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Saraiya Solomon v. Human Servs. Coalition of Tompkins Cnty.

September 11, 2012

SARAIYA SOLOMON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUMAN SERVS. COALITION OF TOMPKINS CNTY., INC.; CITY FED'N OF WOMEN'S ORG. OF ITHACA NEW YORK INC.; ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this pro se employment civil rights action filed by Saraiya Solomon ("Plaintiff") against two not-for-profit corporations and twenty-one employees and/or board members thereof ("Defendants"), are the following three motions: (1) a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), filed by the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County Inc., and nineteen of its employees and/or board members ("the Human Services Defendants"); (2) a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), filed by the City Federation of Women's Organizations of Ithaca New York Inc., and one of its employees ("the City Federation Defendants"); and (3) a cross-motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2), filed by Plaintiff. (Dkt. Nos. 18, 23, 40.) For the reasons set forth below, the Human Services Defendants' motion is granted; the City Federation Defendants' motion is granted; and Plaintiff's cross-motion is denied.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Claims Surviving the Court's Decision and Order of May 27, 2011

Plaintiff filed her Complaint on February 28, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1.) Generally, in her Complaint, Plaintiff, a Black female, alleges that, beginning in June 2009, she was subject to discrimination as a participant in an employment program known as the Senior Community Service Employment Program ("SCSEP"), administered by Experience Works, an organization funded by the United States Department of Labor ("USDOL"). (See generally id.) More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, while she was assigned by SCSEP to Defendant Human Services Coalition for on-the-job training and transition into the workforce, certain Defendants discriminated against her because of her race and retaliated against her when she complained about this discrimination to the USDOL. (Id.)

The first incident of alleged discrimination occurred when Plaintiff was informed by one of the Defendants that the library, which was owned by Defendant City Federation of Women's Organizations and not leased by Defendant Human Services Coalition, was "off limits," after she was seen using that library to speak with a Black client. (Id.) The second incident of alleged discrimination occurred approximately five to seven months later, when another Defendant gave her an unwarranted written reprimand for failing to follow proper "notification procedures" prior to missing work (specifically, by notifying her manager by email, with only a few hour's notice, that she would be missing work for three days due to "an emergency" that coincided with her birthday). (Id.) The first incident of retaliation occurred when, seven days after she complained to the USDOL about "the unlawful discriminatory actions of said Defendants," certain Defendants delayed three days in responding to her request for access to her personnel file. (Id.) The second incident of retaliation occurred when, thirteen days after she made the aforementioned complaint to the USDOL, she was informed by Experience Works that Defendant Human Services Coalition would no longer host her. (Id.)

Based on these (and other) factual allegations, Plaintiff's Complaint originally asserted thirteen causes of action against Defendants. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-88.)*fn1 However, on May 27, 2011, the Court issued a Decision and Order adopting the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter recommending that the Court dismiss with prejudice the claims asserted in certain of Plaintiff's causes of action to the extent that they are premised on a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 and/or 18 U.S.C. § 245, or are asserted on behalf of a third party. (Dkt. Nos. 4, 6.)

