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Deberry v. Brookdale Univ. Hosp. & Med. Ctr.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 31, 2014


For Heather Deberry, Plaintiff: Steven A. Morelli, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Offices of Steven A. Morelli, P.C., Garden City, NY; Paul Bartels, Garden City, NY.

For Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Defendant: Lauri Faith Rasnick, LEAD ATTORNEY, Epstein Becker & Green. P.C., New York, NY.

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SANDRA L. TOWNES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Heather DeBerry brings this employment discrimination suit against her current employer, Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, incorrectly identified in the complaint as Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, (" Brookdale" ), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment on account of her race and ethnicity in violation of (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ), (2) New York State Human Rights Law, New York State Executive Law § 290, et seq., (" NYSHRL" ), and (3) New York City Human Rights Law, Title 8 of the New York City Administrative Code (" NYCHRL" ). Now before

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the Court is Brookdale's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Under the now well-established Twombly standard, a complaint should be dismissed only if it does not contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is " plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). " 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration, citations, and internal quotation marks omitted). While Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 " marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, ... it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

The Supreme Court has clarified that Twombly sets out a two-pronged approach for district courts considering motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (2009). District courts should first " identify[ ] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth," and second, if a complaint contains " well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679.

This court is generally limited to the " facts stated in the complaint or documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference." Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir. 2005). It may also consider " matters of which judicial notice may be taken, or ... documents either in plaintiff[']s[] possession or of which plaintiff[] had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit," Brass v. Am. Film Technologies, Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted), such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) charge of discrimination and decision. See Morris v. David Lerner Associates, 680 F.Supp.2d 430, 435-36 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (considering EEOC charge of discrimination and right to sue letter as public documents and documents relied on in drafting the complaint).


The Court accepts as true, for purposes of this motion, the following facts alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint:

1. Employment at Brookdale

For approximately 20 years, DeBerry, a Caribbean-American, has worked at Brookdale. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Since 2003, she has held the position of Accounts Receivable Clerk in the finance department. (Compl. ¶ 8.) In this position, she received exemplary performance evaluations in which she was described as " hard-working" and " error-free," and told to " consider advancement beyond [her] position." (Compl. ¶ 9.)

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2. Discriminatory Harassment by Tashika Williams

In 2007, Tashika Williams, an African-American coworker, began to subject plaintiff to pervasive and sometimes violent harassment motivated by Williams' belief that plaintiff is " not a real American." (Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-11.) Williams also targeted two other coworkers of Caribbean descent. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff's complaint recites a litany of disturbing incidents of abuse. For example, on one occasion, Williams threatened plaintiff and yelled that plaintiff " needed a piece of wood inside her." (Compl. ¶ 16.) On numerous occasions, Williams intentionally bumped into plaintiff in the hallways. (Compl. ¶ 19, 29.) Williams also tried to slam plaintiff's hand in a bathroom door (Compl. ¶ 21) and once threw dark liquid at plaintiff that Williams later identified as holy water (Compl. ¶ ¶ 27-30, 39).

3. Lack of Internal Response to Plaintiff's Complaints

Plaintiff frequently complained to supervisors about Williams' conduct. Although supervisors held several meetings to review plaintiff's complaints, Williams was only disciplined on one ...

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