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Stephanie Grossman v. Maplewood School and Joseph Holden

September 6, 2012


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


Plaintiff brings this employment action alleging age discrimination and quid pro quo sexual harassment. Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted and the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice to replead within thirty days of the entry of this Memorandum and Order.


The following facts are taken from the Complaint and are assumed true for present purposes. Plaintiff, Stephanie Grossman, began her employment as a Head Kindergarten Teacher for the defendant, Maplewood School, in September 2004. (Compl. ¶ 8.) In December of 2007, defendant Joseph Holden ("Holden"), a Director at the School and plaintiff's direct supervisor, announced that due to reduced enrollment, the School would not issue year-end bonuses to its employees. (Id. ¶ 13.) Immediately following this announcement, Holden approached plaintiff and told her that despite the news about employee bonuses, "he wanted to give her something." (Id. ¶ 14.) He then "proceeded to place cash in plaintiff's hand, and while doing so attempted to kiss her on the mouth." (Id.) Plaintiff tried to turn her head, but the kiss landed "partially on her cheek, and partially on her lips." (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that following this incident, Holden's treatment of plaintiff became "noticeably colder and less cordial." (Id. ¶ 15.) Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Holden stopped holding meetings with plaintiff where they would typically, "discuss what was occurring in her classroom, and concepts for the school," (id. ¶ 16), and failed to attend the graduation ceremony for plaintiff's kindergarten students "that year," even though he attended the same ceremony for the other classes, (id. ¶ 17).

On August 23, 2010, Holden informed plaintiff that her employment was being terminated. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff, who was 53 at the time of her termination, alleges that she was replaced by a less experienced, younger woman. (Id. ¶ 21.)

In plaintiff's December 1, 2011 letter to the Court, plaintiff withdrew her previously asserted claims for sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII, and retaliation under New York State Human Rights Law. (See Docket No. 9; Order dated 12/06/11 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i)).) What remain are plaintiff's federal claim for age discrimination, and her state law claim for sexual harassment.


I.STANDARD OF REVIEW -Motion To Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

Rule 8(a) provides that a pleading shall contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has clarified the pleading standard applicable in evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

First, in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Court disavowed the well-known statement in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (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." 550 U.S. at 562. Instead, to survive a motion to dismiss under Twombly, a plaintiff must allege "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

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. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Id. at 555 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

More recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. --, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court provided further guidance, setting a two-pronged approach for courts considering a motion to dismiss. First, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." 129 S. Ct. at 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. Thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the ...

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