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Britton v. Gleason Works

August 8, 2008

ANDRE BRITTON PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE GLEASON WORKS, MATTHEW CIHAN, RICHARD THORNTON, ALICIA KALEN, WILLIAM D'ANGELO, LUCINDA GAMBLE, NANCI MALIN-PECK,INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Andre Britton, ("plaintiff"), a former employee of defendant Gleason Works ("Gleason"), brings this action pursuant to New York State Executive Law § 296 ("Human Rights Law"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000 ("Title VII"), claiming that the defendants deliberately and intentionally discriminated against him both individually and collectively, on account of his race and gender. Plaintiff also claims that defendants subjected him to a hostile work environment and unlawfully terminated him based on his gender and race.

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's Human Rights Law claim, on grounds that plaintiff has chosen to pursue that claim administratively, and therefore, may not proceed with that claim in this court. Defendants also move to dismiss plaintiff's Section 1981 claim and two causes of action set forth in plaintiff's original complaint for failure to state a claim. The individual defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's Title VII claims against them on the grounds that they cannot be held individually liable under Title VII and defendant Gleason moves to dismiss plaintiff's race discrimination claim on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant in-part and deny in-part defendants' motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Andre Britton was an employee of defendant Gleason Works from March of 2006 until he was allegedly unlawfully terminated on May 26, 2006 for complaining of sexual harassment and race discrimination. According to the amended complaint, while employed at Gleason Works, plaintiff was subjected to crude and vulgar sexual comments made by defendant Richard Thornton, plaintiff's supervisor. According to Britton, Thornton made unwanted sexual advances towards him and tried to touch him in inappropriate ways. Plaintiff alleges that management was aware of the sexual harassment and that Thornton's supervisor, defendant William D'Angelo, even participated in the harassment by making inappropriate comments in reference to the harassment.

According to the amended complaint, on one occasion Thornton made a particularly vulgar comment to Britton, which prompted Britton to contact the Human Resources of Gleason to complain about the harassment. Plaintiff spoke to Lucinda Gamble, a Human Resources employee, and Gamble advised plaintiff to talk to defendant Alicia Kalen, another Human Resources employee. After speaking with Kalen, plaintiff was called into the office by defendant Matt Cihan, plaintiff's general supervisor. Plaintiff claims that Cihan appeared to condone and excuse Thornton's behavior because it was allegedly common knowledge that Thornton had harassed the plaintiff as well as other male employees in the past. Thornton was present during plaintiff's meeting with Cihan, and plaintiff claims that he was forced to make his complaints about Thornton with Thornton present. After plaintiff voiced his complaints, Thornton allegedly admitted to making sexually offensive comments. After the meeting, plaintiff claims that he was forced to work with Thornton for the rest of his shift and thereafter. Plaintiff claims that had he been a white woman, instead of a black man, he would not have had to voice his complaints of harassment in the presence of Thornton, nor would he have been forced to continue to work with Thornton.

Plaintiff claims that his complaints regarding Thornton were not kept confidential, and that once his co-workers became aware of his complaints, he was ostracized by them. Thereafter, during a roundtable discussion with Nanci Malin-Peck, a Human Resources employee, plaintiff allegedly tried to talk about the situation but was prevented from doing so, and was told to talk to Malin-Peck after the meeting. Plaintiff then spoke with Malin-Peck and complained that his complaints were not kept confidential and that he felt he was being retaliated against. Malin-Peck then allegedly failed to take any action, and instead referred plaintiff back to defendant Kalen.

Plaintiff contends that on April 24, 2006, he was taken out of work for two weeks by his doctor due to anxiety and depression resulting from his allegedly hostile work environment. From the time he was taken out of work until the time he was terminated, plaintiff alleges that he tried to contact Human Resources about his disability status, but contends that most of his calls went unanswered. In May 2006, plaintiff received a letter from defendant Kalen inquiring about his work status, to which he responded by calling Kalen and telling her that his work status had not changed. Plaintiff told Kalen that he had another doctor's appointment on May 19, 2006 and that after that appointment, he would forward to her an updated report from his doctor. However, on May 26, 2006, plaintiff was terminated from his employment at Gleason for allegedly abandoning his employment. Plaintiff claims that he was terminated in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment and complaining that he was being treated differently because of his race and gender.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standards for Evaluating a Motion to Dismiss

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, claiming that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must ascertain, after presuming all factual allegations in the pleading to be true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, whether or not the plaintiff has stated any valid ground for relief. Ferran v. Town of Nassau, 11 F.3d 21, 22 (2d Cir. 1993). The court may grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion only where "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Allen v. WestPoint-Pepperell, Inc., 945 F. 2d 40, 44 (2d Cir. 1991) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Furthermore, a plaintiff is not required to present evidence in support of its complaint in order to survive dismissal. See Weisman v. LeLandais, 532 F.3d 308, 310-311 (2d Cir. 1976).

II. Plaintiff has properly filed an amended complaint and the motion to dismiss the omitted ...


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