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Moore v. Webster Central School Dist.

September 17, 2007


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



This is an action alleging employment discrimination, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 290, et seq., as well as violations of the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Now before the Court is Defendant's "Motion to Dismiss/Strike Plaintiff's Amended Complaint" [#24] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is denied.


The following facts are taken from plaintiff's Amended Complaint [#23] in this action, unless otherwise noted. At all relevant times, plaintiffs Mary Ann Rossi ("Rossi") and Judy Stenclick ("Stenclick") were employed by the defendant school district as "Aides/Hall monitors." Further at all relevant times, plaintiff W anda Moore ("Moore") was employed by the school district as a "Sentry." It is noteworthy that prior to 2005, the position of Sentry was held only by males. However, in May 2005 Moore was hired as the school district's first and only female Sentry, as part of a Settlement Agreement between Moore and the district in resolution of certain claims of sex-based discrimination. It is alleged that Sentries "perform[ed] essentially the same job" as Aides/Hall Monitors, but received a higher wage. (Amended Complaint ¶ 17).

Moore contends that after she was hired as a Sentry, she was subjected to retaliation stemming from her previous discrimination complaint. As evidence of such retaliation, Moore alleges that: 1) she was not given a master key to the building, a cell phone, or new equipment, while male Sentries were given those items;*fn1 2) her male supervisor "decline[d] to deal with her directly," and stated that he had "a hard time dealing with women";*fn2 3) she was denied overtime; and 4) she was excluded from job-related meetings and social events. Moore also indicates that she was paid less money than the male Sentries for performing the same work.

Moore also maintains that she was subjected to a sex-based hostile work environment. Specifically, she contends that around the time she was hired as a Sentry, defendant installed "a motion sensitive video camera . . . in the 'break room' shared by Sentries and Aids" to monitor her,*fn3 and that male Sentries repeatedly barred her from the lunch room.*fn4 She also alleges that she observed male Sentries excluding female Aide/Hall Monitors from the shared break room*fn5 and ignoring the Aide/Hall Monitors' radio calls for assistance.*fn6 Moore alleges that she complained about these events to her immediate supervisor, Bill Mandell ("Mandell"), but he did nothing. Further, she alleges that she complained to Mandell's supervisor, Mr. Cunningham, however, "the treatment by her male [S]entry colleagues did not change."*fn7 On January 4, 2007, Moore resigned her position, stating that she had been subjected to "extremely unprofessional behavior" "on a daily basis."*fn8

Rossi and Stenclick also contend that they were subjected to a sex-based hostile working environment and retaliation. In that regard, they allege that male Sentries directed "hostile and abusive language" toward them, ignored their radio calls, and excluded them from the shared break room. Rossi and Stenclick also believe, like Moore, that the installation of the video camera in the break room was a form of harassment directed at them, since the camera "apparently only operated when . . . [they] were in the break room." Rossi and Stenclick maintain that they complained of harassment to the Sentries' supervisor, Mike Smith ("Smith"), who told them that he would "take care of it," but did not. Instead, they contend that Smith told them that the video camera would be removed from the break room if Rossi and Stenclick would agree to "stay out" of the break room while the male Sentries were taking their breaks. Rossi and Stenclick eventually complained to the school principal Joseph Pustulka ("Pustulka"), who removed the video camera from the break room, handed out copies of the school's anti-harassment policy, and established two separate break rooms, one for the Hall Monitor/aides and one for the Sentries, including Moore. Nevertheless, Rossi and Stenclick maintain that Pustulka's actions in this regard were discriminatory and retaliatory, because he failed to inform them that the video camera was actually fake,*fn9 and because the break room created for the Hall Monitor/Aides was a "reformed closet." Rossi and Stenclick further allege that they were paid substantially less money than the predominantly male Sentries, event though their job duties were essentially the same.

On November 6, 2006, Plaintiffs commenced the subject action. Their Amended Complaint purports to assert the following causes of action on behalf of each of the three plaintiffs: 1) hostile environment under Title VII; 2) hostile environment under the NYHRL; 3) retaliation under Title VII; 4) retaliation under the NYHRL; and 5) violation of the EPA. On May 25, 2007, Defendant filed the subject motion to strike/dismiss all of the claims in the Amended Complaint except Rossi and Stenclick's EPA claims. Defendant maintains that Moore's EPA claim, as well as all of her factual allegations concerning events prior to May 2005, are barred by the May 16, 2005 Settlement Agreement between Moore and the school district. Defendant also contends that all of Plaintiffs' retaliation and hostile environment claims fail, because Plaintiffs did not suffer an adverse employment action or experience sufficiently severe or pervasive harassment.

On September 13, 2007, counsel for the parties appeared before the undersigned for oral argument of the motions. The Court has considered the parties' written submissions and the arguments of counsel.


The 12(b)(6) Standard

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, No. 05-1126, - U.S. -, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (May 21, 2007), clarified the standard to be applied to a 12(b)(6) motion:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to ...

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