As a result, surviving after the Court's Decision and Order of May 27, 2011, were, and are, the following thirteen claims: (1) a claim that certain Defendants deprived Plaintiff of her right of "Equal Access [to SCSEP]" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (2) a claim that certain Defendants conspired "to Deprive [Plaintiff] of [Her] Civil Rights" based on her race in violation of N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (3) a claim that certain Defendants "Willful[ly] Interfe[d] [with] and Oppress[ed] [Plaintiff's Engagement in] a Protected Activity" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (4) a claim that certain Defendants "Retaliat[ed] [Against Plaintiff]" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (5) a claim that certain Defendants "Tortious[ly] Interfere[d] with [Plaintiff's] Contract[ual Rights]" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (6) a claim that certain Defendants "Adverse[ly] [A]ffect[ed] [Plaintiff's] Training/Employment Status" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (7) a claim that certain Defendants "[Discriminated Against Plaintiff Regarding the] Privileges Terms and Conditions of [Her] Employment" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (8) a claim that certain Defendants "Impos[ed] of Race-Biased Training/Employment Standard [on Plaintiff]" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (9) a claim that certain Defendants "Intentional[ly] Inflict[ed] Emotional Harm [on Plaintiff]" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (10) a claim that certain Defendants "Negligent[ly] Inflict[ed] of Emotional Distress [on Plaintiff]" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (11) a claim that certain Defendants "Intentional[ly] Interfere[d] with [Plaintiff's] Contractual Relations" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; (12) a claim that certain Defendants "Intentional[ly] Interfere[d] with [Plaintiff's] Prospective Economic Advantage" based on her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, N.Y. Human Rights Law, and New York State common law; and (13) a claim that certain Defendants "[Violated the] Duty of Care [Owed to Plaintiff]" based on her race (Id. at ¶¶ 24-88).

B. Briefing on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

1. Briefing on Human Services Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Generally, in their motion to dismiss, the Human Services Defendants assert the following six arguments: (1) the Complaint fails to state a claim against the individual board members, because it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting that the board members played any role in the actions alleged (and because the board members cannot be, through mere negligence, held liable for any alleged violation of New York State law, given that the Human Services Coalition is a not-for-profit corporation); (2) the Complaint fails to state a claim for discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, and N.Y. Human Rights Law, because it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting several necessary elements of such a claim, including the requirements that Defendants treated her differently than White employees, and that they did so because of her race; (3) the Complaint fails to state a claim for retaliation, because it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting that she was subjected to sufficiently serious adverse action, that any such adverse action was taken by any Defendant in this case, or that any such adverse action taken by a Defendant in this case was taken because of her protected speech (as opposed to being taken because of Plaintiff's failure to follow appropriate absence-notification procedures); (4) the Complaint fails to state a claim for tortious interference with contract, because it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting a breach of a contract, any Defendant's intentional procurement of that breach, and/or any actionable damages resulting therefrom; (5) the Complaint fails to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, because it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting extreme and outrageous conduct, severe emotional distress, and/or an intention to cause any such severe emotional distress; and (6) the Complaint fails to state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, because it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting extreme and outrageous conduct and/or any of the extremely narrow grounds for such emotional distress (e.g., any threat to her physical safety, any wrongful notification of a relative's death, or the wrongful handling of a family member's remains). (See generally Dkt. No. 18, Attach. 1.)

Generally, in her opposition memorandum of law (the body of which is 47 pages in length),*fn2 Plaintiff (1) attacks the integrity and veracity of defense counsel,*fn3 (2) invokes the special solicitude ordinarily afforded to inexperienced pro se litigants, (3) repeats numerous of the factual allegations contained in her Complaint, (4) asserts various arguments and new allegations regarding her claims of discrimination, retaliation, and infliction of emotional distress, and (5) submits some 71 pages of exhibits to the Court for its consideration on the Human Services Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (See generally Dkt. No. 27, Attach. 2.)

Generally, in their reply, the Human Services Defendants argue that Plaintiff's response (1) improperly attempts to assert new allegations in an effort to bolster her otherwise-deficient claims, (2) fails to adequately respond to their argument that (based on Plaintiff's own factual allegations) the board members were not personally involved in the violations alleged, (3) improperly attempts to bolster her discrimination claims through the submission of her own affidavit and the affidavit of the Black client whom she was speaking with in the library (which are, in any event, conclusory in nature), (4) fails to adequately respond to their intentional-procurement argument or their actionable-damages argument regarding her retaliation claim, and (5) improperly relies on a "Participant Schedule" in support of her claim of intentional interference with contractual relations. (Dkt. No. 30.)

