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Lasalle v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 30, 2015

TIANA LASALLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, CITY OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE OFFICE OF CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINERS, ROBERT KEARNEY, SHEPERIO HAWKINS, ARTHUR AARONSON, and THOMAS ORTIZ, in their individual and professional capacities, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. CROTTY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Tiana LaSalle, a van driver for the City morgue, sued her employer, Defendants City of New York, City of New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ("DOHMH"), New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office of Chief Medical Examiners ("OCME"), and her supervisors, Defendants Robert Kearney, Sheperio Hawkins, Arthur Aaronson, and Thomas Ortiz. Ms. LaSalle's chief complaint is that the Defendants refused her request for a reasonable accommodation with regard to lifting heavy objects during her pregnancy. She makes 20 claims of race, color, gender, and disability discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation, under 5 different statutory regimes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, New York State Executive Law§ 296 ("NYSHRL"), and New York City Administrative Code § 8-101 et seq. ("NYCHRL").

Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), for failure to exhaust administrative relief under Title VII, and pursuant to 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim.

For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a Hispanic female, has worked at the OCME since January 21, 2002. In June 2007, she was promoted to motor vehicle operator. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-20. In 2008, Plaintiff informed Kearney, her supervisor, that she was pregnant, and Kearney ceased assigning her to morgue van. Id. ¶ 23.

In June 2009, non-party Wendell Davidson, a technician supervisor, called Plaintiff a "dirty bitch." Id. ¶ 24. Kearney, who was also Davidson's supervisor, asked Plaintiff not to report the comment to OCME's Human Resources Department because Keaney "would deal with the situation himself." Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff, however, filed a complaint with the Human Resources Department in mid-June 2009. Id. ¶ 26.

Ortiz, another of Plaintiff's supervisors, "habitually spoke to Plaintiff's co-workers about her personal life, including saying she's getting a divorce so go for it' and' anybody can get her ass.'" Ortiz "called Plaintiff a bitch' as well as other derogatory and/or sexist names."[1] Id. ¶¶ 40-41.

In November 2011, Plaintiff was pregnant again, and provided Hawkins with a doctor's note informing him of the pregnancy. Id. ¶ 27. In December 2011, Plaintiff told Hawkins that she could not lift more than 45 pounds due to her pregnancy. She requested that she not be assigned to the morgue van, because that assignment required her to lift more than 45 pounds. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Plaintiff also informed Kearney that she was unable to "work the morgue van due to her pregnancy." Id. ¶ 30. Despite her requests, Kearney and Hawkins "continued to assign Plaintiff to the morgue van approximately two days per week." Id.

On January 9, 2012, Plaintiff was assigned to the morgue van, and was injured while transporting a cadaver. Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff went on medical leave the next day, but Defendants "denied [Plaintiff] medical insurance." Id. ¶ 32. On April 10, 2012, Plaintiff provided Defendants a doctor's note stating that she could return to work as long as she would not be required to lift more than 25 pounds. Aaronson, however, informed Plaintiff that no "light duty" assignments were available. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

On April 20, 2012, Plaintiffs then-attorney wrote to Defendants and "repeat[ed] [Plaintiff's] request for an accommodation." Id. ¶ 35. From April 25, 2012 until May 31, 2012, Defendants "requested more specifics from [Plaintiffs attorney]... to explore how they could accommodate her." Id. ¶ 36. On June 1, 2012, Plaintiffs attorney "threaten[ed] legal action against Defendants" because Plaintiff still had "not been provided with a reasonable accommodation or medical insurance." Id. ¶ 37. On June 4, 2012, Defendants "offered Plaintiff an accommodation." Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiff returned to work on June 10, 2012, under the agreement that she would not be required to lift more than 25 pounds, or change tires or wheels, for a six-week period. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiff alleges that she was "unpaid during eight months of her pregnancy." Id. ¶ 43.

After returning to work, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.[2] Id. ¶ 16; Rodriguez Decl., Ex. B. On April 24, 2013, "Plaintiff received a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC." Am. Compl. ¶ 17.

On May 19, 2013, Plaintiff was in a car accident and suffered a neck injury. Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff"provided Defendants with a doctor's note but Human Resources told her that the note was not good enough' and that she had to request an extension." Id.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

a. Motion to Dismiss

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible if it contains "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court "assess[es] the legal feasibility of the complaint, " but does not "assay ...


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