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Hogans v. Dell Magazines/Penny Press

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


March 18, 2008

DEBRA DENISE HOGANS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DELL MAGAZINES/PENNY PRESS, DEFENDANT.

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

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Debra Denise Hogans, proceeding pro se, brought this employment discrimination action against her former employer, defendant Dell Magazines/Penny Press ("Dell"), claiming that defendant terminated her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Dell has moved to dismiss, contending that Hogans has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because she failed to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within the prescribed statute of limitations. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Complaint.*fn1 Hogans worked in Dell's production department for over fourteen years, until her employment was terminated on August 4, 2004. According to Hogans, she was told that the company was "[d]ownsizing." Evidently, she believes that this explanation was pretextual, as she claims that the termination of her employment was due to her national origin (which is unspecified in the complaint), age (fifty-three years at the time of her firing), and disability or perceived disability (knee problems, asthma, glaucoma, and osteoporosis). Along these lines, Hogans makes four specific allegations. First, she alleges that her younger, non-disabled co-worker, Evira Matos, was afforded preferential treatment because, although Hogans did "80% of the work in that department," her employment was terminated and Matos took over Hogans' duties. Second, Hogans claims that her "health problems were becoming bothersome to Dell Magazines/Penny Press." Third, she claims that she was targeted by her co-workers with offensive comments about her health and education, as well as offensive behavior, including her co-workers' going through her personal belongings without permission. Finally, Hogans states that on July 13, 2006, "at a boatride I met a new Dell employee and was told they never stopped profit sharing, bonuses or Christmas parties."

Hogans states that "the alleged discriminatory acts occurred on 8/4/04," the date her employment ended, and that the defendant "is not still committing these acts against me." Nonetheless, she waited nearly three years, until April 2007, to file a form complaint with the EEOC. By letter dated April 30, 2007, the EEOC responded to Hogans' complaint and informed her that, "[u]nder all three of the statutes you invoked, a charge to be timely filed, must be filed with the EEOC within 300 days from notification of the alleged discriminatory act." According to the EEOC, the clock on Hogans' discrimination claims began to run on the date her employment was terminated, and, therefore, her "charge is untimely filed and the EEOC consequently has no legal jurisdiction to conduct an investigation into this matter."

The instant action was commenced with Hogans' filing of a form complaint for employment discrimination on August 3, 2007. Dell moved to dismiss on January 16, 2008,*fn2 arguing that Hogans' complaint was untimely filed because of her failure to raise her charges with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct.*fn3 On February 20, Hogans filed a form affirmation in opposition to defendant's motion. Her affirmation states only that she "had seniority and . . . was the only person downsized from the company," and that her "health problems were becoming bothersome to" defendant. It makes no reference to the timeliness of this action, nor does it dispute any of the arguments made by defendant in its motion.

DISCUSSION

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a trial court must "accept as true all factual statements alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). At the same time, "conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to defeat a motion to dismiss." Achtman v. Kirby, McInerney & Squire, LLP, 464 F.3d 328, 337 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). A court must apply a "flexible 'plausibility standard,' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible." Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007). "To survive dismissal, the plaintiff must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007). In deciding the motion, a court may consider "any written instrument attached to [the complaint] as an exhibit, materials incorporated in it by reference, and documents that, although not incorporated by reference, are 'integral' to the complaint." Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57, 67 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).

Before a plaintiff brings a Title VII, ADEA, or ADA suit in federal court, "the claims forming the basis of such a suit must first be presented in a complaint to the EEOC or the equivalent state agency." Williams v. New York City Hous. Auth., 458 F.3d 67, 69 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5); see also 29 U.S.C. §§ 626(d), 633(b) (setting out the procedural requirements for ADEA claims); 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) (applying the procedural requirements of § 2000e-5 to ADA claims). This timeliness requirement "is analogous to a statute of limitations." McPherson v. New York City Dep't of Educ., 457 F.3d 211, 214 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). "It has long been settled that a claim of employment discrimination accrues for statute of limitations purposes on the date the employee learns of the employer's discriminatory conduct." Flaherty v. Metromail Corp., 235 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2000).

Hogans' complaint makes clear that each act of discrimination she alleges occurred on or before August 4, 2004, the day her employment was terminated. Indeed, the injury she complains of is her termination, and so any discriminatory act must predate that event. She does not dispute that her complaint was filed with the EEOC well past the 300-day deadline, nor does she claim that the limitations period should be equitably tolled. Accordingly, the complaint is untimely and must be dismissed.

The only act Hogans identifies that postdates her firing is her discovery on July 13, 2006, that Dell "never stopped profit sharing, bonuses or Christmas parties." Hogans appears to offer this as evidence that Dell did not need to cut its workforce.


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