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Jackson v. Battaglia

United States District Court, N.D. New York

December 3, 2014


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Defendants: TIMOTHY P. MULVEY, ESQ., Ass't Attorney General, OF COUNSEL, HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General of the State of New York, Syracuse, NY.

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David N. Hurd, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff Lakia Jackson (" Jackson" or " plaintiff" ) brings this action against her former employer, defendant SUNY Upstate Medical University (" SUNY Upstate" ), and her former direct supervisor, defendant Karen Battaglia (" Battaglia" ).

Jackson's Second Amended Complaint enumerates federal law claims for gender discrimination and a hostile work environment (First Cause of Action), race discrimination (Third Cause of Action), and retaliation

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(Second and Fifth Causes of Action) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ); disability discrimination (Seventh Cause of Action) and retaliation (Ninth Cause of Action) in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ); and claims for deprivation of her civil rights (Eleventh Cause of Action) and discrimination (Twelfth Cause of Action) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § § 1981 and 1983.

Jackson's operative complaint also enumerates state law claims for race discrimination (Fourth Cause of Action), disability discrimination (Eighth Cause of Action), and retaliation (Sixth and Tenth Causes of Action) in violation of various provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law (" NYSHRL" ).

On March 14, 2014, SUNY Upstate and Battaglia (collectively " defendants" ) moved for a partial judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Rule" ) 12(c) seeking dismissal of Jackson's First, Third, Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Causes of Action against SUNY Upstate and dismissal of all but plaintiff's Sixth and Tenth Causes of Action against Battaglia. The motion was fully briefed and was considered on the basis of the submissions without oral argument.


Jackson, an African-American woman, began a one-year probationary term of employment with SUNY Upstate as a " Nurse Technician" in August 2011. Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 5, 13 (" Compl." ). Sometime in early April 2012, plaintiff disclosed to Battaglia, her direct supervisor at SUNY Upstate, that she had become pregnant. Id. ¶ 14.

Thereafter, on April 19, 2012, Jackson was working at SUNY Upstate when she requested an unidentified co-worker's assistance with " changing" a patient. Compl. ¶ 15. This co-worker refused to assist her and plaintiff attempted to perform the task alone. Id. ¶ 16. The strain of this activity caused plaintiff to " nearly [go] into pre-term labor" and she was rushed to the emergency room. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff's doctor recommended she take a temporary, two-week light duty assignment at work " in order to recover from her injury and prevent further initiation of pre-term labor or other pregnancy complications." Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18.

On April 27, 2012, Jackson met with Battaglia and complained about the unnamed co-worker who had refused to assist her in changing the patient. Compl. ¶ 19. Plaintiff also informed Battaglia that her doctor had recommended a two-week stint of light duty to properly recover following her emergency room visit. Id. In response, Battaglia informed plaintiff that two complaints had been made against her on April 19, 2012, the day plaintiff had requested assistance with changing the patient.[2] Id. ¶ 20. After her meeting with Battaglia, plaintiff alleges that other, unnamed " supervisors" informed her that SUNY Upstate " does not accommodate pregnant women or light duties [sic] arrangements." Id. ¶ 21.

On May 1, 2012, Jackson requested, and was granted, leave from her doctor " to return to work earlier than he had originally recommended." Compl. ¶ 22. A few weeks later, plaintiff requested assistance

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changing a second patient from a co-worker named Alexis, who also refused to assist her. Id. ¶ ¶ 23-24. Plaintiff complained to another supervisor, Jamie Weeks (" Weeks" ), about Alexis's refusal. Id. ¶ 25. Weeks directed plaintiff to explain her " situation" to Alexis and reiterate her request for assistance. Id. However, even after " explaining to Alexis how she had almost lost her child after performing a similar task less than four (4) weeks ago, Alexis still refused to provide assistance." Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff returned to Weeks and complained that Alexis still refused to provide assistance. Id. ¶ 27. In response, Weeks accused plaintiff of " using her pregnancy as an excuse for not doing her work." Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff complained to Battaglia, verbally and by e-mail, about Weeks's lack of action as well as her inflammatory accusation. Id. ¶ 29.

On May 26, 2012, Jackson requested, and was denied, a daytime shift. Compl. ¶ 30. When this shift was given to a co-worker who was not African-American, not pregnant, and who had less seniority than her, plaintiff complained to Kathy Yeldon (" Yeldon" ), her union president. Id. ¶ ¶ 30-31. Yeldon promptly e-mailed Battaglia regarding plaintiff's complaint. Id. ¶ 31. The very next day, Battaglia met with plaintiff and formally disciplined her, in writing, for the earlier complaints that had been made against her. Id. ¶ 32.

On June 13, 2012, Battaglia informed Jackson that defendants had chosen to terminate plaintiff's employment prior to the expiration of her one-year probationary term. Compl. ¶ 33. Plaintiff alleges that, during the course of her employment with SUNY Upstate, " there were approximately four [ ] African-American nurse technicians, including herself, . . . . [that] were terminated before completing the probationary period." Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff further alleges " it was the practice and policy of SUNY [Upstate] to terminate African-American nurse technicians prior to the completion of their probationary period of employment to prevent any advancement opportunity." Id. ¶ 34.


Jackson's Second Amended Complaint is hardly a model pleading--it makes no attempt to distinguish whether, and to what extent, her numerous causes of action are directed at Battaglia, named " individually," or SUNY Upstate, an institutional entity. Rather, plaintiff's operative pleading elects instead to simply direct each of her twelve causes of action at " defendants." Not only does this render it virtually impossible to determine which allegations of fact are intended to support each of her particular claims for relief, it also raises a few threshold issues.

A. Individual Liability

First, insofar as Jackson's Title VII and ADA claims are directed at Battaglia, plaintiff's former direct supervisor and a defendant named " individually," they cannot be maintained because individuals are not subject to liability under either Title VII or the ADA. Thomas v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Educ.,938 F.Supp.2d 334, 354-55 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (collecting cases). Accordingly, plaintiff's First, ...

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