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Margaret R. Burnett v. Trinity Institution Homer Perkins Center

May 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:



Plaintiff pro se commenced this action against defendants Trinity Institution Homer Perkins Center, Inc., Harris Oberlander, Carol June Washington, and Robert Trimble pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964*fn1 ("Title VII") and the Americans with Disabilities Act*fn2 ("ADA"), alleging discrimination, wrongful termination, and unlawful retaliation. See Dkt. No. 1.

Plaintiff also asserted a discrimination claim based on her alleged whistleblower status. See id. In a Memorandum-Decision and Order dated January 25, 2011, Judge Sharpe granted defendants' motion to dismiss and further granted plaintiff "limited leave to amend her Title VII and ADA claims against [defendant] Trinity." See Dkt. No. 13 at 2.

On March 8, 2011, plaintiff filed an amended complaint, asserting claims pursuant to Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), alleging employment discrimination on the basis of race and sex. See Dkt. No. 16. Currently before the Court is defendant Trinity Institution Homer Perkins Center, Inc.'s ("defendant") motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint.


Plaintiff is an African-American female. See Dkt. No. 16 at ¶ 9. Defendant hired plaintiff on April 7, 2008, to serve as an Assistant Case Aide/Administrative Assistant. See id. at ¶ 11.

In December of 2008, plaintiff reported to defendant's Human Resource Director, India Fitzgerald, that the Food Pantry Director was abusing the corporate gas credit card. See id. at ¶ 12. After being questioned regarding plaintiff's allegations, the Food Pantry Director "admitted to the crime." See id. at ¶ 13. In January of 2009, defendant suspended the Food Pantry Director for one week. See id. (citing Exhibit "1").

Plaintiff was placed on disability leave from January 30, 2009 through March 31, 2009 because of a hysterectomy scheduled for January 30, 2009. See id. at ¶ 14 and Exhibit "11," at 5. On February 11, 2009, plaintiff went to pick up a paycheck from defendant's place of business. See id. at ¶ 15. That same day, defendant drafted a letter terminating plaintiff. See id. The letter informed plaintiff that she was being terminated for several reasons, including assisting a client in filing an SSI application without consulting with defendant regarding the appropriateness of this conduct and for "filing taxes for a client as a representative of the agency." See id. at ¶ 15 and Exhibit "4." Moreover, defendant referenced concerns regarding the veracity of plaintiff's time sheets, as well as her refusal to staff the front desk, which was a stated condition of her employment. See id. at Exhibit "4." Plaintiff never received a grievance meeting to discuss her termination. See id. at ¶ 16 (citing Exhibit "5").

On March 3, 2009 and June 9, 2009, plaintiff filed complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR"). See id. at Exhibit "7;" see also Dkt. No. 6-3 at 76-82. The complaint was dual filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). See id. On November 24, 2009, the NYSDHR found that there was no probable cause to believe that defendant engaged in the unlawful discrimination complained of. See Dkt. No. 6-3 at 76-80. On April 29, 2010, the EEOC adopted the findings of the NYSDHR. See id. at 85-86. Plaintiff filed the present action on June 11, 2010. See Dkt. No. 1.


A. Standard of review*fn3

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the party's claim for relief. See Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 111-12 (2d Cir. 2007). In considering the legal sufficiency, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the pleading and draw all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor. See ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). This presumption of truth, however, does not extend to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) (citation omitted). Although a court's review of a motion to dismiss is generally limited to the facts presented in the pleading, the court may consider documents that are "integral" to that pleading, even if they are neither physically attached to, nor incorporated by reference into, the pleading. See Mangiafico v. Blumenthal, 471 F.3d 391, 398 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir. 2002)).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a party need only plead "a short and plain statement of the claim," see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), with sufficient factual "heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief[,]'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (quotation omitted). Under this standard, the pleading's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level," see id. at 555 (citation omitted), and present claims that are "plausible on [their] face," id. at 570. "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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citation omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement to relief."'" Id. (quoting [Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 557, 127 S. Ct. 1955). Ultimately, "when the allegations ...

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