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Graham v. Women In Need, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 30, 2014

WOMEN IN NEED, INC., et al., Defendants.


LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Martina Graham alleges that Defendants Women in Need, Inc. ("WIN"), Maureen McLaughlin, Eshawn Hall and Regina Wadkins engaged in sexual harassment, retaliation and discriminatory behavior in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and the New York City Human Rights Law, New York City Administrative Code § 8-502(a), et seq. Defendants WIN and Wadkins ("Defendants") move to dismiss the ADA claims, alleged in Counts One and Two of the Amended Complaint, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is denied.


The following facts are taken from the Amended Complaint. They do not include the alleged discriminatory incidents on account of Plaintiff's gender and sexual orientation, as the resulting claims are not challenged on this motion.

Plaintiff is a former employee of WIN, a not-for-profit corporation organized under the laws of New York. Plaintiff began working at WIN in 2006 as a "Shift Supervisor, " and was promoted in 2009 to "Residential Aide to Shift Supervisor." On August 13, 2011, Plaintiff suffered a stroke, and was hospitalized for approximately two to three weeks. Upon her return to work, Plaintiff requested that Defendants provide her reasonable accommodations to facilitate her recuperation. The various requests for accommodation were detailed in a letter provided by Plaintiff's doctor, and included limiting Plaintiff's work week to forty hours and refraining from assigning tasks that involved lifting or picking up heavy objects. Defendants did not change Plaintiff's work schedule or otherwise agree to her requests for reasonable accommodation, requiring Plaintiff to work a sixty-hour week.

Defendants' discriminatory conduct intensified when Defendant Hall became Program Director. Upon taking up the Program Director position, Hall greeted Plaintiff by asking her whether she was "the lady with the stroke." On or about January 16, 2012, Plaintiff suffered a second stroke. Defendants responded by "pressuring" her to return to work eight days after the stroke. When she returned to work, Plaintiff again presented Defendants with a doctor's note requesting various accommodations, including limiting her work week and physical activity on the job. Defendants disregarded Plaintiff's requests, maintaining her schedule of approximately sixty hours a week and requiring her to perform tasks that involved physical activity, such as lifting objects and making additional rounds during her shifts. Hall and McLaughlin told Plaintiff she should resign if she could not work full time. Several months after her second stroke, in April 2012, Hall informed Plaintiff that he was intentionally assigning her more work so that she would "just go out, " implying that Plaintiff should quit her job. Around the end of November 2012, Plaintiff reported Hall's discriminatory conduct to Wadkins, who told Plaintiff that she would investigate the allegations. Wadkins did not follow up with Plaintiff.

On or about December 9, 2012, Plaintiff was stabbed in the street, and spent thirty days recuperating from the assault. While Plaintiff was recuperating, she received a call from a coworker, warning her that she would likely be placed on administrative leave as a result of reporting discriminatory conduct. On or about January 8, 2013, Plaintiff informed Defendants that she was ready to return to work, and was told to come in for a meeting the following day. The next day, Plaintiff attended a meeting with Wadkins and the Vice President of WIN, and was told that she was being placed on paid administrative leave because a client had accused her and another individual of forcing the client to lodge a complaint against Hall. Plaintiff requested copies of the client's complaint on two occasions, but did not receive a copy. On or around January 15, 2013, and after her second request to see the complaint, Plaintiff attended another meeting with Wadkins, where she was discharged. At the meeting, Wadkins told Plaintiff that she should "concentrate on [her] health, " now that she was unemployed.


On a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving 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). 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).

On a motion to dismiss in an employment discrimination case, a plaintiff is not required to plead a prima facie case of discrimination under McDonnell v. Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 (2002). Instead, "at a minimum, employment discrimination claims must meet the standard of pleading set forth in Twombly and Iqbal, even if pleading a prima facie case is not required." Hedges v. Town of Madison, 456 F.Appx. 22, 23 (2d Cir. 2012) (summary order). Courts in this district have determined that the elements of a prima facie case, however, "provide an outline of what is necessary to render [a plaintiff's employment discrimination or retaliation] claims for relief plausible." Pahuja v. Am. Univ. of Antigua, No. 11 Civ. 4607(PAE), 2012 WL 6592116, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 18, 2012) (quoting Sommersett v. City of New York, No. 09 Civ. 5916(LTS)(KNF), 2011 WL 2565301, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. June 28, 2011)). Accordingly, courts have "consider[ed] these elements in determining whether there is sufficient factual matter in the complaint which, if true, gives Defendant fair notice of Plaintiff's claim and the grounds on which it rests." Pahuja, 2012 WL 6592116, at *9 (internal quotation marks omitted).


I. Count One

Count One alleges that "Defendants engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice by discriminating against Plaintiff because of her disability." This claim may be based on a theory of failure to provide reasonable accommodations and/or discriminatory termination. Defendants argue that any reasonable accommodations claim should be dismissed on statute of limitations ...

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