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Popa v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

August 14, 2009

MIHAELA ILLIANA POPA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS LLP, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Mihaela Illiana Popa ("Plaintiff" or "Popa"), a former employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP ("PWC" or "Defendant"), brings this action pro se, asserting claims for employment discrimination and retaliation based on her race, gender, national origin, age*fn1 and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e - 2000e-17 ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117 (the "ADA"), New York State Human Rights Law (the "NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 to 297, and New York City Human Rights Law (the "NYCHRL"), N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 to 131, against PWC. Defendant moves the Court to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn2 The Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's complaint (the "Complaint"), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") Dismissal and Notice of Rights (the "Right to Sue Letter") and the EEOC Charge of Discrimination (the "EEOC Charge"), both of which are referenced in and attached to the Complaint. Plaintiff's factual allegations are presumed to be true for the purpose of this motion practice.

Plaintiff is a Romanian national with a bachelors degree in Business Administration from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest and an MBA from the University of Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 1.)

The Chicago Office

Plaintiff was hired by PWC's Chicago office in June 2003. (Id. at ¶1.) During Plaintiff's employment in the Chicago office, Plaintiff was subject to snide and belittling remarks from the hiring partner and other staff, based on Plaintiff's Romanian national origin and her gender. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges that she was sexually harassed by a senior associate and others in the office. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5.) The senior associate, a partner, and Plaintiff's career advisor made remarks and inquiries about Plaintiff's personal life. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff asserts that she was assigned very menial work, for which she was overqualified. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff became very stressed and depressed as a result of the bullying, harassment and intimidating remarks and behavior in her office environment, and tried to address the situation in a February 2004 discussion with the senior associate. (Id. at ¶ 8.) This attempt was unsuccessful, as the senior associate was aggressive and derogatory towards Plaintiff. (Id.) He constantly advised her to leave the department. (Id.)

In May 2004, Plaintiff interviewed with a Director in the London office.*fn3 (Id. at ¶ 9.) The Plaintiff was made an offer to work in the London office and she began her work there in September/October 2004. (Id.) Plaintiff's final months working in the Chicago office were very unpleasant, she continued to work long hours, undertake extensive travel, be subject to harassment and to belittling and derogatory remarks. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that her career advisor and another employee attempted to introduce negative remarks in one of Plaintiff's last appraisals, but that the appraisal was salvaged by a senior manager from the New York office. (Id.) Prior to Plaintiff's departure from the Chicago office, one of the partners made remarks about his ability to break Plaintiff's career, if he wanted to, and that Plaintiff was being shipped off to London because she had upset him. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff confided in a co-worker about the harassment and the menial nature of the work she was being assigned; the co-worker indicated that another female co-worker was experiencing similar issues. (Id. at ¶12.) At her co-worker's insistence, Plaintiff had an informal discussion with HR on the last day of her employment in the Chicago office, August 27, 2004. (Id.) Plaintiff's final appraisal was very rushed, and because there was little input from her career advisor, Plaintiff believes it was received negatively by the London office. (Id.)

The London Office

Plaintiff's move to London was very difficult, and she felt that she was under intense scrutiny from the beginning. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following the events in Chicago. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, she was not treated well in the London office and this inhibited her recovery. (Id.) She believes her treatment there was a direct result of the complaint that she made in the US. (Id.) The London office did not allow her to settle in properly before assigning her work, including work that was of high responsibility and outside her prior experience. (Id.) Plaintiff tried to transfer to another department in the office that was more in line with her background and education but, following a discussion with the partner from the Chicago office and her London career advisor, she remained in the Forensic practice. (Id. at ¶ 14.)

In the nearly two years that Plaintiff worked in the London office, she was unable to advance her career, she was passed over for promotion several times, was assigned menial and inappropriate work and was bullied and harassed. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that her health deteriorated as a result of her treatment and that in March 2006, following a bad appraisal, she was advised by the partner to leave the UK practice for a role in industry. (Id.) Plaintiff remained for several months, but the work that she was assigned resulted in very long hours, with little support, for difficult clients on the types of assignments she had indicated that she was not interested in. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that she was suffering from chronic fatigue in May 2006, and in June 2006, she had a significant nervous breakdown. (Id.) Following therapy, she was advised to leave her job, which she did in December 2006. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that at her new employment she was subject to further retaliation and victimization, possibly as a result of unfavorable references. (Id. at ¶ 17.) According to Plaintiff, she has suffered a relapse, and has not fully recovered. (Id. at ¶ 18.) She believes that retaliation is likely to continue. (Id.) It appears from the documents attached to the Complaint that Plaintiff filed a grievance pursuant to Defendant's grievance procedures before leaving the London office. (See EEOC Charge and attached documents.)

Plaintiff's EEOC Charge

Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC alleging discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, age, and disability and retaliation, dated September 28, 2007. (See EEOC Charge.) Plaintiff was sent a Dismissal and Notice of Rights (the "Right to Sue Letter") dated March 20, 2008, that indicated that the EEOC was closing its file on this charge because the charge had not been timely filed. (See Right to Sue Letter.) In her Complaint, Plaintiff indicates that she received the Right to Sue Letter on May 27, 2008. (Compl. at p. 4.)

Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing her Complaint, which was received by the Pro Se Office on August 27, 2008. Defendant moved to dismiss this action on January 28, 2009. On May 6, 2009, in light of the absence of any response from Plaintiff other than a change of address memorandum and the Court's concern that service of Defendant's motion may have been made to an outdated address, the Court denied Defendant's motion without prejudice to renewal upon filing of an affidavit of service indicating that Plaintiff had been served at her current address. (See Docket Entry No. 13.) Subsequently, Defendant submitted a letter and, at the Court's direction, an affidavit attesting to the fact that Plaintiff had actually acknowledged receipt of a hard copy of the Defendant's motion, and the Court reinstated the motion. (See Docket Entry Nos. 14-15.) The Court subsequently received a letter dated May 20, 2009, from Plaintiff, ...


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