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Johnson v. County of Nassau

January 23, 2006

CLIFFORD JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF NASSAU, NASSAU COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION, NASSAU UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER, SHARON POPPER IN HER OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, RICHARD TURAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, MICHAEL H. MOSTOW, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND KARL KAMPE, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Clifford Johnson ("Plaintiff") filed the present action against defendants County of Nassau,*fn1 Nassau County Health Care Corporation ("NCHCC"), Nassau University Medical Center ("NUMC"), Sharon Popper ("Popper"), Richard Turan ("Turan"), Michael H. Mostow ("Mostow"), and Karle Kampe ("Kampe") (collectively, "Defendants") claiming that he was discriminated against based on his race and in retaliation for his alleged complaints of race discrimination. Defendants have moved to dismiss portions of the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an African-American male who at all times relevant to the Complaint was an employee of NUMC and NCHCC. (Compl. ¶ 7.) In or about July 1999, Plaintiff was promoted to Chairman and Director of NUMC's Office of Diversity, (id. ¶ 18), and had the primary function of interceding on behalf of employees who were experiencing some form of discrimination in the workplace. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff claims that despite the fact that Defendants had created the Office of Diversity, Plaintiff and his staff were discouraged from raising issues concerning discrimination. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff further claims that as a result of his complaints regarding differential treatment and discrimination, Defendants repeatedly "transferred" the Office of Diversity to other departments and demoted Plaintiff several times. (Id. ¶¶ 35-59.)

The Complaint asserts six causes of action: (1) unlawful race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII; (2) unlawful race discrimination and retaliation under Title VI; (3) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"); (4) unlawful discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"); (5) violations of the First Amendment in violation of Section 1983; and (6) unlawful race discrimination and retaliation in violation of the New York Executive Law. Defendants move to dismiss all claims against the individual defendants as well as the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth causes of action. For the reasons indicated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

DISCUSSION

The court may not dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. King v. Simpson, 189 F.3d 284, 286 (2d Cir. 1999); Bernheim v. Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996). The Court must accept all factual allegations in the proposed complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. King, 189 F.3d at 287; Jaghory v. New York State Dep't. of Educ., 131 F.3d 326, 329 (2d Cir. 1997).

I. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Title VI and Title VII Claims as Against the Individual Defendants

Defendants move to dismiss counts one and two as against the individual defendants, arguing that individual defendants cannot be held liable under Title VI or Title VII. In response, Plaintiff points out that in his Complaint, these two causes of action are not asserted against the individual defendants; rather, they are merely asserted against Nassau County, NCHCC, and NUMC. In that regard, Plaintiff states that he "did not, nor did [he] intend to charge the individually named Defendants, Popper, Turan, Mostow and Kampe, with violations of Title VII and Title VI as Counsel for Plaintiff was well aware that these statutes did not apply to individuals." (Pl.'s Mem. at 4.)

After reviewing the Complaint, the Court finds that although counts one and two do not specifically name the individual defendants, they do assert liability against "Defendants County, NCMC/NUMC, their agents and employees." (Compl. ¶ 69 (emphasis added); see also id. ¶ 65.) Thus, to the extent the Complaint could be read to assert liability under the first two causes of action against the individual defendants, they are hereby dismissed as against the individual defendants only.

II. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Cause of Action Under Title VI

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides as follows:

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

42 U.S.C. § 2000(d). Section 2000(d)-3 further states:

Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize action under this subchapter by any department or agency with respect to any employment practice of any employer, employment agency, or labor organization except where a primary objective of the Federal financial assistance is to provide employment.

Id. § 2000(d)-3. This section essentially "requires a logical nexus between the use of federal funds and the practice toward which agency action is directed." Association Against Discrimination in Employment, Inc. v. City of Bridgeport, 647 F.2d 256, 276 (2d Cir. 1981).

Although the statute speaks only of agency action, the Second Circuit has held that the logical nexus requirement applies to private actions as well. Id. "Thus, for a claimant to recover under Title VI against an employer for discriminatory employment practices, a threshold requirement is that the employer be the recipient of federal funds aimed primarily at providing employment." Id. (citing Carmi v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist., 620 F.2d 672, 674-75 (8th Cir. 1980), abrogated on other grounds, Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Darrone, 465 U.S. 624 (1984)); Commodari v. Long Island Univ., 89 F. Supp. 2d 353, 378 (E.D.N.Y. 2000) ("In short, plaintiff must allege a 'logical nexus' between a federally funded program or activity and the employment discrimination he allegedly suffered."), aff'd, 62 Fed. Appx. 28 (2d Cir. 2003); Rosario-Olmedo v. Community School Bd. for Dist. 17, 756 F. Supp. 95, 96 (E.D.N.Y. 1991) ("As a threshold requirement for an action under these sections, the federal funds allegedly giving rise to the action must have the 'primary objective' of providing employment."). As noted by the Eighth Circuit in Carmi, "[t]he language of section 2000d-3 was added to the bill to make it clear that discrimination in employment which does not affect intended beneficiaries of federal assistance is not within the reach of title VI." 620 F.2d at 675 n.4 (emphasis added); see also Boykin v. KeyCorp, No. 03-CV-944S, 2005 WL 711891, at *7 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2005) (stating that a Title VI plaintiff must allege that he "was an entitled beneficiary of the program or activity receiving [federal] aid"). Thus, "Title VI authorizes remedial action if employment practices tend to exclude from participation, deny benefits to, or otherwise subject the primary beneficiaries of a federal program to discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d)." Ahern v. Board of Educ. of Chicago, 133 F.3d 975, 977 (7th Cir. 1998).

Finally, the Court notes that "[c]courts have dismissed complaints for failure to specify when funds were received, what they were used for, and whether their primary objective was to provide employment." Rosario-Olmedo, 756 F. Supp. 95, 96 (E.D.N.Y. 1991) (citing cases); see also Lanzo v. City of N.Y., No. 96-CV-3242, 2000 WL 804628, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. May 18, 2000) (granting summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VI claims where plaintiff "herself admits that the primary purposes of federal Head Start funds is to provide early childhood development, and not to provide employment to individuals such as the plaintiff."); Commodari, 89 F. Supp. 2d at 378 (finding plaintiff had no standing to sue under Title VI where plaintiff failed to allege or prove "any logical nexus between his termination and a federal funded . . . program or activity").

Here, the only allegation in the Complaint that bears on federal funding is found in paragraph eleven, which provides as follows:

Defendants County, []NUMC, and NCHCC each receive Federal financial assistance to conduct and maintain its programs including running its hospital which includes testing, education, evaluation, training and treatment. (Compl. ¶ 11.) On its face, this allegation does not establish that the primary purpose of the federal funds was to provide employment or that Plaintiff was the intended beneficiary; rather it merely states that the aim of the funds was to assist these defendants in conducting and maintaining their programs. Accordingly, the Court finds that the Complaint fails to satisfy Section 2000(d) and, therefore, Plaintiff fails to state a claim under Title VI.

This does not end the Court's inquiry, however, as Plaintiff cites to evidence outside the Complaint and urges the Court to sustain his claim until he has had an opportunity to conduct further discovery. This argument puts the cart before the horse and ignores the fact that discovery has to be tied to a pleading which passes muster under Rule 12(b)(6). Nonetheless, having found that Plaintiff has failed to allege a violation of Title VI, the Court examines Plaintiff's evidence to determine whether it would support an amendment. Because the Court finds that the facts provided would not cure the defect in the Complaint, to the extent Plaintiff seeks leave to amend to include these new ...


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