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Nina J. Alberts v. Reginald J. Landeau

March 31, 2011

NINA J. ALBERTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
REGINALD J. LANDEAU, JR., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mauskopf, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, a former New York City public middle school teacher brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief. (Second Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 22) 9.) Plaintiff alleges that her discharge from employment, and other acts by Defendant, deprived her of her rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id.) Defendant, principal of the school where Plaintiff was employed at the time of her discharge, is sued both individually and as an employee of the New York City Department of Education ("DOE").*fn1 Defendant has moved for dismissal (Doc. No. 23) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons below, Defendant's motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint*fn2 is dismissed in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No.22). Plaintiff was a tenured public middle school teacher at Middle School 216 in Queens, New York, and a member of the United Federation of Teachers, a labor union (the "Union"). (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9.) Defendant was the principal of Middle School 216. (Id. at ¶ 5.) In May 2006, Plaintiff was assaulted by a student, and she reported the assault to Defendant. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Believing that Defendant's response fell short of what was required under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the DOE, Plaintiff notified the Union of Defendant's handling of the assault, and reported the assault to the police. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

On or about October 30, 2006, Defendant notified Plaintiff by letter requiring Plaintiff to provide the year's reading and writing plans. While Plaintiff provided those plans, Defendant advised that they were late and that Plaintiff was "guilty of misconduct." (Id. at ¶ 16.) A meeting was held between Plaintiff, her union representative and Defendant on November 13, 2006, at which Defendant again told Plaintiff that the submission of her reading and writing plans was untimely and "constituted a dereliction of duty." (Id. at ¶ 16-19.) As Plaintiff pleads, a letter was placed in Plaintiff's personnel file regarding this issue. (Id. at ¶ 19.)*fn3

Three days after this meeting, on November 16, 2006, Plaintiff attempted to hand Defendant "grievance papers" related to the May 2006 assault. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Defendant "chased [P]laintiff down the school hallway," where she "escaped into the ladies room." Defendant then "caused [P]laintiff to be escorted out of the school, at which time Defendant shouted at Plaintiff, 'Get out of this school!'" (Id. at ¶ 22--23.) Plaintiff "understood the conduct . . . in light of theprior course of conduct of [D]efendant . . . to constitute a summary discharge without any hearing," and Plaintiff "did not feel free to return to the school." (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.)

On the same day as this incident, Defendant requested that Plaintiff be examined medically pursuant to the New York State Education Law § 2568. (Id. at ¶ 28.) On November 29, 2006, Plaintiff "filed a 'Line of Duty' injury report with the Education Department," citing "emotional upset and significant physical symptoms," based on "the experiences she had had with defendant Landeau and persons closely associated with him and "requested reassignment to another school." (Id.) In mid-December, Plaintiff's father called in sick for Plaintiff. (Id. at¶ 29.)

On January 29, 2007, Plaintiff was found fit to teach pursuant to the medical examination ordered by Defendant. However, Plaintiff did not report for work in 2007. (Id. at ¶ 36.) In March 2007, Plaintiff filed a claim for medical insurance under her employment-sponsored policy, but learned that she was no longer covered (Id. at ¶ 31.) On April 30, 2007, Plaintiff "participated in an arbitration proceeding bearing upon her attendance record and was fined $7,500." (Id. at ¶ 33.) In September 2007, Plaintiff learned that "she had received an unsatisfactory rating for 2007" and would not receive a salary increase. (Id. at ¶ 36.) In April 2008, Plaintiff "learned from a union official that she had been formally discharged from the Department on December 15, 2007." (Id. at ¶ 37.)

On May 15, 2009, Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint pro se and in forma pauperis. (See Compl. (Doc. No. 1); Mem. and Order (Doc. No. 3) 1, June 30, 2009). The Court dismissed the initial Complaint sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 for failure to state a claim, and granted leave to re-plead. (Mem. and Order 1, June 30, 2009.) Plaintiff filed her first Amended Complaint on July 23, 2009, naming Landeau, and an additional party, Susan Stine, as Defendants. (Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 4).) Plaintiff retained counsel by December 10, 2009. (See Notice of Appearance (Doc. No. 14) 1, Dec. 10, 2009.) On March 17, 2010, Plaintiff filed a second Amended Complaint naming only Landeau as Defendant. (Second Am. Compl. 1; see Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 27) 1.) Defendant moved to dismiss on May 5, 2010. (Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl. (Doc. No.23).)

The gravamen of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, is that Plaintiff's November 16, 2006 encounter with Defendant was either a constructive discharge, or began a sequence of events culminating in her formal discharge on December 15, 2007. (See Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 40, 54; Mem. in Opp'n 1--2.) Plaintiff alleges that, in either case, she was deprived of her tenured teaching position, a constitutionally protected property interest, without due process. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 40, 54; Mem. in Opp'n 1--2.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the court to examine the legal, rather than factual, sufficiency of a complaint. Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009). As required by Rule 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." To withstand a motion to dismiss, "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) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

A court considering a 12(b)(6) motion must "take[] factual allegations [in the complaint] to be true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Harris, 572 F.3d at 71 (citation omitted). A complaint need not contain " 'detailed factual allegations,' " but it must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, the plaintiff's complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. 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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The determination of ...


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