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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. CJS Nichols Gas & Oil

March 13, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge



This is an action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging sexual discrimination. Now before the Court is defendant's motion [#2] to dismiss part of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6), and for a more definite statement pursuant to FRCP 12(e). For the reasons that follow the application is denied.


The following facts are taken from the complaint in this action, as well as the documents submitted by the parties in connection with the subject motion to dismiss. Generally on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must consider only the complaint, which is deemed to include "any written instrument attached to it as an exhibit or any statements or documents incorporated in it by reference." Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002)(citations and internal quotations omitted). Moreover, "[e]ven where a document is not incorporated by reference, the court may nevertheless consider it where the complaint relies heavily upon its terms and effect, which renders the document integral to the complaint." Id. at 153. In this regard, the Court finds that the documents comprising the administrative record of the investigation by the plaintiff, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), may be considered in resolving the motion to dismiss.

Elisa Foss ("Foss"), a female, was employed by the defendant in this action, Nichols Gas & Oil, Inc. ("defendant") from July 8, 2002, until she resigned on July 8, 2002. Foss filed a written sexual harassment complaint against defendant with EEOC on September 12, 2003. Foss's complaint stated:

I began working for the above named Respondent on or about July 8, 2002. My most recent position was as Credit Manager. Beginning in or around August 2002, and continuing until I was constructively discharged, I was subjected to unwelcome comments and touching of a sexual nature from President/Owner of the organization.

On or about July 8, 2003, I was forced to resign because of the intolerable working conditions caused by the harassment.

I believe that I was subjected to this hostile, offensive, and intimidating work environment and forced to resign, because of my gender/female in willful violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. (Notice of Motion [#2] Ex. A) Following an investigation, EEOC sent a determination notice to defendant on June 9, 2005, which stated, in relevant part:

The evidence obtained in the investigation establishes reasonable cause to believe that Respondent discriminated against [Foss] in that she was subjected to sexual harassment and constructive discharge. The investigation also revealed that [Foss] faced retaliation from Respondent in that she was given negative references following her employment with Respondent. (Chandy Decl. [#6-2] Ex. D)

EEOC commenced this action on September 14, 2005 on behalf of Foss, and "other similarly situated individuals". The complaint does not identify the other similarly situated individuals, or state how many such individuals there are. However, in correspondence between the parties prior to the commencement of the action, EEOC advised defendant that there were "at least ten additional claimants" besides Foss. (Chandy Decl. Ex. F) The complaint alleges sex discrimination including hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and retaliation. Specifically, the complaint alleges that "since at least January 1999", defendant's owner and certain unnamed male employees "groped" female employees, made sexually-explicit comments, constructively discharged female employees, and retaliated against them.

Defendant filed the subject motion on November 18, 2005, contending that the retaliation claims should be dismissed as unexhausted, since Foss did not allege retaliation in her EEOC complaint. Defendant also seeks an order directing plaintiff to file a more definite statement, identifying the unnamed claimants and setting forth the factual basis for their claims. Plaintiff, however, contends that the retaliation claim is exhausted, and that the additional information that defendant seeks should be provided through discovery. Counsel for the parties appeared before the undersigned for oral argument on March 9, 2006. The Court has considered the parties's submissions and the arguments of counsel.


It is well settled that in determining a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a district court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (1999), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1052 (2000). While the Court must accept as true a plaintiff's factual allegations, "[c]onclusory allegations of the legal status of the defendants' acts need not be accepted as true for the purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss." Hirsch v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 72 F.3d 1085, 1092 (2d Cir. 1995)(citing In re American Express Co. Shareholder Litig., 39 F.3d 395, 400-01 n. 3 (2d Cir.1994)). The Court "may dismiss the complaint only if it appears beyond ...

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