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Madelyn Flores v. New York City Human Resources Adminstration

August 16, 2011

MADELYN FLORES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY HUMAN RESOURCES ADMINSTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se Madelyn Flores brings this employment discrimination action against defendant the New York City Human Resources Administration ("HRA"), asserting race and national origin discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. HRA now moves to dismiss, arguing that many of Flores's claims are untimely as they were not charged, as required by the statute, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within 300 days of their accrual; and that in any event Flores's complaint fails to allege facts establishing elements required for prima facie cases of those causes of action. To the extent Flores alleges discrete acts of disparate treatment occurring prior to October 10, 2007-300 days before she filed her EEOC complaint-those claims are untimely. And as those claims are not rescued by either the continuing violation doctrine, or the doctrine of equitable tolling, they must be dismissed. However, HRA mistakes Flores's pleading standard, and Flores's timely disparate impact, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims thus survive.

Employment discrimination complaints need not contain facts establishing prima facie cases of employment discrimination; instead such complaints must simply comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) and put the defendant on fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Accordingly, HRA's motion is GRANTED IN PART and is DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken as true for the purposes of this motion.*fn1

Flores, a self-described Hispanic Puerto Rican, began working for HRA in December 1980 and still worked there when this case was filed on March 17, 2010. (Compl. ¶ II.E.) From November 2004 through October 2005, Flores was the "Acting Director" of the "Division." (Id.)*fn2 In November 2005, HRA hired Mary-Ann Maloney, an African American woman, as "the Division's Director[,] and she became [Flores's] direct supervisor." (Id.) Between then and April 2006, Flores and Maloney met frequently "to debrief" Flores and "help [Maloney] to transition." (Id. & Compl. Addendum at 1.) In those meetings, Flores and Maloney discussed "confidential information" about certain HRA employees "including [regarding] work performance, disciplinary actions and medical history." (Compl. Addendum at 1.)

Sometime in December 2005, Maloney "divulged the confidential information [Flores] had provided to her to certain staff members." (Id.) Then on December 27, 2005, Flores met with Maloney's-and Flores's former-supervisor Sam Morcos "to discuss [Flores's] evaluation." (Id.) In that meeting, Flores "made [Morcos] aware" that Maloney had divulged the information to staff members and that the "confidential information was no longer being kept in a secure place." (Id.) In March 2006, Morcos informed Maloney of what Flores had told him about Maloney during the December 27 meeting. (Id.) And "[p]artly as a result, from March 2006 to the present, [Flores has] experienced race based discrimination, retaliation, harassment and a hostile work environment." (Id.) Flores alleges that "[s]ince March 2006 [she has] been subjected to disparate treatment," in that she has "been treated differently than the other workers in [her] title who are Black." (Id.) Specifically, (1) Maloney "ostracized [Flores] in many ways . . . because of [Flores's] race and national origin," starting in March 2006, (id. at 2); (2) Maloney "did not place the same [communication-related] restrictions on Non-Hispanic employees" that she apparently placed on Flores since May 2006, (id.); (3) Maloney told Flores that "no one in upper management was going to promote [her] because [she speaks] with a Spanish accent," in December 2006, (id.); and (4) Maloney "used harsh language in communicating with [Flores], and applied time and leave rules against . . . [Flores] and some other Hispanics, but not to non-Hispanics," since February 2006, (id. at 3).

Flores makes several additional allegations of mistreatment not explicitly connected to her race or national origin. She alleges (1) that on "at least four occasions in 2006, [Maloney] denied [her] leave," and otherwise made obtaining leave "more difficult or even impossible," (id. at 1-2); (2) that since March 2006, Maloney gave her "less desirable" work assignments, (id. at 2); (3) that since March 2006 Maloney "refused to allow [her] to attend meetings . . . which provide exposure which can help lead to promotion," (id.); (4) that since December 2006, Maloney "prevented [her] from taking available, valuable training . . . [which] makes it easier for [Maloney] to accuse [Flores] of not doing [her] job 'as well as [she] could,'" (id.); (5) that in April 2006, Maloney denied Flores a promotion, (id.); (6) that in January and February 2007, and on unspecified dates in 2008, Maloney gave her four "unjust disciplinary memo[randa]," (id.); (7) that in January 2008, January 2009, and February 2010, Maloney gave her three "unjust and unwarranted negative evaluation[s]," (id. at 2, 3); (8) that in July 2008, Maloney "advised the Division of Procedures" that Flores could no longer do translation work, (id. at 2); (9) that in August 2008, Maloney falsely accused Flores of falsifying time records, (id. at 2); (10) that in April 2009, Flores was "unjustly reprimanded" based on the theretofore received disciplinary memoranda, (id. at 3); and (11) that since April 2006, Maloney has "verbally abus[ed]" and "berat[ed]" Flores, in front of co-workers and "in a shocking and degrading manner," and likewise has allowed co-workers to berate Flores, (id.). Flores also alleges that she and "enough [other] Hispanic employees have complained of their treatment by [Maloney] for the HRA senior supervisors to realize that she is [engaging in discriminatory conduct]." (Id.)

Flores neither has been terminated from, nor has voluntarily left, her job at HRA at least as of the date she filed this action, March 17, 2010. She did, however, file a charge with the EEOC regarding the conduct alleged on August 5, 2008. (Compl. ¶ III.A.) She then received a Right to Sue letter from the EEOC on January 26, 2010. (Id. ¶ III.B.)

DISCUSSION

I. Statute of Limitations

HRA first argues that many of the events of which Flores complains-including

all events occurring prior to October 10, 2007-are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

A. 300 Day Limitations Period

In New York, "[a]n employment discrimination claim must be filed with EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discrimination." Dimps v. New York State Office of Mental Health, ___ F. Supp. 2d ___, 2011 WL 1364534, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 1, 2011); see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); McGullam v. Cedar Graphics, Inc., 609 F.3d 70, 75 (2d Cir. 2010). Filing a complaint within this period is "a precondition to filing a Title VII claim in federal court." Deravin v. Kerik, 335 F.3d 195, 200 (2d Cir. 2003). Thus, "[d]iscriminatory incidents not timely charged before EEOC will be time-barred upon the plaintiff's suit in district court." Dimps, 2011 WL 1364534, at *3 (quoting Tewksbury v. Ottaway Newspapers, 192 F.3d 322, 325 (2d Cir. 1999)).

When the "plaintiff's allegations of discrimination extend beyond the 300-day limitations period, the nature of the claim determines what consideration will be given to the earlier conduct." Petrosino v. Bell Atlantic, 385 F.3d 210, 220 (2d Cir. 2004). "With respect to claims based on termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, or refusal to hire, section 2000e-5(e)(1) precludes recovery for discrete acts of discrimination or retaliation that occur outside the statutory time period, even if other acts of discrimination occurred within the statutory time period." McGullam, 609 F.3d at 75 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis in original); see also Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 113 (2002) ("[D]iscrete discriminatory acts are not actionable if time barred, even when they are related to acts alleged in timely filed charges."). Finally, "[s]ince the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, the Defendants bear the burden" of proving that claims fall outside it. Butler v. New York Health & Racquet Club, 768 F. Supp. 2d 516, 536 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). Flores filed her charge with the EEOC on August 5, 2008. As such, only claims accruing from discrete acts of discrimination ...


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