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Lisa Jackson v. Elmhurst Hospital Center and New

March 14, 2012

LISA JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELMHURST HOSPITAL CENTER AND NEW YORK CITY HEALTH & HOSPITALS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se, a Licensed Practical Nurse ("LPN") formerly employed by the New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation ("HHC"), brings this action against HHC and Elmhurst Hospital Center ("Elmhurst") for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117, 12203 ("ADA"). Plaintiff alleges various acts of discrimination and retaliation arising out of her employment with and eventual termination by HHC. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for a more definite statement pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons below, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice and defendant's motion for a more definite statement is denied as moot.*fn1

BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff's complaint and opposition appear to be a collection of every piece of paper in her possession that might plausibly relate to her case - - a fact substantiated by the inclusion of multiple copies of the same document. Though not especially voluminous, her pleading is charitably described as vague and largely devoid of actual allegations. After a painstaking and generous reading of the materials, the following appear to be the facts plaintiff relies upon to support her ADA claim, which are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion.

Lisa Jackson, plaintiff, was employed by HHC, defendant, as a LPN at least as of November of 1999. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 11.)*fn3 Beginning as early as 2006, plaintiff complained that her supervisors engaged in "constant harassment" and denied her opportunities to advance, behavior that only worsened after she reported her supervisors to their superiors. (Id. at 50-52.) Plaintiff indicated that she was suffering from "mental anguish," "migraine" and "[d]epression" as a result. (Id. at 50.) In March of that year, plaintiff claims her supervisors "fired" her by sending her, against her will, to Elmhurst's psychiatric emergency room, where she was held and released the same day. (Id. at 4, 47.) As a result of this activity, in November 2006, plaintiff filed an internal complaint with HHC's Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity alleging that one of her supervisors was retaliating against her by, inter alia, unlawfully imprisoning her, refusing to train her and improperly accounting for her overtime. (Id. at 29.) She also alleged that her union was failing to adequately represent her. (Id.) Around the same time, plaintiff suggests that she may have filed an initial questionnaire with the EEOC making similar complaints. (Id. at 43-45.) Plaintiff makes no allegations regarding any action actually taken as a result of any internal HHC complaint or initial EEOC questionnaire.

In or about May of 2008, while still working for HHC, plaintiff suffered an "allergic reaction" after being exposed to "construction renovation work" being performed where she worked. (Id. at 11.) As a result, she filed a Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") application on May 23, 2008, for leave until completion of the renovations, which was approved by letter dated June 18, 2008. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 37; Compl. (Doc. No. 1-2) at 26.) By letter dated July 2, 2008, HHC requested plaintiff provide further documentation in order to "consider a workplace accommodation request based on medical need." (Compl. (Doc. No. 1-2)at 28.)

On July 24, 2008, HHC received plaintiff's request to return to work on July 29, 2008, in which she indicated that there was "no reason for restrictions only not to work in the unfinished area." (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 63.) Plaintiff attached a note from her doctor indicating that she was cleared to return to work and that if she "experiences symptoms, [she should] go to [the] ER for evaluation." (Id. at 64.) Plaintiff apparently did not submit the additional information HHC requested earlier in July. (Id.) By letter dated July 29, 2008, HHC informed plaintiff that her request for an accommodation "not to work in the unfinished area" still required the additional information from plaintiff's doctors it previously sought, including, inter alia, an explanation about the "irritant," "toxins" and "contact allergens" referenced by plaintiff's doctor as the cause of plaintiff's allergic reaction. (Id. at 71.)

Plaintiff appears to have responded to HHC's request by submitting a letter, dated August 4, 2008, by a physician who examined plaintiff and indicated that there was "something" that "ignited" her symptoms. (Id. at 24.) However, in early September of 2008, plaintiff produced two notes from the physician who signed her FMLA request, indicating she was cleared to return to work on September 8, 2008 without any restrictions. (Id. at 27, 36.) HHC approved her request and plaintiff returned to work on September 8, 2008. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1-2) at 10, 25.)

On October 14, 2008, plaintiff submitted an intake questionnaire ("October 2008 EEOC Questionnaire") to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming disability discrimination and retaliation in connection with her May 2008 allergic reaction and HHC's alleged refusal to accommodate her disability and allow her to return to work. (Pl. Opp'n (Doc. No. 17) at 17-21.) On the October 2008 EEOC Questionnaire, plaintiff checked a box to indicate that she "want[ed] to file a charge of discrimination." (Id. at 20.) A formal charge alleging disability discrimination was later filed on June 29, 2009. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 10.) Subsequently, the EEOC provided plaintiff with a letter of dismissal and notice of rights on August 6, 2010. (Id. at 6.)

In her complaint, plaintiff also describes a series of other allegedly discriminatory acts that occurred after she returned to work in September of 2008. In January of 2009, plaintiff claims that she was again "fired" because she "walked out of a staff meeting after being accused of something by another staff member." (Id. at 4.) A warning notice, dated January 21, 2009, appended to plaintiff's complaint, indicates that she was actually issued a "warning" for "[d]isplay of inappropriate behavior in clinical area during staff meeting." (Id. at 66.) Plaintiff was released from work for the rest of the week. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1-2) at 10.) Also that year, plaintiff alleges that she requested and was denied "comp time" she earned in June of 2009, and payment for the time she was on leave for her allergic reaction from May of 2008 until September of 2008. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 4, 42.) In March of 2010, plaintiff alleges that she had to submit a "detailed" doctor's note and contact human resources in order to get paid for a sick day. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 4; Compl. (Doc. No. 1-2) at 5.)

Ultimately, plaintiff alleges that she was "fired" on May 30, 2010, while suffering from "on the job posionage [sic]." (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 4.) However, plaintiff offers little information about this incident other than attaching to her complaint doctor's notes indicating that she was seen by doctors on certain dates in or around June of 2010. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1-2) at 23-24.) Moreover, plaintiff has submitted documents indicating that HHC sought to determine why she was absent from work in both September and October of 2010, well after she was supposedly "fired." (Pl. Opp'n (Doc No. 17-2) at 22-23.)*fn4 Plaintiff's submissions as to this last point are so vague that the Court cannot be certain when, why or even if plaintiff was actually terminated.

Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on November 1, 2010, alleging causes of action for failure to accommodate, disability discrimination and retaliation. On June 20, 2011, defendants filed a fully briefed motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. (Doc. Nos. 11-19.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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, rather than factual, sufficiency of a complaint. Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009). 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 ...


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