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Alicia v. Women In Need

August 24, 2011


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


Plaintiff Alicia Briggs ("Briggs" or "plaintiff") brings this pro se action against defendant Women in Need, Inc. ("WIN" or "defendant") alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k) §("PDA"). Briggs alleges that she was unlawfully terminated on the basis of her pregnancy and associated medical issues. Currently before the Court is WIN's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion is DENIED.


Plaintiff is a former employee of WIN, a non-profit corporation located in Brooklyn, New York. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 2-4.) She was terminated on December 11, 2007. (Compl. at 3-4.) Plaintiff informed WIN about her pregnancy in March 2007. (Pl.'s Compl. to New York State Division of Human Rights ("N.Y. Compl.") (Doc. 15-3) ¶ 2.) On May 23, 2007 plaintiff went on a medical leave due to her high-risk pregnancy. (Compl. at 4.) Plaintiff gave birth by cesarean section on October 19, 2007. (Id.) Her disability benefits continued until November 28, 2007, six weeks after the delivery of her child pursuant to WIN's 26-week disability plan. (Letter from Unum Provident to Pl. (Doc. No. 1-2).)

At some point either just before or during plaintiff's medical leave, Maureen McLaughlin, a WIN human resources representative,*fn2 promised plaintiff her desired 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift ("8 X 4 shift") upon her return to work. (See Pl.'s EEOC Affirmation ("Affirmation") (Doc. No. 4) at 2.) The 8 X 4 shift, plaintiff believed, would best accommodate her needs as a new mother. (See Pl.'s N.Y. Compl. ¶ 6.) McLaughlin made this promise, according to plaintiff, as a gesture of sympathy in response to what plaintiff alleges constituted "unfair treatment . . . even before [she] was pregnant." (See Affirmation at 2.) Specifically, plaintiff claims she had been promised an 8 X 4 shift but was not given one due to a co-worker's seniority. (Id.) Plaintiff also shared with McLaughlin a letter she wrote to WIN's management dated June 18, 2006 that contained further details of her alleged pre-pregnancy unfair treatment. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that in response to hearing about this treatment, "Ms McLaughlin told me how she felt sorry for me and when I had my baby she would make sure I had an 8 X 4 shift." (Id.)

During the course of her pregnancy, Briggs kept in contact with McLaughlin, providing her regular updates about her medical condition. (Compl. at 4.) On October 19, 2007, plaintiff gave birth to her child through a caesarean section procedure, and called McLaughlin to share with her the news of the birth. (Id.) McLaughlin congratulated plaintiff, and asked her when she would return to work. (Affirmation at 2.) Plaintiff replied that she did not know at the time, but would notify McLaughlin as soon as she received her discharge papers. (Id.)

On December 11, 2007, at her six-week check-up, plaintiff's doctor informed her that she could return to work on January 21, 2008 to ensure the wound from the cesarean section had time to heal properly. (Compl. at 4.) Plaintiff then spoke with McLaughlin to inform her of the doctor's orders, and to reiterate her desire for the 8 X 4 shift. (Id.) McLaughlin informed plaintiff, after consulting with the appropriate authorities, that her request for the 8 X 4 shift was denied. (Id.) The subsequent factual record, however, is disputed.*fn3

Plaintiff alleges that, after being denied her 8 X 4 shift, she requested to speak with Teri Milona*fn4 , presumably another human resources official at WIN. (Id.) Milona then informed plaintiff that she had been fired. (Id.) According to plaintiff, Milona was, during this conversation, "so rude & disrespectful she told me she didn't care that I had an [sic] C-Section." (Id.) When plaintiff inquired as to the reason for her termination, Ms. Milona responded, "So what, you're fired. I'm the boss and I make these decisions." (Pl.'s N.Y. Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff subsequently learned that the official date of her termination was "on or about November 21, 2007," approximately three weeks prior to this conversation. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff further alleges that she did not receive a termination letter from WIN. (Id.) Upon learning of her termination, plaintiff asked to be transferred to another building. (Id. ¶ 7.) Although, as plaintiff claims, other employees had previously been granted transfers by WIN, plaintiff was informed that WIN does not "allow transfers" and WIN denied plaintiff's request to rescind her termination. (Id.)

Defendant does not dispute that WIN denied plaintiff's request for an 8 X 4 shift upon her return from medical leave or even that plaintiff had been promised that shift. (See Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (Doc No. 17) at 3.) Rather, defendant disputes the circumstances of plaintiff's termination. According to defendant, after WIN denied plaintiff's request for the 8 X 4 shift, "Plaintiff would not agree to work her assigned schedule" and was accordingly terminated. (Id.)

Following plaintiff's termination, WIN offered plaintiff her position back. (Affirmation at 2.) Plaintiff, however, declined WIN's offer. (Id.) According to plaintiff, by the time WIN offered her the position back, she had already found another job. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed charges with the New York State Division of Human Rights on September, 23, 2008. (Pl.'s N.Y. Compl.) These were adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") which issued a Right to Sue Letter on March 15, 2010. (See Affirmation at 1.)


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 sufficiency of a complaint. 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)).

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district court must limit itself to the facts stated in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint. Hayden v. Cnty. of Nassau, 180 F.3d 42, 54 (2d Cir. 1999). 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 v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009) (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. ...

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