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Patrick Mcdowell v. North Shore - Long Island Jewish Health

March 13, 2012

PATRICK MCDOWELL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTH SHORE - LONG ISLAND JEWISH HEALTH SYSTEM, INC. A/K/A NORTH SHORE - LONG ISLAND JEWISH HEALTH SYSTEM, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur D. Spatt United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

By: Peter D. Stergios, Esq. SPATT, District Judge.

The Plaintiff in this case, Patrick McDowell, brings this action against his former employer, North Shore -- Long Island Jewish Health System, Inc. a/k/a North Shore -- Long Island Jewish Health System (the "Defendant" or "North Shore") alleging claims of racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"). This Court previously dismissed the Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ. P.") 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, but did so without prejudice to the Plaintiff's right to serve an amended complaint within twenty days of the dismissal. McDowell v. North Shore -- Long Island Jewish Health System, Inc. ("McDowell I"), 788 F. Supp. 2d 78 (E.D.N.Y. 2011). The Plaintiff has filed a second amended complaint and the Defendant again has filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons set forth below, this Court denies the Defendant's motion in its entirety.

I.BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise stated, the following facts are drawn from the Plaintiff's second amended complaint and the documents that were incorporated by reference in the complaint. Beginning in September of 2007, the Plaintiff, a black man, was employed by the Defendant as a biomedical technician and he was responsible for the maintenance, inspection, and repair of medical equipment. Over the course of this employment, the Plaintiff claims to have performed his duties satisfactorily and followed North Shore's standards for the inspection and maintenance of medical equipment. In addition, he contends that he refrained from any misconduct like absenteeism, theft, or insubordination. According to the Plaintiff, his job performance was on par with the biomedical technicians with whom he worked. In particular, the Plaintiff asserts that his work was "at least as good as" the work performed by three white co-workers who performed the same duties and reported to the same manager as the Plaintiff. (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15, 19).

In or about August of 2008, the Plaintiff was involved in an incident with a co-worker referred to as "DG," who was a white biomedical technician also employed by the Defendant. In the bio-medical ("bio-med") shop of Glen Cove Hospital, the Plaintiff was listening to the radio as he worked and, according to the Plaintiff, DG took exception. DG entered the bio-med shop and, using expletives, told the Plaintiff to shut off the radio. The Plaintiff refused. After yelling at the Plaintiff to turn the radio off for a second time to no avail, DG confronted the Plaintiff and stated "I'll fuck you up nigger." (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) The confrontation escalated no further and shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff complained to the Defendant's Human Resources Manager, Deborah Solivan ("Solivan"), about this incident. Solivan informed the Plaintiff that the matter was going to be investigated. When the Plaintiff did not hear from Solivan for several weeks, he contacted her again and was told that the matter was still under investigation. Neither Solivan nor any other representative of North Shore contacted the Plaintiff about the results of the investigation.

According to the Plaintiff, the Defendant abruptly discharged him from his duties in December of 2008, citing both a dearth of available assignments and a conflict with the Plaintiff's school schedule, which interfered with his work, as the reasons for the discharge. The Plaintiff alleges that despite the Defendant's claim that no work assignments were available, at least one non-black biomedical technician was hired by the Defendant after the Plaintiff's discharge. Further, the Plaintiff alleges that he attended school from the beginning of his employment, which the Defendant was aware of and made no complaints. Based on these facts, the Plaintiff asserts that "the reasonable inference from the timing, circumstances, and justification offered by the [Defendant] is that Plaintiff was discharged because of his race or in retaliation for his complaint or both and that the [Defendant's] discrimination and/or retaliation were intentional." (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ¶ 20).

On August 2, 2010, the Plaintiff commenced this action, asserting causes of action for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the New York State Human Rights Law. After the Plaintiff served his first amended complaint, the Defendant filed a motion on October 20, 2010 to dismiss the Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On June 1, 2011, this Court granted the Defendant's motion to dismiss without prejudice to the Plaintiff's right to serve another amended complaint within twenty days of the date of the decision. On June 20, 2011, the Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. On July 5, 2011, the Defendant moved this Court to dismiss the Plaintiff's second amended complaint, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Under the now well-established Twombly standard, a complaint should be dismissed only if it does not contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). The Second Circuit has explained that, after Twombly, the Court's inquiry under Rule 12(b)(6) is guided by two principles. Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)). "First, although 'a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint,' that 'tenet' 'is inapplicable to legal conclusions,' and '[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.' " Id. at 72 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). " 'Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss' and '[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.' " Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Thus, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and . . . determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.

In considering a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the factual allegations set forth in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the Plaintiffs' favor. Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 118, 110 S. Ct. 975, 979, 108 L. Ed. 2d 100 (1990); In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 91 (2d Cir. 2007). Only if this Court is satisfied that "the complaint cannot state any set of facts that would entitle the plaintiff to relief" will it grant dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Hertz Corp. v. City of New York, 1 F.3d 121, 125 (2d Cir. 1993). The issue on a motion to dismiss is "not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Todd v. Exxon Corp., 275 F.3d 191, 198 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974)). "[T]o survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, plaintiff need not establish a prima facie case of discrimination, but her complaint must give fair notice of her claims, and those claims must be facially plausible." Morris v. David Lerner Assocs., 680 F. Supp. 2d 430, 439 (E.D.N.Y. 2010); Leibowitz v. Cornell Univ., 445 F.3d 586, 591 (2d Cir. 2006) (holding that a plaintiff is not required to plead a prima facie case of discrimination in a discrimination case) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 515, 122 S. Ct. 992, 999, 152 L. Ed. 2d 1 (2002)); Ortiz v. Standard and Poor's, No. 10-CV-8490, 2011 WL 4056901, at *4 n.9 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2011) (same); Barbosa v. Continuum Health Partners, Inc., 716 F. Supp. 2d 210, 215 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (citing Fowler v. Scores Holding Co., 677 F. Supp. 2d 673, 679 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)) (same); Goodman v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 716 F. Supp. 2d 253, 259-60 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (same); see also Hedges v. Town of Madison, No. 10-CV-1566, 2012 WL 101199, at *1 (2d Cir. Jan. 13, 2012) ("[A]t a minimum, employment discrimination claims must meet the standard of pleading set forth in Twombly and Iqbal, even if pleading a prima facie case is not required.").

B. As to the Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1981 Cause of Action

The Plaintiff asserts in his complaint that this Court should reasonably infer "from the timing, circumstances, and justification offered by the [Defendant]" that the Defendant terminated the Plaintiff because he was a racial minority and/or because he filed a racially-based complaint with the Defendant's Human Resources Department. (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ...


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