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Hughes v. Xerox Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

August 13, 2014

ALICIA HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, Defendant

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For Alicia Hughes, Plaintiff: Charles L. Miller, II, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Lindy Korn, Buffalo, NY; Lindy Korn, LEAD ATTORNEY, Buffalo, NY.

For Xerox Corporation, Defendant: Margaret A. Clemens, Trent M. Sutton, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Rochester, NY.

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DECISION AND ORDER

ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Alicia Hughes (" Plaintiff" ) brings this claim for employment discrimination based upon race and gender against defendant Xerox Corporation (" Defendant" ). Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) seeking dismissal of all the causes of action in the complaint except for a portion of the sixth cause of action. (Dkt. 5). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that she is an African American woman who has been employed by Defendant since 1996. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ ¶ 5, 7). According to Plaintiff, she has been unlawfully paid less than her male counterparts " [s]ince about 2006." ( Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff further alleges that once Sandra

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Karpen, a white female, was assigned as Plaintiff's direct supervisor in 2008, Plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment. ( Id. at ¶ 18). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that she applied for several internal positions with Defendant between mid-2008 through late 2009, but she did not receive the positions due to unlawful discrimination. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 22-24). The positions specified in the complaint are the following: (1) the Mono Fab Plant Operations Manager (a white female was allegedly promoted to this position); (2) the Warehouse Logistical Operations Manager (a white male was allegedly promoted to this position); (3) the iGen Plant Manager (a white male was allegedly promoted to this position); and (4) the iGen Materials Manager (a white female was allegedly promoted to this position). ( Id. at ¶ 24).

Plaintiff's complaint goes on to allege that " [d]uring the summer of 2010" she continued with " exploratory interviews" but she was " assigned a project that was lower than her skill and management level" and she was criticized for the timeliness of her performance on that project. ( Id. at ¶ 29). Plaintiff alleges that in September/October 2010, she was working on a " second, low visibility project below her experience and education level" and she was assigned to work with " Dispatcher Kim Haley, a white female" who, according to Plaintiff, " has had verbal altercations with her direct supervisors." ( Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Haley " made a report to management that the Plaintiff was 'scaring' her" and Plaintiff was issued a " final warning" in November 2010. ( Id.).

Plaintiff further complains that after being out of town on a two-week medical leave in February 2011, she learned that her office was being moved to the warehouse and she was given a new assignment that was undesirable, " offered no visibility" and was below her " experience and educational qualifications" . ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 32-33). Plaintiff alleges that after working a month on this new assignment, she was told by her new manager that " she needs to 'walk the process'" and she was given job tasks that were largely clerical and below her qualifications. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 36-37). According to Plaintiff, two separate employees complained about her in April 2011 and August 2011, resulting in Plaintiff having to meet with Human Resources personnel and complete an anger management course. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 38-41). Plaintiff alleges that she remains in " a low visibility position that does not fit her job qualifications, experience, or education" and that her complaints have been ignored or disregarded. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 42-43, 45). Finally, Plaintiff alleges that in April 2012, her co-employees made racist comments on a " sympathy" card posted in an employee kitchen area regarding an article about the loss of incentive pay for Xerox CEO Ursula Bums, who is African American. ( Id. at ¶ 44).

Plaintiff alleges that she filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on March 24, 2011, and it was cross-filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights (" DHR" ) on March 25, 2011. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 9-10). According to Plaintiff, the DHR made a Determination and Order After Investigation of Probable Cause on September 20, 2011, but prior to any hearing, the DHR complaint was dismissed for administrative convenience. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 11-13). Plaintiff alleges that she received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on May 7, 2012. ( Id. at ¶ 13).

Plaintiff commenced this action on August 1, 2012. (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff's complaint purports to assert the following causes of action: (1) a gender discrimination claim in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § § 2000e et seq.

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(" Title VII" ); (2) a discrimination claim pursuant to the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); (3) a discrimination claim pursuant to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5; (4) a race discrimination claim in violation of Title VII; (5) a hostile work environment claim based upon Plaintiff's race in violation of Title VII; (6) a race discrimination claim under section 1981 of the Civil Rights Law, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (" § 1981" ); (7) a gender discrimination claim in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § § 290 et seq. (" HRL" ); and (8) a hostile work environment claim based upon Plaintiff's race in violation of the HRL.

