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Jennifer Hoose and Katrese Lockett v. Monroe County

June 26, 2012

JENNIFER HOOSE AND KATRESE LOCKETT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MONROE COUNTY, DEFENDANT,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Jennifer Hoose ("Hoose") and Katrese Lockett ("Lockett"), bring this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the New York State Human Rights Law claiming that their rights were violated and that they were discriminated against when they were terminated from their employment with the defendant County of Monroe ("the County"). Specifically, the plaintiffs, both of whom are female, claim that they were fired from their jobs as Monroe County child protective services case workers for engaging in activity that was allowed for similarly situated male employees. In support of this claim, plaintiffs allege that they were fired for improperly accessing and disseminating confidential information, and that male co-employees were not disciplined or fired for engaging in the same activity.

Defendant Monroe County now moves for judgment on the pleadings claiming that the plaintiffs have failed to state a cause of action for discrimination under Title VII, are barred from bringing a cause of action under the New York State Human Rights Law because they have failed to satisfy the statutory prerequisites for filing such a claim, and have failed to establish the violation of a constitutional right that would subject the County to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs concede that they have failed to timely serve a notice of claim on the county with respect to their Human Rights Law claim, and have withdrawn that claim. With respect to plaintiffs' remaining claims, they allege that they have satisfied the pleading requirements for establishing Title VII and Section 1983 liability.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' Section 1983 claims, and deny defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' Title VII claims.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are alleged in the Complaint. Plaintiffs Jennifer Hoose and Katrese Lockett began their employment with the County of Monroe in July, 2004. Although the Complaint fails to identify the positions held by the plaintiffs, according to the defendant, Hoose and Lockett were employed as Child Protective Services caseworkers. According to the Complaint, both Hoose and Lockett were accused of improperly accessing confidential information contained in the County's computers. According to the County, the plaintiffs not only accessed confidential information that they were not authorized to view, they disclosed the contents of that information to third-parties. Plaintiffs contend that they were fired for accessing the confidential information.

Although the plaintiffs do not admit or deny that they accessed confidential information, they claim that male employees who accessed confidential information were not fired. As a result, they claim that they were discriminated against on the basis of their gender, in that they were treated differently than male employees who accessed confidential information. The defendant asserts that it is "not aware" of any instances in which male employees that were found to have accessed confidential information were treated differently than female employees found to have engaged in the same conduct.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in relevant part that upon the close of pleadings, any party may move for judgment upon the pleadings. A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) is evaluated under the same standards that apply to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Patel v. Contemporary Classics of Beverly Hills, 259 F.3d 123, 126 (2nd Cir. 2001). In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must "accept...all factual allegations in the complaint and draw...all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." See Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir.2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). In order to withstand dismissal, the complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (disavowing the oft-quoted statement from Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief").

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." See id. at 1965 (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, "at a bare minimum, the operative standard requires the 'plaintiff [to] provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" See Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56-57 (2d Cir.2008) (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1974).

In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court may consider only the pleadings, and not additional evidence submitted by the parties. Keywell L.L.C. v. Pavilion Building Installation, --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2012 WL 914998 at * 5 (W.D.N.Y., March 12, 2012)(Skretny, C.J.)(citing Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57, 66--67 (2d Cir.2004). "A complaint is deemed to include any written instrument attached to it as an exhibit, materials incorporated in it by reference, and documents that, although not incorporated by reference, are 'integral' to the complaint." Sira, 380 F.3d at 67. In cases where a defendant has moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but has submitted evidence outside the scope of the pleadings for the court's consideration, the court may, in its discretion, either consider the additional evidence and convert the defendant's motion to a motion for summary judgment (on notice to the plaintiff) or exclude the evidence and consider the motion as it is filed by the defendant. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).

In the instant case, despite the fact that discovery has been conducted and closed, defendant has moved for judgment on the pleadings, but has not moved for summary judgment. I defer to the defendant's choice, and decline to convert its motion to one for summary judgment. As a result, I exclude that evidence submitted by ...


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