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Adams v. Northstar Location Services

October 4, 2010

SANDRA H. ADAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHSTAR LOCATION SERVICES, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John T. Curtin United States District Judge

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Sandra Adams commenced this action against her former employer, defendant Northstar Location Services, LLC, on December 16, 2009 (Item 1). She asserts claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"); 42 U.S.C. § 1981; the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. ("FMLA"); and the New York State Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 290, et seq. ("NYSHRL"). On February 16, 2010, defendant moved to dismiss 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. In the alternative, defendant seeks an order pursuant to Rule 12(f) striking paragraphs 11, 12, 13, 19, 20, 23, 24, 28, 29, and 30 and Exhibit A to the complaint as "immaterial, impertinent and/or scandalous" (Item 6, ¶ 2). For the following reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. The motion to strike is granted in part.

BACKGROUND and FACTS

Plaintiff began working for defendant in August 2005 as a "Human Resources Director" (Item 1, ¶ 7). According to the complaint, "[p]laintiff was responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination as well as interviewing applicants for new positions...." Id., ¶ 10.

Plaintiff alleges that in March 2008, she "took an approved leave under FMLA, which lead [sic] to the reassignment of her job duties" (Item 1, ¶ 14). In approximately May 2008, plaintiff claims she "was assigned to investigate a report made by a female African American employee that a white employee, Mike Stearns, made a racial comment and yelled and swore at her." Id., ¶ 15. As part of her duty to investigate such reports, plaintiff interviewed two witnesses "but was later told that she would have no further role in the incident." Id., ¶ 16. On June 10, 2008,*fn1 plaintiff received, on behalf of defendant, the employee's discrimination complaint filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("SDHR"). Id., ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges that Joel Castle, Northstar's chairman, "falsely accused Plaintiff of 'egging on' the employee to file a complaint." Id., ¶ 18. Defendant then assigned the discrimination case to a different employee. Id., ¶ 19. Plaintiff claims she "tried to access incident report files" and "found that they were missing." Id. Plaintiff alleges that "the Vice President of Operations had been told by Mr. Castle to take the files from Plaintiff's locked cabinets." Id.

Plaintiff also alleges that she discovered and reported a "salary and bonus discrepancy to the Vice President of Operations" in February 2008 (Item 1, ¶ 22). She claims "[t]he disparity was ultimately corrected, but the Plaintiff was no longer allowed access to payroll records showing bonuses or cumulative salary figures," and this was an example of "retaliation against the Plaintiff for performing her job duties." Id. Plaintiff also claims that in March 2008, she "was able to convince management" that firing three African-American employees, one homosexual employee, and one female employee "would be inappropriate." Id., ¶ 23.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant subjected her to "pay discrimination based on gender in violation of the Equal Pay Act" (Item 1, ¶ 25). She alleges that her salary "was approximately $8,000 lower per year than a recently hired male recruiter." Id. She contends that "[t]he new recruiter was also eligible for collection management bonuses that could have totaled as much as $5,500, while the Plaintiff was eligible to receive bonuses of less than $100, as part of the support team." Id.

Plaintiff alleges that on June 12, 2008 she was "inexplicably suspended, and by letter dated June 20, 2008, Plaintiff was inexplicably terminated" (Item 1, ¶ 27). She claims she was "never given any formal explanation as to the reason for her suspension or termination." Id. However, she also states that "[d]efendant subsequently claimed in the termination letter that the reason for the suspension and subsequent termination was due to a reassignment and job elimination." Id.

DISCUSSION

Defendant has moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Such a motion "tests the legal sufficiency of plaintiff's claim for relief." Krasner v. HSH Nordbank AG, 680 F. Supp. 2d 502, 511 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). All well-pleaded facts must be construed in plaintiff's favor. Id. Such a "presumption of truth, however, does not extend to legal conclusions." Id. at 511-12. According to the standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), plaintiff is required to plead facts sufficient "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," enough to nudge the "claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Id. at 570.

A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ____ U.S.____, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting and citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57) (internal citations omitted).

Additionally, in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002), the Supreme Court held that there is no heightened pleading requirement for Title VII cases, and that an employment discrimination complaint need not allege specific facts that establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. at 514. Instead, the Court stated that, under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, an employment discrimination complaint "must include only a short and plain statement of the claim... [that] give[s] the ...


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