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Barton v. Mikelhayes

March 15, 2010

TODD DAVID BARTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAM MIKELHAYES, JAMES FENIMORE, SUSAN W. HASSINGER, ROSS SNYDER, LYNN KRISS, PAUL W. NAGELE, LOU COATES, THEODORE VICKERY, JR., SUSAN LEARNER, GARY PIERCE, TROY ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED METHODIST, FAITH UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, AND DAVID OLSEN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Plaintiff, Todd Barton, commenced this action pro se against Defendants Pam MikelHayes, James Fenimore, Susan W. Hassinger, Ross Snyder, Lynn Kriss, Paul W. Nagele, Lou Coates, Theodore Vickery Jr., Susan Learner, Gerry Pierce, Troy Annual Conference (TAC) and Faith United Methodist Church (FUMC) pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title VII). In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges: (1) gender discrimination; (2) a hostile work environment; (3) sexual harassment; (4) violation of due process; (5) failure to protect against or investigate Title VII allegations; and (6) retaliatory firing. Plaintiff is requesting damages in the sum of Ten Million Dollars, reinstatement of his pastoral license, retirement on medical disability and in good standing, and a published apology in the Daily Gazzette [sic] from all involved.

Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendants' motion argues that: (1) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations; (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies; (3) there is no individual liability under Title VII; and (4) Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Although the original return date of the motion was June 26, 2009, the Court granted Plaintiff an extension on the basis of medical problems. On July 29, 2009 Plaintiff filed a letter motion requesting that: (1) the Court accept Plaintiff's late response to Defendants' motion; and (2) the Court allow Plaintiff to file a 59 page memorandum of law "in opposition of [sic] motion to dismiss... and in support of summary judgment." In an order filed July 29, 2009 the Court allowed the opposition papers and the"cross-motion" to be filed. Plaintiff argues that his Complaint complies with the statute of limitations and all applicable administrative requirements and that he states a claim for relief on all counts. On Aug. 28, 2009, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's cross motion. After Plaintiff's reply was first rejected, he filed a reply on Sept. 14, 2009.

I. FACTS

Plaintiff was employed as a part time pastor for the Faith United Methodist Church. As a part time pastor, Plaintiff was expected to work twenty hours per week and take two courses per semester at University at Albany. Despite the job description, Plaintiff maintains that he worked over 40 hours a week and was expected to cover all the night calls because he was a male and a former martial arts instructor.

Plaintiff's claims stem from a number of incidents at work, beginning in July of 2006, when Defendant MikelHayes began leading weekly services as the new lead pastor. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant MikelHayes discriminated against him because of his gender by creating a hostile work environment and sexually harassing him. In support of these allegations, Plaintiff contends that MikelHayes: (1) changed the format of the service to restrict his participation and work responsibilities in weekly services and to increase the participation of a less senior female Associate Pastor; (2) limited his raises to the minimum allowed by conference guidelines while at the same time giving Plaintiff's "female peer... additional opportunities to justify advancement and... significant pay raises"; (3) belittled and embarrassed him in front of other pastors and the congregation for his disabilities; (4) berated him in her office; and (5) sexually harassed him by complimenting his appearance, calling him "hot", saying how they would look good as a couple, and purring and pawing at him, despite being asked to stop. Plaintiff alleges that he informed the other Defendants of the abusive treatment by MikelHayes and how he felt about the situation but that they failed to take any protective action. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that when Plaintiff complained about the discrimination he was threatened with the loss of his pastoral license.

Plaintiff alleges that on July 24, 2007, a young man on a skateboard almost ran into his van in the church parking lot. The young man threatened Plaintiff. Plaintiff told the man that if he hit him or his van he would not be leaving the parking lot in the same way he entered it. The incident resulted in the man and his friend coming to Plaintiff's house and police involvement. Plaintiff informed the church of the incident.

As a result of this incident, Defendant MikelHayes reported Plaintiff to the Bishop and District Superintendent Fenimore. On August 3, 2007, Plaintiff met D.S. Fenimore to discuss the parking lot incident. Plaintiff brought up MikelHayes' conduct and Fenimore warned Plaintiff that if he did not stop complaining he would be fired. Plaintiff took medical leave a few days later.

Between August and December of 2007 Defendants held several meetings to discuss Plaintiff's mental stability. Plaintiff alleges these meetings were a violation of his rights under the Church's Book of Discipline which allowed him to have the meetings explained to him. Defendant Kriss released a letter to the congregation informing them that Plaintiff was on medical leave without Plaintiff's consent. Finally on October 22, 2007, Plaintiff was called into D.S. Fenimore's office and fired. Plaintiff and his family were then evicted from the parsonage.

Plaintiff filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the above described allegations on April 16, 2008. The EEOC issued a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue letter on October 17, 2008.Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint on January 20, 2009.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, "the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Burns v. Trombly, 624 F. Supp.2d 185, 196 (N.D.N.Y. 2008)(citing Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir. 1994)). "'[A]lthough a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint,' that 'tenet' 'is inapplicable to legal conclusions,' and '[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.'" Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). Therefore, to survive a motion to dismiss, 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.'" Camarillo v. Carrols Corp., 518 F.3d 153, 156 (2d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). Plaintiff's factual allegations must be sufficient to give the defendant "fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Camarillo, 518 F.3d at 156 (citing Port Dock & Stone Corp. v. Oldcastle Ne., Inc., 507 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 2007)).

"[W]hether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Harris, 572 F.3d at 72 (citing Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Review is "limited to the facts asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference." Medtech Prods. v. Ranir, LLC, 596 F. Supp.2d 778, 802 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (citing McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 190 (2d Cir. 2007); see Rothman v. Gregor, 220 F.3d 81, 88 (2d Cir. 2000)(citing Cosmas v. Hassett, 886 F.2d 8, 13 (2d Cir. 1989)) (the court may review documents integral to the Complaint upon ...


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