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Reynolds v. Gallagher Bassett Service, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 24, 2014

JUANITA REYNOLDS, Plaintiff.
v.
GALLAGHER BASSETT SERVICE, INC., Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Juanita Reynolds commenced the instant action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., alleging that Defendant engaged in employment discrimination against her on the basis of her race and national origin. Plaintiff also alleges a failure to accommodate her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.

I. FACTS[1]

Plaintiff was at all times relevant to this action a Claim Representative or Senior Claim Representative for Defendant Gallagher Bassett Service, Inc. See Complt., Dkt. No. 1, Exh. B, at 1. In her pro se Complaint, filed on November 26, 2013, Plaintiff raises several allegations of discrimination against the Defendant. See Complt. at §§ 6-7. Plaintiff alleges discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. Id. at § 6. She alleges that Defendant discriminated against her by terminating her employment, failing to promote her, providing unequal terms and conditions of employment, and retaliating against her. Id. at § 7. She also contends that Defendant discriminated against her by refusing to accommodate her disability. Id.

Plaintiff's Complaint is stated on a form provided by the Court for pro se plaintiffs raising claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Plaintiff attaches additional documents to her Complaint that evidence earlier filings with administrative agencies regarding the discrimination she allegedly faced. The Court, reading Plaintiff's pro se Complaint generously, finds that Plaintiff attempts to raise three distinct causes of action: (1) discrimination on the basis of race and national origin; (2) failure to accommodate Plaintiff's disability under the ADA; and (3) retaliation.

As to the facts alleged in her Complaint, Plaintiff contends that she was subjected to "approximately 1 ½ years of ongoing activity" by her manager, Mary Beth Fitzgerald, and Gail Posperiles, another employee. Id. at § 7. Plaintiff alleges the two women "worked in concert to subject [her] to a hostile work environment until such time as they could fabricate a reason to terminate my employment[.]" Id . The two women referred to Plaintiff, who in other documents included in the Complaint describes herself as Hispanic or Latino, and of Native Hawaiian, Mexican and Spanish descent, alleges as a "little Mexican jumping bean." Id . She also alleges that the two women ignored a doctor's note limiting her work load because of her physical condition. Id . When Plaintiff brought concerns about accommodations for her disability to management, she was fired. Id . As a result of Defendant's treatment, Plaintiff alleges, she was wrongfully terminated and has suffered a loss of pay and benefits, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, degradation, physical distress, harm to her reputation and good name, and pain. Id . Defendant's treatment also increased Plaintiff's disability symptoms, preventing her from returning to the workforce. Id.

Plaintiff wrote to the Director of the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission in New York on September 25, 2011, complaining of her treatment by Defendant. See Exh. A to Plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff alleged that she had been the victim of racial discrimination when Defendant forced her to use her bilingual skills to assist coworkers without giving her any accommodation for the time she lost in providing this assistance. Id . Plaintiff also complained that Defendant had refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability as required by the ADA. Further, Plaintiff asserted that Defendant had perpetuated and promoted a hostile work environment, retaliated against her by denying her annual salary increase when she "questioned documentation [sic] why changes had been made without notification, " failed to compile a performance improvement development plan, and terminated her "without probable cause." Id.

In her letter, Plaintiff reported that Defendant terminated her employment on January 11, 2011. Id . According to Plaintiff, Defendant had allegedly fired her because she had previously been warned about her performance and had failed to send a file that was due to a customer. Id . Plaintiff's letter, however, alleges a pattern of mistreatment on the part of her supervisors. Id . Gail Posperalis would frequently yell at Plaintiff without justification in front of her coworkers; Plaintiff never knew what would trigger "an abusive verbal remark." Id . Plaintiff also contends that her supervisors expected her to handle a much larger work load than other workers. Id . They also expected her to help other workers with Spanish translations on their accounts, but did not provide Plaintiff any relief from her own assignments when she did this extra work. Id . Plaintiff attempted to resist requests from other workers to translate for them, but the workers simply took their requests to Posperalis, who would assign Plaintiff the task anyway. Id . Defendant "perceived" Plaintiff as uncooperative and unwilling to be a "team player" when she refused such requests. Id.

