United States District Court, E.D. New York
THE SANDERS FIRM, P.C. Eric Sanders, New York, NY, Attorney for Plaintiff.
ZACHARY W. CARTER, Ricardo Tapia, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, NY, Attorney for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
JOHN GLEESON, District Judge.
Adrienne Rodriguez has brought this claim against several defendants for various violations of her civil rights while employed as a police officer by the City of New York. Defendants have moved under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss her claims. For the reasons that follow, the complaint is dismissed.
Rodriguez began working for the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") in 1992. Am. Comp. ¶ 13, ECF No. 15. She was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2005, and was transferred to the Internal Affairs Bureau on April 25, 2011. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. According to Rodriguez, she was denied a promotion to "Sergeant Special Assignment, " which, though not a rank increase, does carry salary or pension benefits. Id. ¶¶ 16-20. Rodriguez alleges that there are no set criteria for receiving such a promotion; instead the matter is "discretionary." Id. ¶¶ 21-22. She also claims that over the past few years, no African-American women were designated Sergeant Special Assignment, but several identified white sergeants were so designated. Id. ¶¶ 23-25.
In Rodriguez's specific case, she claims that on January 18, 2013, she received a Yearly Performance Evaluation of 3.5 on a 5.0 scale (after receiving 3.5 and 4.0 evaluations in 2012 and 2011, respectively), and that these ratings are lower than the ratings of similar white employees, even though Rodriguez has "equal or superior training, education, and experience." Id. ¶¶ 27-30. She alleges that the NYPD (and various high-ranking officials) intentionally rate African American women below 4.0 in order to deny them such designations, and also that the NYPD inflates the ratings of white women in order to promote them. Id. ¶¶ 31-32.
Rodriguez claims that "about a week" after she received the unfavorable review, she "complained about race and gender discrimination to NYPD EEO Liaison Detective Charmaine Corlette." Id. ¶ 39. She alleges that Corlette did not "forward her complaint to the NYPD Office of Equal Employment Opportunity as required by Department policy." Id. ¶ 40. Nonetheless, "sometime thereafter, " a different NYPD EEO liaison, Sergeant John Martinez, met with William Wassinger, who had conducted Rodriguez's review. He allegedly expressed the view that Wassinger's rating was "artificially lowered because the quality points indicated she should have been rated higher." Id. ¶¶ 41-42. Nonetheless, Wassinger refused to reconsider his evaluation of Rodriguez. After complaining about the evaluation, Rodriguez was not considered for the position of Sergeant Special Assignment. In January of 2014, Rodriguez was transferred to the Crime Scene Unit. Id. ¶¶ 43-45.
A. Standard of Review
In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). However, a court need not accept as true "legal conclusions" or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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." Id. If a party does not "nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
As the parties acknowledge, there is some disagreement about whether, in the wake of Iqbal and Twombly, a plaintiff can plead a plausible claim of employment discrimination without pleading the prima facie case that would be required to win on the merits. As I have held before, I read Twombly as expressly reaffirming the holding of Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002), that an employment discrimination plaintiff need not plead a prima facie case of employment discrimination under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569; see also Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing relationship).
Nonetheless, even though a plaintiff need not plead facts that amount to a prima facie case, she must still plead facts sufficient to render the allegation plausible - that is, to create a non-speculative inference that prohibited discrimination harmed her. "Although a plaintiff need not plead facts to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination in order to survive a motion to dismiss, the court considers the elements of a prima facie case in determining whether there is sufficient factual matter in the Complaint which, if true, give [d]efendants fair notice of [the plaintiff's] employment discrimination claims and the grounds on which ...