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Stein v. Johnson City School District

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 7, 2013

KELLI A. STEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNSON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

OFFICE OF DOUGLAS W. DRAZEN, DOUGLAS W. DRAZEN, ESQ., Binghamton, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

THE LAW FIRM OF FRANK W. MILLER, FRANK W. MILLER, ESQ., J. RYAN HATCH, ESQ., East Syracuse, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.

FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, Jr., District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION[1]

Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] The Court heard oral argument in support of, and in opposition to, this motion on September 27, 2013. At the end of argument, the Court advised counsel that a written decision would be forthcoming. The following constitutes the Court's written decision regarding the pending motion.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her original complaint in this action on October 4, 2012. See Dkt. No. 1. Defendant filed an answer to that complaint on October 21, 2012. See Dkt. No. 6. On November 19, 2012, Plaintiff filed her amended complaint. See Dkt. No. 10. On November 30, 2012, Defendant filed its answer to the amended complaint. See Dkt. No. 11. On January 9, 2013, Defendant filed the pending motion for judgment on the pleadings, see Dkt. No. 13, to which Plaintiff filed opposition papers on February 5, 2013, see Dkt. No. 16. Finally, Defendant filed a reply in further support of its motion on February 11, 2013. See Dkt. No. 17.

In her amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts seven causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 29 U.S.C. § 1161(a), and state law. Specifically, Plaintiff satates that she is complaining that Defendant terminated her employment in violation of her civil rights, created a hostile work environment, and failed to provide her with the required COBRA notice within the time prescribed under state and federal law. See Dkt. No. 10, Amended Complaint at ¶ 5. In addition, Plaintiff asserts state-law claims sounding in defamation, slander and libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. See id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of review

A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). "The standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.'" Myers v. Camden Cent. Sch. Dist., No. 5:10-CV-1167, 2012 WL 2921574, *4 (N.D.N.Y. July 17, 2012) (quotation omitted). In reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court may consider the pleadings, "(1) documents attached as an exhibit to the complaint or answer, (2) documents incorporated by reference in the complaint (and provided by the parties), (3) documents that, although not incorporated by reference, are integral' to the complaint, or (4) any matter of which the court can take judicial notice for the factual background of the case." Id. (footnote omitted).

To withstand a motion for judgment on the pleadings, "a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."'" Dotson v. City of Syracuse, No. 5:11-CV-620, 2013 WL 1293775, *6 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2013) (quoting Ruotolo v. City of N.Y., 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007))). Thus, the plaintiff "must provide the grounds upon which [her] claim rests through factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."'" Id. (quoting ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell, 550 U.S. at 555)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (citation omitted). Thus, "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement to relief."'" Id. (quoting [ Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

B. Plaintiff's Title VII claims

Plaintiff's counsel conceded at oral argument that Plaintiff had not filed an administrative complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prior to filing her complaint. Her failure to do so is fatal to her Title VII claims. See Tanvir v. N.Y. City Health & Hosps. Corp., 480 F.Appx. 620, 621 (2d Cir. 2012) (stating that "[e]xhaustion of administrative remedies through the EEOC is an essential element of the Title VII... statutory scheme[] and, as such, a precondition to bringing such claims in federal court" (quoting Leqnani v. Alitalia Linee Aeree Italiane, S.P.A., 274 ...


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