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Gill v. Acacia Network

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 18, 2015

ADONICA GILL and ROSLYN HUNTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
ACACIA NETWORK et al., Defendants.

OPINION

THOMAS P. GRIESA, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Adonica Gill and Roslyn Hunter, proceeding pro se, bring suit against a number of corporate or state health providers, including ACACIA Network, Inc. ("ACACIA"), South Bronx Mental Health Council, Inc. ("SBMHC"), the New York City Office of Mental Health, and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Plaintiffs also bring suit against the following individual defendants, who plaintiffs allege "are officers, board members or senior executives of either SBMHC or ACACIA[]": Humberto L. Martinez, Vicky Gatell, and Samuel Lopez (collectively, "the executive staff'), as well as John Langrod, Efren M. Alba, Joseph Straci, Robert Rowe, Luz Haydee Rivera-Myrick, Richard Izquierdo, and Norland Berk (collectively, "the board").

ACACIA is a community-based health and housing network, which allegedly took over SBMHC in March 2013. In substance, plaintiffs allege that they were wrongly denied payment of fringe benefits and wages, as well as WARN Act notice and COBRA notice and benefits, when they were terminated by SBMHC. Plaintiffs allege violations of the federal and New York State WARN Acts, federal and New York State COBRA requirements, the ERISA Act, the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), and New York State labor law.

Individual defendants Martinez, Lopez, Langrod and Alba bring a motion to dismiss all claims, and to consolidate this action with a similar lawsuit that was previously pending in this district before Judge Briccetti. Individual defendant Berk brings a substantively similar motion for judgment on the pleadings. Finally, ACACIA and individual defendant Gatell bring a motion to consolidate and dismiss.

Since the pending motions were fully briefed, the similar action previously before Judge Briccetti has been dismissed with prejudice.[1] The sections of the motions to consolidate and dismiss that request consolidation are therefore denied as moot. However, for the reasons discussed below, the motions to dismiss are granted in part.

THE COMPLAINT

The followings facts are drawn from the complaint, and are assumed to be true for purposes of the instant motions.

Plaintiffs are former employees of defendant SBMHC, which ceased operations in March 2013. Plaintiffs allege that defendant ACACIA "is the successor employer to SBMHC, " and that defendants NYC Office of Mental Health and the New York State Office of Substance Abuse Services "are joint employers of both SBMHC and ACACIA Network." (Compl. at 2.) Plaintiffs further allege that the individual defendants are "officers, board members or senior executives of either SBMHC or ACACIA and are all and each individually, personally jointly and severally liable for the unlawful conduct in this matter." ( Id. )

Plaintiffs allege that they "were not given proper federal and state COBRA or federal and state WARN Act notice when [their] employment ended with SBMHC." ( Id. ) They further allege that they "were not properly paid under the Fair Labor Standards Act and other applicable law nor were [they] hired by ACACIA." ( Id. ) Plaintiffs allege that "Defendants violated federal ERISA law by failing to pay [plaintiffs] severance and accrued fringe benefits[, ]" and that "Defendants failed to pay [plaintiffs] properly under state wage and hour law." ( Id. at 2-3.)

After defendants filed the instant motions, plaintiffs filed two identical "affirmations in reply, " seeking to buttress the allegations in their complaint. (See Dkt. Nos. 50-51.) Plaintiffs claim that they "believe that the executive staff has individual liability because they were employers whose decisions directly affected the nature of our employment and they are liable for any failure to pay wages." (Dkt. No. 50 at 2.) Plaintiffs further claim that the individual defendants "were responsible for hiring and firing and in control of all conditions affecting our employment and compensation." ( Id. ) Plaintiffs add that "although board members were not employers they endorsed the self enrichment of executive staff in anticipation of the agency closing." ( Id. ) To support these additional allegations, plaintiffs submit February 2013 board minutes from SBMHC, which plaintiffs claim show that the SBMHC executive staff passed a motion to pay accrued fringe benefits to executives "without regard to fringe benefits owed to plaintiffs." ( Id. ) These board minutes allegedly show that defendants Langrod, Rowe, Marquez-Alba, Straci, Rivera-Myrick, Izquierdo, and Berk were members of the SBMHC board, while defendants Martinez, Gatell and Lopez were members of SBMHC's executive staff but not the board. ( Id. at 5.)

Plaintiff Hunter's employment with SBMHC ended in December 2012. Hunter seeks accrued fringe benefits totaling $21, 905, which consist of vacation, holiday, severance, and sick pay.

Plaintiff Gill's employment with SBMHC ended in March 2013. Gill seeks accrued fringe benefits totaling $35, 283.08, which consist of vacation, holiday, severance, sick pay, and approximately $4, 000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses that Gill claims should have been covered under COBRA.

Collectively, plaintiffs seek "all damages allowed by law; make whole damages for unpaid wages and benefits; punitive damages; liquidated damages, court costs ...


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