On October 5, 2012, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss seeking dismissal of all causes of action in the complaint except for part of the sixth cause of action that alleges § 1981 violations. (Dkt. 5). The case was subsequently transferred to the undersigned on February 21, 2014 (Dkt. 14), and oral argument was held on May 29, 2014. (Dkt. 17).

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

A court should consider a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) " accepting all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citation omitted). To withstand dismissal, a plaintiff must set forth " enough facts to state a claim to 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.'" Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting 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 in original) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Thus, " at a bare minimum, the operative standard requires the plaintiff [to] provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56 (2d Cir. 2008) (alteration in original) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

In opposition to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff submitted a copy of her EEOC charge dated March 24, 2001, and a copy of her complaint filed with the DHR. (Dkt. 8-2, 8-3). Similarly, Defendant attached the DHR complaint to its motion papers. (Dkt. 5-2 (Ex. A)). Plaintiff's federal complaint expressly references both the EEOC charge and the DHR complaint. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ ¶ 9-10). While matters outside the four comers of a complaint are not typically relevant for consideration on a motion to dismiss, materials that are expressly referenced in the complaint and submitted by the parties in connection with the underlying motion, such as the EEOC charge and DHR complaint at issue in the present motion, may be considered by the Court in connection with the pending motion. Brass v. Am. Film Techs., Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993) (" When determining the sufficiency of plaintiffs' claim for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes,

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consideration is limited to the factual allegations in plaintiffs' amended complaint, which are accepted as true, to documents attached to the complaint as an exhibit or incorporated in it by reference, to matters of which judicial notice may be taken, or to documents either in plaintiffs' possession or of which plaintiffs had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit." ). See, e.g., Morris v. David Lerner Assocs.., 680 F.Supp.2d 430, 436 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (court could consider DHR and EEOC decisions and filings on motion to dismiss); Byrne v. Telesector Res. Grp., Inc., No. 04-CV-76S, 2005 WL 464941, at *4 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2005 ), aff'd, 339 F.App'x 13 (2d Cir. 2009) (plaintiff's EEOC charge considered on motion to dismiss where it was expressly referenced in complaint).

II. Administrative Exhaustion of Title VII Gender Discrimination Claims

To maintain a timely Title VII claim, a plaintiff must: " (1) file a timely charge with the EEOC, (2) receive an EEOC right-to-sue letter, and (3) file an action within 90 days of receipt of that letter." Collier v. Boymelgreen Dev., No. 06 CV 5425 (SJ), 2007 WL 1452915, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. May 17, 2007) (citing Van Zant v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 80 F.3d 708, 712 (2d Cir. 1996)). Exhaustion of administrative remedies is a " precondition to bringing a Title VII claim in federal court " Francis v. City of New York, 235 F.3d 763, 768 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim of Title VII gender discrimination in her first cause of action must be dismissed because the EEOC charge contained only allegations of gender discrimination relating to Plaintiff's unequal pay claim. (Dkt. 5-3 at 20). The EEOC charge plainly identified sex as a basis for Plaintiff's claimed discrimination. (Dkt. 8-2 at 3). Moreover, the EEOC charge contained factual allegations about discrimination based upon the failure to promote Plaintiff to various positions and her reassignment to low visibility projects. ( Id. at 6-7). Defendant contends that, notwithstanding Plaintiff's reference to sex discrimination in her EEOC charge, Plaintiff has only preserved a gender discrimination claim for the unequal pay claims, because in the EEOC charge she appears to limit her failure to promote allegations to race-based discrimination. ( See id. at 6 (" I have applied for several internal positions for which I was qualified, but not selected. I believe that I was not selected for the positions because of my Race/African American, in willful violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." )).

" A district court only has jurisdiction to hear Title VII claims that either are included in an EEOC charge or are based on conduct subsequent to the EEOC charge which is 'reasonably related' to that alleged in the EEOC charge." Butts v. New York Dep't of Horn. Pres. & Dev., 990 F.2d 1397, 1401 (2d Cir. 1993), superseded by statute on other grounds, Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. No. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071. As explained by ...


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