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Bush v. County of Orleans

August 14, 2009

BECKY BUSH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF ORLEANS AND MARK WATTS, SUPERINTENDENT OF BUILDING AND GROUNDS, DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Becky Bush, ("Bush") a custodian for the County of Orleans, brings this action against the County of Orleans ("the County") and Mark Watts, ("Watts") her former supervisor, claiming that the defendants violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and denied her equal protection of the laws. Specifically, plaintiff claims that she was harassed and terminated from her employment in retaliation for exercising her First Amendment rights, and that the defendants' conduct violated her civil rights by denying her the right to equal protection of the laws.

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's claims on grounds that she has failed to state a claim for the violation of her First Amendment right to free speech, and has failed to state a claim for a violation of her right to equal protection of the laws. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Becky Bush began her employment as a cleaner for the County of Orleans in 1988. Bush was subsequently promoted to the position of custodian, and was later promoted to the position of custodian with supervisory responsibilities.

In 2001, defendant Mark Watts became plaintiff's supervisor, and according to Bush, he began to harass her, and demonstrated favoritism towards "younger female custodians in [her] department." Complaint at ¶ 10. Plaintiff contends that Watts engaged in a campaign to have her employment terminated, and made false accusations against the plaintiff, including false criminal accusations. Complaint at ¶¶ 11-14.

On September, 21, 2006, Watts accused plaintiff of taking excessive break time, and watching television while she was supposed to be working. Watts immediately placed her on administrative leave, and on September 25, 2006, plaintiff received a notice of discipline regarding the incident. On October 23, 2006, the County held a hearing regarding plaintiff's conduct, and her employment was terminated.

Thereafter, in 2007, plaintiff filed an employment discrimination case in this court, claiming that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her age and gender in violation of State and federal law. Bush v. County of Orleans, 07-CV-577A. The case was referred to mediation, and pursuant to a September 14, 2007 decision of the Arbitrator, plaintiff was reinstated to her employment. Because the parties neglected to inform the court of the resolution of the case, even after being directed by the Court to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute, the case was dismissed for failure to prosecute on June 29, 2009.

On September 9, 2008, well after the arbitrator had reinstated plaintiff's employment, and while plaintiff's first case was still pending, Bush filed the instant action against the County and Watts claiming that the defendants violated her right to free speech and equal protection of the laws.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must "accept...all factual allegations in the complaint and draw...all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." See Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir.2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). In order to withstand dismissal, the complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (disavowing the oft-quoted statement from Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief").

"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." See id. at 1965 (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, "at a bare minimum, the operative standard requires the 'plaintiff [to] provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right ...


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