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Keith Richardson v. New York State Office of Mental Health

May 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Keith Richardson commenced this action against defendants*fn1 New York State Office of Mental Health, Central New York Psychiatric Center (Center), Donald Sawyer, Maureen Bosco, Patricia Bardo, Mary Carli, William Moorehead, Corey Conley and Christine Mandigo, alleging violations of Title VII,*fn2 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, New York State Human Rights and Executive Law, and state tort law. (See Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 12.) Pending is defendants' motion to dismiss. (See Dkt. No. 20.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

II. Background*fn3

Although now retired, Richardson, an African-American male, began his employment with the Center in January 1982. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-3.) Throughout his tenure there, Richardson's evaluations were always above average, and, in February 2006, he was promoted to a Grade 20 supervisor. (See id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Again, Richardson's performance as a supervisor was above average, and remained as such until his demotion in November 2009, less than one month after his significant other, Christine Bergerson,*fn4 was successful in her lawsuit against the Center. (See id. ¶¶ 6-10.) That lawsuit, which resulted in a damages award of $580,000, was premised on, among other things, the Center's unlawful termination of Bergerson, a white female, "because of her gender and 'affiliation' with a person of a different race, namely, [Richardson]." (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

Indeed, it was this relationship that Richardson believes led to his demotion. (See id. ¶ 11.) Despite defendants' claim that his position was "'revoked' . . . due to a new Civil Service list," Richardson was not reinstated when he became "'reachable' on the list." (Id. ¶ 10.) Instead, Bosco, Moorehead and Conley jointly decided to promote "three other employees, all White, who had less time and experience than [him]." (Id.) Though Richardson was not the only individual penalized for aiding Bergerson,*fn5 his race and affiliation with her "were motivating and/or determining factors in [d]efendants' decision" to pass him over for promotion. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 15, 17-19.)

As a result of defendants' actions, Richardson notified the Center's affirmative action officer of his concerns, and filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on September 2, 2010. (Id. ¶ 20.) After learning of the EEOC complaint, Bosco, Bardo, Carli and Mandigo initiated an investigation of Richardson for alleged misconduct. (See id. ¶ 21.) To this end, Richardson "was ordered to report for an 'interrogation' on September 20, 2010." (Id. ¶ 22.) For two hours, Bosco, Bardo and Carli questioned Richardson "about incidents that occurred months and even a year earlier." (Id. ¶ 22.) In addition, defendants interviewed Richardson's co-workers and summoned the State Police to conduct a canine search for contraband. (See id. ¶ 23.)

As a consequence of defendants' conduct, Richardson suffered from, inter alia, various physical and mental ailments, as well as a loss of "income in the form of wages, benefits, promotional opportunities and job assignments." (Id. ¶ 29.) He now asserts nine causes of action against defendants for discrimination, retaliation, deprivation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and state tort law. (See id. ¶¶ 30-57.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F. Supp. 2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

Defendants argue that the court should decline pendent jurisdiction over the Human Rights Law claims, and dismiss the remaining causes of action for failure to state a claim. (See Dkt. No. 20, Attach. 2 at 4-19.) Richardson counters each of defendants' assertions, arguing, in essence, that his Amended Complaint is sufficient to withstand defendants' motion to dismiss. (See generally Dkt. No. 22.) The court agrees with Richardson.

At this juncture, Richardson's obligation is only to plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that [defendants are] liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Simply put, defendants' arguments are wholly unpersuasive. The facts pertaining to Richardson's demotion, and the investigation that ensued after he filed his EEOC complaint far exceed the "facial plausibility" threshold with respect to each of his causes of action.*fn6

Id. Though allegations alone will not suffice at a later stage,Richardson's Amended Complaint is unquestionably sufficient to survive a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). As ...

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