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Rullan v. New York City Sanitation Department

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 16, 2014

JUAN RULLAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY SANITATION DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Juan Rullan, brings this action against defendant New York City Sanitation Department ("DSNY"), his current employer. The plaintiff, proceeding pro se, alleges retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq., and under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et. seq. The plaintiff also contends that DSNY failed to accommodate his disability as required by the ADA.

The defendant moves to dismiss the plaintiff's Amended Complaint as barred under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, and as insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained below, the defendant's motion is granted.

I.

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp. , 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court's function on a motion to dismiss is "not to weigh the evidence that might be presented at a trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient." Goldman v. Belden , 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). The Court should not dismiss the complaint if the plaintiff has stated "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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 (2009). While the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id.

When faced with a pro se complaint, the Court must "construe [the] complaint liberally and interpret it to raise the strongest arguments that it suggests." Chavis v. Chappius , 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Even in a pro se case, however, ... threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id . (citation omitted). Thus, although the Court is "obligated to draw the most favorable inferences" that the complaint supports, it "cannot invent factual allegations that [the plaintiff] has not pled." Id .; see also Bowden v. Duffy, No. 13 Civ. 717, 2014 WL 338786, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 30, 2014).

When presented with a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider documents that are referenced in the complaint, documents that the plaintiff relied on in bringing suit and that are either in the plaintiff's possession or that the plaintiff knew of when bringing suit, or matters of which judicial notice may be taken. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc. , 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Winfield v. Citibank, N.A. , 842 F.Supp.2d 560, 564 (S.D.N.Y. 2012).

II.

The following facts are undisputed for purposes of the defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

A.

The plaintiff began working as a sanitation worker for DSNY on December 11, 1989. (Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl."), Attach. 2 at 14.) Beginning on June 26, 2009, the plaintiff filed a series of complaints in which he alleged that DSNY unlawfully discriminated against him. The plaintiff filed his first complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("SDHR"). In that complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he had been discriminated against and retaliated against on the basis of disabilities or perceived disabilities; namely, his post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, asthma, and high blood pressure.[1] (Declaration of Shawn Matthew Clark ("Clark Decl."), Ex. A at 3.) The plaintiff alleged in his June 26, 2009 complaint that DSNY had retaliated against him after he elected to see a doctor about his conditions. (See Clark Decl., Ex. A at 3.) According to the plaintiff, DSNY's retaliatory activity included sending him for random drug testing twice within a fourth-month period, and also included writing him up without cause and making him wait for overtime. (Clark Decl., Ex. A at 3-4.)

B.

On March 4, 2010, the SDHR issued a Determination and Order After Investigation, notifying the plaintiff and DSNY that it found "no probable cause to believe that the [DSNY] engaged in or [was] engaging in the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of." (Clark Decl., Ex. B at 1.) On May 4, 2010, the plaintiff sought review of the SDHR's ruling pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. (Clark Decl., Ex. C; Clark Decl., Ex. F at 2.) The plaintiff commenced his Article 78 proceeding in the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, and named both DSNY and SDHR as defendants. (Clark Decl., Ex. C at 1.)

On July 29, 2010, after the plaintiff commenced his Article 78 Proceeding, but before any decision was rendered in that action, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") adopted the SDHR's finding that there was no probable cause to believe that DSNY had discriminated against the plaintiff, and issued the plaintiff a right-to-sue letter. (Clark Decl., Ex. D at 1.)

On October 25, 2010, while his Article 78 petition was still pending in state court, the plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court which was assigned to Judge Patterson. (See Clark Decl., Exs. E, F.) In his federal complaint, the plaintiff again named DSNY and SDHR as defendants, and alleged that both entities had unlawfully ...


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