On September 12, 2011, Plaintiff attempted to file a sur-reply to the Human Services Defendants' reply. (Dkt. No. 32.) Local Rule 7.1 of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court prohibits the filing of sur-replies. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(b)(1). Plaintiff had been informed of that fact before the time in question, through (1) her receipt of a courtesy copy of the District's Local Rules of Practice, and (2) the absence of a deadline for such sur-replies on the Court's briefing schedule (see Docket Entry dated July 21, 2011).*fn4 Despite this fact, Plaintiff did not request leave of the Court to file such a sur-reply. (See generally Docket Sheet.) Even if she had requested such leave, the Court would have denied that request, given (1) the lack of usefulness of her sur-reply, and (2) the fact that she was afforded more than adequate opportunity to brief the issues presented by the Human Services Defendants' motion, through the filing of her 47-page opposition memorandum of law. For each of these alternative reasons, the Court strikes from the docket Plaintiff's unauthorized sur-reply.

2. Briefing on City Federation Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Generally, in their motion to dismiss, the City Federation Defendants assert the following four arguments: (1) in an effort to avoid repetition, and in the interest of judicial economy, the arguments made in the memorandum of law of the Human Services Defendants should be permitted to be adopted and incorporated by reference in the City Federation Defendants' memorandum of law;*fn5 (2) only Plaintiff's first, second, third, ninth, tenth and thirteenth claims (as described above in Part I.A. of this Decision and Order) are asserted against the City Federation Defendants; (3) even if the Court were to construe Plaintiff's other claims as somehow being asserted against the City Federation Defendants, those claims fail as a matter of law; and (4) the Complaint does not allege numerous facts necessary to subject the City Federation Defendants to liability under the circumstances, including facts plausibly suggesting that (a) either of the two City Federation Defendants was an employer of Plaintiff or had any professional or contractual relationship with her, (b) the City Federation was an employer under either the N.Y. Human Rights Law or 42 U.S.C. § 2000a, or an employment agency or training program (or related entities) under the N.Y. Human Rights Law, and (c) the library in question was a place of "public accommodation, resort or amusement" under the N.Y. Human Rights Law, or a place of "public accommodation" under 42 U.S.C. § 2000a. (Dkt. No. 23, Attach. 1.)

Generally, in her opposition memorandum of law (the body of which is 28 pages in length),*fn6 Plaintiff (1) repeats numerous of the factual allegations contained in her Complaint, (2) asserts various arguments and new allegations regarding her claims of discrimination, conspiracy, retaliation, and infliction of emotional harm, (3) responds to the thirteen pleading deficiencies identified in the City Federation Defendants' above-described arguments by arguing that those deficiencies do not, or should not matter, because of (a) the other allegations in her Complaint and new allegations that she has asserted, (b) her reading of the relevant statutes (which she supports with a citation to only one case, which regards the role of temporal proximity in evaluating a causal connection), (c) definitions provided by "Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary," and (d) statements made by the Defendant City Federation's website, and (4) submits eight pages of exhibits to the Court for its consideration on the City Federation Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 28, Attach. 3.)

Generally, in their reply, the City Federation Defendants assert the following five arguments: (1) Plaintiff appears to agree that only her first, second, third, ninth, tenth and thirteenth claims (as described above in Part I.A. of this Decision and Order) are asserted against the City Federation Defendants; (2) based on Plaintiff's Complaint and opposition memorandum of law, it appears that each of these claims is based on the so-called "library incident"; (3) Plaintiff's subjective conclusion of racism (and the subject interpretation of her third-party declarant) is insufficient to plead a claim for racial discrimination; (4) according to Plaintiff's own factual allegations, the new "off limits" policy promulgated by one of the Human Services Defendants was directed not solely at Plaintiff but at all staff of Defendant Human Services Coalition; and (5) as previously argued in the City Federation Defendants' memorandum of law in chief, the Complaint does not allege numerous facts necessary to subject the City Federation Defendants to liability under the circumstances. (Dkt. No. 29.)

On September 12, 2011, Plaintiff attempted to file a sur-reply to the City Federation Defendants' reply. (Dkt. No. 31.) For the same reasons described above in Part I.B.1. of this Decision and Order, the Court ...


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