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Jo-Anne Ruggerio v. Dynamic Electric System Inc..

July 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glasser, United States District Judge:

Memorandum and Order

Plaintiff, Jo-Anne Ruggerio ("Ruggerio" or "plaintiff"), commenced this action against defendants Dynamic Electric System Inc. ("Dynamic"), Anzelm Krysa ("Krysa"), Jim Rostkowski ("Rostkowski"), and Carl Balzofiore ("Balzofiore"), alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., The New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296, et seq. (McKinney 2010), and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-101. On February 7, 2012, Dynamic and Krysa (the "Dynamic defendants") moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 In the alternative, the Dynamic defendants argue that summary judgment should be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) because plaintiff executed a waiver and release of her claims. On March 2, 2012, defendant Rostkowski also moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 12(d). Balzofiore has not made a motion. For the following reasons, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.


The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted. Dynamic is an electrical contracting and engineering company located in Brooklyn, New York. Compl. ¶ 7. Plaintiff alleges that Dynamic owns and operates a number of subsidiaries, including Dynamic Energy Group, Inc. ("DEGI") and Dynamic Mechanical. Id. ¶ 9. Kryza is the Chairman of Dynamic, Rostkowski is the Vice President of DEGI, and Balzofiore is the owner or officer of Dynamic Mechanical. Id. ¶¶ 10-12 Plaintiff alleges that these corporations operated as a single enterprise. Id. ¶ 13.

Plaintiff was hired on August 4, 2008 as a Field Administrator with Dynamic Electric System, Inc. Id. ¶¶ 16-18. In that capacity, she was assigned to a work site in Staten Island, where defendants were constructing the Charleston Bus Depot for the New York City Transit Authority. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff alleges she was subjected to daily sexual harassment and discrimination at that site, including: being called derogatory sexual names, such as "bitch" or "cunt"; being told to perform sexual acts, such as "suck dick" or "strap on a dildo"; and receiving "Post-it" notes on her computer with obscene and threatening anonymous messages.*fn2 Id. ¶ 20. She alleges many of these acts were witnessed by managerial staff and supervisors, who took no action or who teased her about having a "secret admirer." Id. ¶ 22. She also made verbal complaints to Rostkowski and Balzofiore, who took no action. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

In September, 2009, Ruggerio filed a grievance with her union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("IBEW"), but the harassment continued. Compl. ¶¶ 24-25. In January 2010, defendants terminated Ms. Ruggerio's employment, citing a lack of work. Compl. ¶ 26. Approximately one year later, in January 2011, plaintiff continued to pursue her grievance with the IBEW. See Compl. ¶ 28; Declaration of Kelly C. Spina dated Mar. 2, 2012 ("Spina Decl.") Ex. A (Plaintiff's EEOC charge, declaring, under penalty of perjury, that plaintiff made written and verbal complaints to the IBEW in January 2011 regarding the sexual harassment she had suffered). Plaintiff alleges that in response to her ongoing complaints, defendants retaliated against her in January 2011 by "respon[ding] to telephone inquiries for an employment reference for me . . . [with] false and derogatory statements that I was fired because I was 'blowing the guys on the job site.'" See Affidavit of Plaintiff dated February 21, 2012 ("Pl.'s 1st Aff.") (Dkt. No. 11-1), ¶ 7; see also Compl. ¶ 28.

Beginning in January 2011, the parties sought to settle plaintiff's claims. By a letter dated January 12, 2011, the IBEW sent Dynamic a settlement offer, signed by the plaintiff. See Affidavit of Anzelm Krysa dated Feb. 7, 2012 ("Krysa Aff."), Ex. A (Letter to Krysa dated January 12, 2011). This offer was never accepted by Dynamic. See id; Pl.'s 1st Aff. ¶ 10.

By a letter dated February 18, 2011, Krysa, acting on behalf of Dynamic, sent plaintiff a Letter Agreement and Release. See Krysa Aff. Ex. B (the "Letter Agreement") & C ("the Release"). The Letter Agreement stated "you are eligible to receive the severance benefits described in this letter ("Letter Agreement") if you will sign and return the Letter Agreement and Attachment A ("Release") to me by March 19, 2011 and do not revoke your acceptance." Id. Ex. C (emphasis in original). Plaintiff signed the Release on April 6, 2011, more than two weeks after the March 19, 2011 deadline. Id. Ex. C; Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 4. Plaintiff never signed the Letter Agreement.

The Release stated, in relevant part:

In consideration of the Severance Pay and the loan forgiveness described in the Letter Agreement, which you acknowledge you would not otherwise be entitled to receive, you hereby fully, forever, irrevocably and unconditionally release, remise and discharge the Company, and all of the following: its officers, directors, stockholders, corporate affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, agents and employees (each in their individual and corporate capacities) . . . (hereinafter the "Released Parties") from any and all claims, grievances, charges, complaints, demands, actions, causes of action, suits, rights . . . of every kind and nature that you ever had or now have against the Released Parties, including but not limited to, any and all claims arising out of or relating to your employment with and/or separation from the Company, including, but not limited to, all claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq. . . . all claims under the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law Sec. 290 et seq., . . . and any claim or damage arising out of your employment with and/or separation from the Company (including a claim for retaliation) under any common law theory or any federal, state or local statute or ordinance not expressly referenced above.

Id. In exchange for the release of her claims, Dynamic committed to: (1) pay Ruggerio "the sum of $3,120.00 less all applicable taxes and withholdings"; and (2) forgive "the $3,000 personal loan that you have taken from the Company,*fn3 which as of February 18, 2011 has the outstanding balance in the amount of . . . $2,100.00." Id. Ex. B, ¶ 3 (emphasis in original).

Plaintiff alleges that defendants did not forgive her loan or make the promised severance payment. See Pl.'s 1st Aff, ¶ 14. By a letter dated June 13, 2011, plaintiff wrote to the Dynmaic defendants, stating that she did not consider the Letter Agreement and Release binding. See Declaration of Alan Serrins dated February 21, 2012 ("Serrins Decl.") Ex. 3. By a letter dated July 11, 2011, Dynamic mailed a check for $1,876.64 to plaintiff. See Krysa Aff. Ex. E; Plaintiff's Statement Pursuant to Rule 56.1 ("Pl.'s R. 56.1") ¶ 11. The Dynamic defendants allege this amount represented $3,120.00, less applicable tax withholdings, as promised in the Letter Agreement. Dynamic Defendants' Statement of Material Facts ("Dynamic R. 56.1") ¶ 11. By an email dated July 15, 2011, plaintiff rejected the check, reiterating to the Dynamic defendants that she considered the Release "null and void." Serrins Decl. Ex. 4.

On September 22, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). See Krysa Aff. Ex. F. On November 23, 2011, the EEOC issued plaintiff a "right to sue" letter. Compl. ¶ 3. On January 9, 2012, plaintiff filed her Complaint.


This Court has original jurisdiction over plaintiff's Title VII claims. The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims. Federal courts have supplemental jurisdiction over "all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). A state law claim forms part of the same controversy if the state and federal claim "derive from a common nucleus of operative fact." United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S. Ct. 1130, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218 (1966). Here, the parties and alleged events and injuries that are grounds for plaintiff's federal claims are identical to those of plaintiff's state law claims.


I.Standard of ...

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