On December 22, 2010, Plaintiff was called into a conference room by Suzanne Tompkins. Id . When Plaintiff asked Tompkins what was happening, Tompkins stated that they were "to discuss [Plaintiff's] termination plan, I mean performance plan." Id . While Plaintiff attempted to discuss her performance and ways she could improve, Mary Beth Fitzgerald, who was also present, ignored her and refused to participate in the conversation. Id . Plaintiff alleges that many of her difficulties at work were the result of her bringing concerns about work conditions and workplace policies to her supervisors. Id . Plaintiff was placed on probation and was to meet with supervisors weekly to discuss her performance. Id . No one ever gave her a copy of any document listing the areas where she needed to improve, and the next meeting she had with supervisors came when they terminated her. Id.

Plaintiff also alleged in her letter that she had suffered a blood clot in her leg. Id . Plaintiff's doctor had determined that she could work from home as long as her leg remained elevated. Id . Plaintiff contends that Defendant did not take her condition or her doctor's note seriously. Id . Mary Beth Fitzgerald told plaintiff that Posperalis was the "resident expert" on her medical condition, since Posperalis' husband suffered from a similar problem. Id . Posperalis discounted the advice of Plaintiff's physician and his recommendation that she work from home. Id . Fitzgerald and Posperalis informed them that she should continue to work, and do so at the office. Id . Faced with this situation, Plaintiff's doctor recommended she take an anti-inflammatory and attempt to work. Id . Plaintiff had an allergic reaction and was forced to take time out of work. Id.

Plaintiff filed an "intake questionnaire" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on September 29, 2011. See Exh. B to Compl. In that questionnaire, Plaintiff alleged that she had been the victim of discrimination based on race, disability, and national origin, and had also been the victim of retaliation. Id . Plaintiff complained that this discrimination was evidenced by her termination, and referred the EEOC to her written statement for the factual basis of that claim. Id . Plaintiff also filled out a section of the form related to disability discrimination. Id . She described her disability as "sciatic and bilateral shoulder and hand pain" which was "constant, " and alleged that Defendant had refused to accommodate her by lightening her case load so that she did not have to work more than forty hours per week and on Saturdays. Id . Plaintiff affirmed that she wanted to file a charge of discrimination against her former employer. Id.

Plaintiff dual-filed a charge of discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the EEOC on October 5, 2011. See Exh. C to Complt. The form she filled out contained claims for discrimination based on national origin and retaliation, but did not check the box available for disability discrimination. Id . In her written charge, Plaintiff claimed that Posperalis would make "disparaging" comments about her, referring to her "as the little Mexican jumping bean, '" and would belittle and disparage her in front of other workers. Id . Plaintiff also complained that she was given work interpreting for others in the workplace, causing her to fall behind on her own work. Id . Plaintiff complained that Defendant refused her requests to have a reduced case load in light of these translating responsibilities. Id . Plaintiff further alleged that she was "willfully and unlawfully discriminated against based on [her] National Origin, Mexican[, ] and retaliated against for requesting assistance when [her] terms and conditions" of employment changed. Id . The EEOC acknowledged Plaintiff's charge on October 24, 2011, indicating that she brought charges pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id . No mention was made of the ADA. Id . The EEOC investigated Plaintiff's claim and on August 30, 2013 issued a right-to-sue letter. See Exh. C to Plaintiff's Complaint.

Plaintiff filed her Complaint on November 26, 2013. Defendant thereafter filed the instant motion to dismiss. The parties have briefed the issues.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief could be granted, even if all factual allegations in the complaint were proved true. In addressing such motions, the Court must accept "all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Holmes v. Grubman , 568 F.3d 329, 335 (2d Cir. 2009). This tenet does not apply to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678. "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 Bell Atl. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Here, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. "[T]he ...


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