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Garrigan v. Ruby Tuesday, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 22, 2014

Kellie Garrigan, Plaintiff,
v.
Ruby Tuesday, Inc. and Christopher Edwards, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kellie Garrigan brings this action against her former employer, Ruby Tuesday, Inc. ("Ruby Tuesday"), and her former supervisor Christopher Edwards for violations of New York City Administrative Code §8-107, known as the New York City Human Rights Law (the "NYCHRL"). She alleges that after she refused to resume a relationship with her manager Josh Palmer, Mr. Edwards discriminated against her because of her gender, and that he and Ruby Tuesday retaliated against her after she rejected Palmer and complained of the discrimination. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint is denied because Plaintiff states claims under the NYCHRL.

BACKGROUND

The allegations in the Complaint are presumed to be true for purposes of this motion. Plaintiff worked at various Ruby Tuesday restaurants from February 2012 to May 2012. She suffers from "chronic pancreatitis with genetic predisposition, " which has led to numerous and sometimes prolonged hospital stays. The events that led to this lawsuit began around October 2011, when she was admitted to the hospital because of this medical condition. While she was in the hospital, one of her managers, Mr. Palmer, who is not a defendant in this action, brought her flowers and told her that "he had feelings for her." While she was hospitalized and in a weakened state, Mr. Palmer convinced Plaintiff to move in with him. Mr. Palmer lived with Defendant Christopher Edwards, another manager at Ruby Tuesday. In January 2012, Plaintiff was again admitted to the hospital.

One January 31, 2013, while she was hospitalized, Mr. Palmer suddenly proposed marriage to her, but then the very next day ended the relationship. On February 4, 2012, Mr. Palmer told her that he had moved all of her personal belongings into a storage unit. Mr. Edwards then removed Plaintiff's keys to their house from her purse. Plaintiff alleges that on February 9, 2012, Mr. Palmer called her again and said that he had made a mistake, and begged her to take him back. Plaintiff told him that she was not interested in resuming a relationship, and requested that he stop asking. Plaintiff alleges that between February 9, 2012 and February 13, 2012, Mr. Palmer called between six and eight more times, begging Plaintiff to resume their relationship, which she refused.

After Plaintiff ended her relationship with Mr. Palmer, Mr. Edwards began to retaliate against her. Edwards began sending her "hateful text messages, " including some that told her that she was not really as sick as she thought she was and that "the machines [keeping her alive] didn't do anything anyways." Id. Plaintiff reported these messages to the director of human resources, Defendant Chuck McGuff, and provided him copies, but he took no action. Id. ¶ 35.

Upon returning to work, Plaintiff's coworkers treated "her completely differently than they did before she became sick." Most of her supervisors and co-workers were "completely ignoring her." Mr. Edwards had begun to spread "vicious rumors" about her, including telling employees that her brother, who had passed away from the same disease, never existed. Plaintiff complained to Jeff Gabriel, the general manager, that Mr. Edwards was still retaliating against her for rejecting Mr. Palmer's sexual advances by spreading vicious rumors about her. Mr. Gabriel took no action in response to Plaintiff's complaint. Another manager, Shanella Jones, also began to spread rumors about Plaintiff. Distraught over the rumors that Edwards had allegedly spread about her health, she "felt she had no choice but to resign from her position, " and quit effective May 2, 2012.

In February 2013, Plaintiff brought claims against Ruby Tuesday, Jeff Gabriel, Christopher Edwards, and Chuck McGuff, in another case before District Judge George B. Daniels, Case No. 13-cv-1196. ( Garrigan I ). The complaint alleged claims of harassment, gender and disability discrimination, and retaliation, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the NYCHRL.

Judge Daniels granted defendants' motion to dismiss in July 2013. He dismissed the federal claims, denied leave to amend the complaint, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's NYCHRL claims. Plaintiff then commenced an action in state court on November 13, 2013, asserting claims only under the NYCHRL, which Judge Daniels explicitly had declined to hear, and only against Defendant Edwards and Ruby Tuesday. The Complaint asserts four causes of action - for harassment, aiding and abetting, retaliation, and employer liability. Defendants removed the case from state court to this Court on January 9, 2013.

STANDARD

On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Famous Horse Inc. v. 5th Ave. Photo Inc., 624 F.3d 106, 108 (2d Cir. 2010). To withstand dismissal, a pleading "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. While "detailed factual allegations'" are not necessary, the pleading must be supported by more than mere "labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires factual allegations that are sufficient to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Anderson News, L.L.C. v. Am. Media, Inc., 680 F.3d 162, 182 (2d Cir. 2012) (alteration in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 846 (2013). Moreover, "where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

In federal diversity cases, courts apply state law to determine whether collateral estoppel applies to a certain set of facts. See Ritchie v. Landau, 475 F.2d 151, 154 (2d Cir. 1973). In New York, the doctrine of collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, "bars a party from relitigating in a subsequent proceeding an issue clearly raised in a prior proceeding and decided against that party where the party to be precluded had a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior determination." Weiss v. Manfredi, 639 N.E.2d 1122, 1123 (N.Y. 1994). To prevail on the defense of collateral estoppel: (1) "[t]here must be an identity of issue which has necessarily been decided in the prior action and is decisive of the present action" and (2) "there must have been a full and fair opportunity to contest the decision now said to be controlling." Schwartz v. Pub. Adm'r of Bronx. Cnty., 246 N.E.2d 725, 729 (N.Y. 1969).

DICUSSION

I. Gender ...


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