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Watson v. American Red Cross Blood Services

January 5, 2007

C. NICHOLAS WATSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN RED CROSS BLOOD SERVICES NEW YORK - PENN REGION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff C. Nicholas Watson ("plaintiff") instituted this action against his former employer, defendant American Red Cross Blood Services, New York-Penn Region ("the Red Cross" or "defendant"), alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. EXEC. L. § 292 et seq. Plaintiff, an African-American, alleges a racially offensive hostile work environment, disparate treatment in the terms and conditions of his employment, and retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Before the Court is defendant's motion for partial dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss Standards

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Harris v. City of New York, 186 F.3d 243, 250 (2d Cir.1994). In considering such a motion, the Court accepts the factual allegations alleged in the complaint as true and draws all inferences in plaintiff's favor. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984). Furthermore, "a district court must limit itself to facts stated in the complaint or in documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated in the complaint by reference .." Newman & Schwartz v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Inc., 102 F.3d 660, 662 (2d Cir.1996).

Of particular relevance here, "the Federal Rules do not contain a heightened pleading standard for employment discrimination suits." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 515 (2002). Instead, Rule 8 requires only that a complaint "contain . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2). "While the pleading standard is a liberal one, bald assertions and conclusions of law will not suffice." Leeds v. Meltz, 85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir.1996).

II. Timeliness of Hostile Work Environment Claims

Defendant argues that plaintiff's claim alleging a hostile work environment should be dismissed because it is based solely on allegations of fact that are untimely. I disagree.

Under Title VII, discriminatory acts occurring within 300 days of the date of plaintiff's EEOC charge are timely. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Likewise, claims of discrimination pursuant to the Human Rights Law are timely if filed with the State Division of Human Rights within one year of the discriminatory conduct. N.Y. Exec. L. § 297(5).

In National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002), the Supreme Court addressed the manner in which statutes of limitations apply to claims of discrimination based on a hostile work environment, which inherently are of a continuous and ongoing nature. In Morgan, the Supreme Court noted that hostile environment claims are different in kind from discrete acts of discrimination. Such a practice occurs over a series of days and all the circumstances must be considered in determining whether the work environment is truly hostile. 536 U.S. at 115-17.

Relative to the statute of limitations, the Court noted that the claim must be filed administratively within 300 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 536 U.S. at 117. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that:

The timely filing provision only requires that a Title VII plaintiff file a charge within a certain number of days after the unlawful practice happened. It does not matter, for purposes of the statute, that some of the component acts of the hostile work environment fall outside the statutory time period. Provided that an act contributing to the claim occurs within the filing period, the entire time ...


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