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Martin Stoner v. Young Concert Artists

March 7, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., U.S.D.J.,


I. Introduction

On November 12, 2010, Defendant, Young Concert Artists ("YCA"), moved to dismiss this action for failure to state a claim pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6). FED. R. OF CIV. P. 12(b)(6). For the following reason, YCA's motion to dismiss is granted.

Plaintiff, Martin Stoner, filed a complaint on October 21, 2010 alleging that YCA discriminated against him on the basis of his age, 60. See (Compl. at 1.) Specifically, the complaint states that YCA maintains a policy prohibiting individuals over the age of 26 from participating in the YCA International Auditions. Plaintiff asserts that this qualifies as discrimination under the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6101-6107 ("ADA"), the Civil Rights Act of 2004, the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290, et seq. ("NYSHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq. ("NYCHRL").

II. Background*fn1

The YCA is a nonprofit organization, headquartered in New York City, which receives federal funds to promote the careers of classically trained musicians. YCA maintains a policy that limits participation in the YCA International Auditions to individuals under the age of 26. See (Def. Aff. Ex. A.) The YCA International Auditions is an annual event where young musicians audition to become members of the YCA roster. See Id. Mr. Stoner sought to audition, and on May 5, 2010 wrote to the YCA requesting that they change their age requirements so he could participate. See (Compl. ¶ 8); see also(Compl. Ex. A.) Mr. Stoner contends that he received no response from YCA. See (Compl. ¶ 10.) On or about May 20, 2010, Mr. Stoner wrote another letter to YCA asserting that, pursuant to the ADA, it is illegal for organizations receiving federal funding to engage in age discrimination, and requesting that YCA dispense with their age requirement. See(Compl. Ex. B.) He further contended that if YCA failed to respond by June 1, 2010, he would file a complaint with the Civil Rights Office ("CRO") at the National Endowment of the Arts ("NEA"). After receiving no response to this second letter, Mr. Stoner filed a complaint with the NEA on June 1, 2010. See (Compl. Ex. C.) Mr. Stoner asserts that Denise Pearson, the Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist of the CRO, "told [him]that her office is 'understaffed' and unable to process [his] complaint in a timely manner." (Compl. ¶ 5.) In August 2010, YCA contacted Mr. Stoner and informed him that he would be permitted to audition in spite of the age policy.

Mr. Stoner auditioned as a violinist on September 29, 2010 in the preliminary round of the 2010 YCA International Auditions. On October 5, 2010, Mr. Stoner received a letter from Susan Wadsworth, the Founder and Director of YCA, informing him that he failed to advance to the semi-final round of the auditions. See (Compl. ¶ 13.) On or about October 6, 2010, Plaintiff sent an email to Ms. Wadsworth, requesting that YCA reconsider its decision. (Compl. ¶ 14.)

On October 18, 2010, Ms. Wadsworth responded, stating that YCA had made a final decision and that Mr. Stoner would not advance the semi-final round. (Compl. ¶ 15.)

On October 21, 2010, Mr. Stoner filed the instant action in this District. Plaintiff alleges that based on his failure to advance, and failure to win first prize in the International Auditions, he has suffered "irreparable injury, monetary damage, and loss of equal opportunity as a result of defendant's discriminatory practices." (Compl. ¶ 17.) Audition winners were provided with "management services . . . publicity, promotional materials and career guidance for three years at no cost to the artists," in addition to the opportunity to perform in YCA concerts in New York, Washington DC, and Boston. (Pl. Aff. Ex. 12.) Mr. Stoner asserts that these have a value of approximately $75,000. See (Pl. Mot. Recons. 4.)

On October 28, 2010, Mr. Stoner moved this Court for a preliminary injunction, requesting that this Court prohibit YCA from holding the final round of the International Auditions, to be held on November 6, 2010, until the conclusion of all legal proceedings associated with this case. See (Pl. Mot. Prelim. Inj. 1.) This Court denied Mr. Stoner's motion on the ground that the balance of hardships favored the defendant and the contestants. On November 12, YCA filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to the FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) asserting:

(1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) that Plaintiff failed to give requisite notice to the Attorney General ("A.G."), the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS") and YCA pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 6140(e)(1); (3) that Plaintiff failed to state a claim under the NYSHRL; and (4) that age is not a protected class under the NYCHRL. After receiving YCA's memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss, Mr. Stoner sent a letter dated December 16, 2010, by certified mail, to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the DHHS, Eric Holder, A.G., and Susan Wadsworth, Director of YCA, informing them of his intent to enjoin YCA's allegedly discriminatory practices and collect damages in federal court.

III. Legal Standard

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), all factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all inferences are drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Mills v. Polar Molecular Corp., 12 F.3d 1170, 1174 (2d Cir.1993). Further, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ...

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