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Latanya Brandon v. Lori O'mara and Riverdale

September 30, 2011

LATANYA BRANDON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LORI O'MARA AND RIVERDALE KINGSBRIDGE ACADEMY,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Lori O'Mara moves to dismiss pro se plaintiff Latanya Brandon's claim of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), the New York State Human Rights Law ("SHRL"), and New York City Human Rights Law ("CHRL"). For the reasons that follow, O'Mara's motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from a letter to the EEOC annexed to Brandon's form complaint and from Brandon's opposition to the motion to dismiss.

Brandon began working as a teacher at Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy ("the Academy") in September 2001. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 3.) In November 2007, Brandon requested a leave of absence to undergo treatment for cancer. (Id.) She began the leave of absence in January 2008. (Dec. of A. Mason, Jan. 27, 2011 Ex. B, Subsection 3.)*fn1

Brandon returned to work sometime in the first half of 2008. In medical forms submitted to the Department of Education, Brandon indicated that, following her treatment, she would experience fatigue and would be unable to lift heavy objects. (Id.) Brandon also indicated that her "workload was overwhelming in addition to [her] treatments and requested assistance throughout the school year." (Id.)

Rather than accommodate Brandon's requests, the Academy assigned her to teach classes for the 2008-2009 school year that were incidental to her normal class schedule in areas beyond the scope of her training and certification. (Id.) The "Academy would not consider any alternatives to this incidental teaching assignment . . . . despite the fact that other science teachers were willing to switch classes" with her. (Id.) Brandon further alleges that she requested "supplies, deadline extension/time management assistance, and a program alteration to something [she was] more qualified to teach." (Id.) "All of [these] requests made during the first semester" of the 2008-2009 school year- "September 2008-Janaury 2009"-"went unanswered or [were] denied." (Id.)

According to Brandon, she "was then penalized for requesting assistance by being given an unsatisfactory annual rating" in evaluations that appear to have been made by O'Mara and someone identified as Academy Vice Principal Mohan whose first name is not specified. (Id. Subsection 4.) Brandon alleges that the Academy rated her unsatisfactory because she "failed to maintain a wholesome classroom atmosphere, to control a class, and to use effectively appropriate methods and techniques." (Id.) Brandon avers that the Academy had no basis to rate her unsatisfactory for these reasons because (1) she passed a state Assessment of Teaching Skills evaluation based on a video of her classroom teaching and (2) she did in fact participate with other teachers in an "intervisitation" program that was not meant to be evaluative. (Id.) Brandon also alleges that other staff members who did not complete the intervisitation program did not receive unsatisfactory ratings. (Id.) Brandon claims that receiving an unsatisfactory rating prevented her from advancing to "the proper salary step. . . ." (Id. Subsection 9.)

Brandon also alleges that she was required to switch classrooms prior to both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. The latter move appears to have taken place on June 25, 2009. (Id. Subsection 6.) Brandon was both the only African-American teacher in the science department and the only member of the department to be asked to move classrooms in either year. Brandon alleges that these classroom moves were difficult for her to undertake while recovering from cancer treatment and that the Academy failed to provide her with assistance from its janitorial staff.

Finally, Brandon alleges that she was assigned homeroom duty for the 2009-2010 school year even though she requested three alternatives to that assignment, most notably hall duty. (Id. Subsection 8.) Brandon alleges that she was senior to other teachers who were assigned in accordance with their preferences and that the Academy generally made such assignments based on seniority. (Id.)

Brandon filed an EEOC charge that was stamped received by the EEOC on November 6, 2009. (Mason Dec. Ex. H.) She filed this action on July 7, 2010 alleging claims under Title VII, the ADA, the SHRL, and the CHRL against both O'Mara and the Academy. On January 28, 2011, O'Mara filed a motion [6] under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss Brandon's claims against her for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

"Courts ruling on motions to dismiss must accept as true all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Dickerson v. Mut. of Am., 703 F. Supp. 2d 283, 290 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Rather, "[t]o survive 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.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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. "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).

"A document filed pro se is 'to be liberally construed,' and a 'pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Courts must "read[] such submissions 'to raise the strongest arguments they suggest.'" Bertin v. United States, 478 F.3d 489, 491 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). However, "[w]hile held to a less stringent standard, the pro se plaintiff is not relieved of pleading requirements, and failure to plead the basic elements of a cause of action may result in dismissal." Andino v. Fischer,698 F. Supp. 2d 362, 376(S.D.N.Y. 2010). ...


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