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Michelle Cummings-Fowler v. Suffolk County Community College

April 18, 2012

MICHELLE CUMMINGS-FOWLER , PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, JAMES CANNIFF, AND RICHARD BRITTON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

APPEARANCES:

On August 19, 2009, Michelle Cummings-Fowler ("the Plaintiff") commenced this lawsuit against her former employer, Suffolk County Community College ("SCCC"), and her former supervisors, James Canniff ("Canniff") and SCCC Dean Richard Britton ("Britton") (collectively "the Defendants"), alleging discrimination claims under 42 U.S.C. § 2000-e ("Title VII") and N.Y. Executive Law § 296(6) ("New York Human Rights Law" or "NYHRL"), as well as a related cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") ("the Initial Complaint"). (Docket Entry # 1.)

On March 2, 2010, the Court dismissed the NYHRL claims as time-barred, and granted the Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint with respect to her hostile work environment claims against Canniff and Britton ("the Individual Defendants") ("the March Order"). (Docket Entry # 14.) Subsequently, on March 22, 2010, the Plaintiff filed an amended complaint ("the Amended Complaint"). (Docket Entry # 15.) By decision and order dated November 2, 2010, the Court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants' motion to dismiss the hostile work environment claims against the Individual Defendants ("the November Order"). (Docket Entry # 23.)

Presently before the Court is a motion by the Plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) ("Rule 15(a)") to amend the complaint to add Title VII retaliation claims against defendant SCCC arising from alleged adverse actions taken against the Plaintiff after she filed the Initial Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Plaintiff's motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The background of this case is set forth more fully in the March Order and the November Order. Familiarity with the factual and procedural background of this case is presumed.

Briefly, the Plaintiff, a 45 year-old African-American woman, was hired by SCCC as an adjunct faculty member in 1997. Over the course of her employment, the Plaintiff alleges that she was passed over for a number of promotions in favor of less qualified white individuals, and that she was subject to inappropriate racial comments and other disparate treatment by her supervisors, Canniff and Britton. Following this Court's rulings in the March Order and the November Order, the operative complaint in this action asserts the following claims: (1) that SCCC discriminated against the Plaintiff on the basis of race by: (a) failing to promote her; and (b) subjecting her to a hostile work environment; (2) that SCCC violated Section 1983 by failing to investigate and address the Plaintiff's allegations of racial discrimination; (3) that Britton subjected the Plaintiff to a hostile work environment in violation of Section 1983; and (4) that Canniff engaged in discriminatory hiring practices in violation of Section 1983.

On September 21, 2011, the Plaintiff sought leave to file a second amended complaint adding claims of unlawful retaliation under Title VII against defendant SCCC based on the following conduct that allegedly occurred after she filed the Initial Complaint in this action on August 19, 2009:

34. In or around October 2009, Defendant SCCC hired Plaintiff's estranged husband, Darryl Fowler to work at SCCC, despite the fact that SCCC had knowledge that Plaintiff had two orders of protection issued against Darryl Fowler.

35. Specifically, Michele Green, the Assistant Dean of Counseling, was aware of this fact, yet hired Darryl Fowler.

36. As a result of this retaliatory action, Plaintiff was forced to work in an unsafe environment. Said action on the part of SCCC materially altered Plaintiff's work environment as she was now required to report to work with the knowledge that her estranged husband, who SCCC knew possessed violent tendencies against her which warranted the issuance of orders of protection, had access to her.

37. Subsequently, after Plaintiff complained about this fact, SCCC terminated Darryl Fowler's employment. In doing so, however, SCCC and Green, advised Darryl Fowler that he was being terminated due to Plaintiff's orders of protection and her complaints regarding his continued employment with SCCC.

38. As a result of this conduct by SCCC, on November 20, 2009, Plaintiff was the victim of an attempted murder, wherein Darryl Fowler broke into her home and shot her ten ...


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