United States District Court, S.D. New York
FLORENCE F. SMITH, Plaintiff,
LARRY JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
KATHERINE B. FORREST, District Judge.
In May 2014, pro se plaintiff Florence F. Smith ("Plaintiff'), brought this action against defendants the City of New York and several former or current New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC") employees (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq. Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1 ("Compl.")) alleges that defendants discriminated against her based on her race, national origin, gender/sex, age, religion, and disability, and that her supervisors retaliated against her for union activities. Defendants moved under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff is a former employee of the Help Desk of the Information Technology Data Center at the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC"). (Compl. at 2 & ex. 2 at 1.) DOC terminated her employment on August 20, 2013 due to excessive lateness, which Plaintiff alleges was a pretext for race, national origin, gender/sex, age, disability, and religious discrimination, and retaliation for union activities. (See Compl. at 1-3 & ex. 2.) At the time she was terminated, Plaintiff was caring for her sick, elderly father, which she alleges was the cause of her lateness. (See Compl. ex. 2 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges she was terminated in part because she is "a black woman, over age 40 years of old, and from the West Indies, " and because she "was a stand [sic] for everyone and a voice that was unstoppable." (Compl. ex. 2 at 1.)
Plaintiff received three sets of charges from DOC relating to several occasions during the preceding two years when her job performance was unsatisfactory, which plaintiff challenged through proceedings pursuant to New York Civil Service Law § 75. (Stockman Decl. ex. Bat 1-2.) An administrative law judge held a four-day trial at which Plaintiff was represented by a lawyer and was given the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence. (Stockman Decl. ex. Bat 2, 13.) The administrative law judge issued a 47-page report and recommendation that Plaintiff be terminated. (Stockman Decl. ex. B.) Plaintiff appealed the report and recommendation to the New York City Civil Service Commission, which conducted a hearing and then affirmed the findings and termination. (Stockman Decl. ex. C.)
Plaintiff then filed a charge alleging discrimination based on race and national origin and unlawful retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"), which she signed on November 6, 2013. (Stockman Decl. ex. D.) The EEOC issued her a Right to Sue Letter dated February 28, 2014. (Compl. ex. 1.)
Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Defendants on May 27, 2014. (Compl.) Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim on August 7, 2014. (ECF No. 16.) Between August 28, 2014 and September 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed four separate submissions opposing Defendants' motion to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 28-31.) Defendants file a reply brief on September 19, 2014. (ECF No. 34.) Plaintiff then, without leave from the Court, made two additional submissions opposing the motion to dismiss, which the Court posted to the docket (ECF Nos. 36-37).
II. STANDARD FOR A RULE 12(B)(6) MOTION TO DISMISS
Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must provide grounds upon which their claim rests through "factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd. , 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, the complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entm't , 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). "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).
In applying that standard, the Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations, but does not credit "mere conclusory statements" or "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action." Id . Furthermore, the Court will give "no effect to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations." Port Dock & Stone Corp. v. Oldcastle Ne., Inc. , 507 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). If the Court can infer no more than the mere possibility of misconduct from the factual averments-in other words, if the well-pled allegations of the complaint have not "nudged [Plaintiffs] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible"- dismissal is appropriate. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570.
Pro se complaints are to be construed "liberally" and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Pabon v. Wright , 459 F.3d 241, 248 (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins , 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). Nonetheless, to survive a motion to dismiss, a pro se plaintiff must still plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Hill v. Curcione , 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011).
A. Federal Gender/Sex, Age, and Religious Discrimination Claims
Before filing an action in federal court under Title VII, the ADA, or the ADEA, a plaintiff must exhaust their administrative remedies by filing a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC. See, e.g., Hoffman v. Williamsville Sch. Dist. , 443 Fed.App'x 647, 649 (2d Cir. 2011) (Title VII and ADA); Dezaio v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J. , 205 F.3d 62, 64-65 (2d Cir. 2000) (ADEA). Plaintiffs EEOC charge only alleged discrimination based on race and national origin and unlawful retaliation. (Compl. ex. 1.) Plaintiffs Title VII ...