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Tenney v. Essex County/Horace Nye Home

January 17, 2006

KAREN TENNEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ESSEX COUNTY/ HORACE NYE HOME; RICHARD B. MEYER, INDIVIDUALLY; MORRISON SENIOR DINING, DIV. OF MORRISON MANAGEMENT SPECIALISTS, MEMBER OF THE COMPASS GROUP; CSEA LABOR UNION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Karen Tenney brings this suit alleging gender and disability discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and New York Human Rights Law. Defendants Essex County/ Horace Nye Home and Richard Meyer, CSEA Labor Union, and Morrison Senior Dining filed respective motions to dismiss in response to Tenney's complaint.

Defendants Essex County/ Horace Nye Home and Richard Meyer (Meyer) move to dismiss based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1), arguing that: (1) Tenney has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies; (2) Tenney's ADA claims are time-barred; (3) the complaint fails to state actionable claims under Rule 12(b)(6); and (4) Meyer cannot be sued individually under Title VII or the ADA. Defendant CSEA Labor Union (CSEA) moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), claiming that: (1) Tenney has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies; (2) the complaint fails to state a cause of action under Rule 12(b)(6); and (3) CSEA cannot be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because it is a private entity. Lastly, Morrison Senior Dining (Morrison) moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for the same reasons asserted by CSEA. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motions are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

II. Procedural History

On April 25, 2005, Tenney filed a complaint alleging, inter alia, that the defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and disability. See Compl., Dkt. No. 1. On April 29, Tenney filed an amended complaint. See Dkt. No. 3. The subject motions followed.

III. Facts*fn1

In 2004, Tenney worked at the Horace Nye Home as a dairy attendant. Tenney complained to her supervisors about a male cook's treatment of another female employee, but her complaints were ignored. As a result of her complaints, she was threatened by the cook and his mother, another dietary employee. In March, an issue arose regarding whether Tenney was wearing a suitable undergarment. On April 23, a county employee physically inspected her to determine whether she was wearing a bra.*fn2 Subsequently, Tenney was subjected to snickers, glares, and gossip as a result of the undergarment controversy. After having requested that the county investigate the matter, Tenney took some time off. Thereafter, she attempted to return to work but was not allowed to do so.*fn3

IV. Analysis

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a cause of action shall be dismissed if a complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In other words, the court should dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the complaint which would entitle him to relief." Phelps v. Kapnolas, 308 F.3d 180,184 (2d Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). "The task of the court in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof."Cooper v. Parsky, 140 F.3d 433, 440 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation and internal quotation omitted). Therefore, in reviewing a motion to dismiss, a "court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Phelps, 308 F.3d at 184 (citations omitted).

Moreover, where a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and "broadly, and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Cruz v. Gomez, 202 F.3d 593, 597 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citations omitted); see Taylor v. Vermont Dep't of Educ., 313 F.3d 768, 776 (2d Cir. 2002).

This requirement is particularly applicable when dealing with pro se civil rights complaints. Weinstein v. Albright, 261 F.3d 127, 132 (2d Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Under this liberal standard, the court may also consider factual allegations in the plaintiff's opposition papers to supplement the complaint. See Roland v. Murphy, 289 F. Supp. 2d 321, 322 (E.D.N.Y. 2003); Idelicato v. Suarez, 207 F. Supp. 2d 216, 217 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

B. Title VII Burden-Shifting Framework

Defendants claim that Tenney has failed to state a cause of action under Title VII based on gender discrimination. In the employment discrimination context, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, a prima facie case of discrimination. See St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506-510 (1993). The initial burden is "minimal." Id. at 506. In this case, the plaintiff must prove: (1) that she was a member of a protected class, (2) that her job performance was satisfactory, (3) that, despite her qualifications, she suffered an ...


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