposted managerial position became available in SBI's letters of credit department. Upon learning of this information, Plaintiff, as the only female deputy manager and the most senior deputy manager in SBI, applied for the position to SBI's Vice President of Operations. However, despite her level of experience and credentials, the position was given to a male employee with less professional experience and seniority. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 22).

  In 1990 SBI began a policy of sending its managerial employees to India for specialized training. (Id. ¶ 21). However, rather than provide Plaintiff with such an opportunity, SBI instead sent only male employees with less seniority and/or professional experience. (Id. ¶ 23). As a result, on or about January, 2001, Plaintiff repeated her request to participate in said training program. Again, Plaintiff was denied the training opportunity, and two male deputy managers were instead selected to attend the program. (Id. ¶ 26).

  Similarly, beginning in 1992 and continuing until her termination in 2003, SBI consistently denied Plaintiff salary increases. (Id. ¶ 25). Moreover, she was allegedly told that there had been a salary cap imposed on her managerial title and/or position, while other employees with similar supervisory duties continued to receive salary increases. (Id.).

  In or about February 2002, it became well-known within SBI that certain Indian bank officials, including Indian employees with the same title or position and/or responsibilities and/or duties as Plaintiff, were offered a voluntary retirement severance package ("VRS"). (Id. ¶ 28). The VRS package was offered to bank officials who were above 65 years of age or who had served SBI for at least 15 years. The VRS paid an eligible employee three weeks of compensation for every year of service with defendant SBI, and 18 months of medical coverage. (Id. ¶ 33). However, while the SBI policy manual provides for the payment of appropriate severance pay, SBI did not issue a written severance policy specifically concerning the VRS package. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30). Instead, by providing and administering the VRS to the Indian bank officials, SBI has an established pattern and practice of making severance payment to its employees. (Id. ¶ 31). All the while, SBI maintained a welfare benefit plan for providing severance benefits for employees within the meaning of ERISA. (Id. ¶ 32).

  In the fall of 2002, Plaintiff and four other New York-based deputy managers of SBI spoke to the Individual Defendants concerning the VRS package. (Id. ¶ 36). Both promised that eligible New York-based managers would be offered the same VRS package as that which would be administered to Indian Bank officials. (Id. ¶ 34). Subsequently, Plaintiff again applied for a promotion to a managerial position, but a younger male employee with less experience was promoted instead. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36). On May 27, 2003, Plaintiff was terminated after 32 years of service and replaced by a male employee. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 41). Following her termination, Plaintiff contacted the bank headquarters in India and was assured by the officials that she would be offered the same VRS package offered to the Indian officials of the bank. (Id. ¶ 38). Nevertheless, she was not offered the VRS package as promised, but instead was given a maximum of 20 weeks of severance pay for her service to the bank. (Id. ¶ 40).

  On July 23, 2003, Plaintiff filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, New York County against SBI and Vaidyanathan, alleging employment discrimination on the basis of sex and age in violation of the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296, et seq.; N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107, et seq. On August 21, 2003, SBI and Vaidyanathan filed a Notice of Removal with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(d) on grounds that, because SBI is an agent of a foreign government, Plaintiff's lawsuit constitutes a civil action against a foreign state as defined by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1603(a). (See Notice of Removal, dated August 21, 2003, ¶¶ 3-4). Thereafter, on September 23, 2003, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, adding Iyenger as a defendant and an additional cause of action against all three Defendants alleging that they had violated ERISA by denying her the same severance package they were offering and administering to Indian SBI officials of similar rank . (1st Am. Compl. ¶¶ 57-58).

  The Individual Defendants now move to dismiss*fn3 all claims against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and/or Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Rule 12(b)(1) Dismissal

  While Individual Defendants' Notice of Motion mentions Rule 12(b)(1) as a ground for dismissal, nowhere in their moving or reply papers do they set forth any basis for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Moreover, Defendant Vaidyanathan, in his Notice of Removal, acknowledged that the Court has diversity jurisdiction over this case. (Notice of Removal ¶¶ 3-5). ...


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