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Lebarron v. Warren Cnty. Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 13, 2015

MICHELLE A. LeBARRON, Plaintiff,
v.
WARREN CNTY. SHERIFF'S OFFICE; NATHAN H. YORK, Sheriff, Warren Cnty.; JAMES A. LAFARR, Lieutenant, Sheriff's Office; MARLO BARBOZA, Inspector, Sheriff's Office; MICHAEL T. GATES, Captain, Sheriff's Office; ALBERT MADAY, Lieutenant, Sheriff's Office; WAYNE FARMER, Sergeant, Sheriff's Office; DANIEL CLIFFORD, Sergeant, Sheriff's Office; MICHAEL FELDEISON, Corr. Officer, Sheriff's Office; STEVEN FARMER, Corr. Officer, Sheriff's Office; CHRISTOPHER PERILLI, Corr. Officer, Sheriff's Office; MICHAEL GORDON, Corr. Officer/Union Rep., Sheriff's Office; DANIEL KELLY, Corr. Officer/Union Rep., Sheriff's Office; and ERNEST BARBOZA, Patrol Officer, New York State Police, Defendants.

MICHELLE A. LeBARRON, Plaintiff, Pro Se, Berlin, MD.

LEMIRE JOHNSON, LLC, GREGG T. JOHNSON, ESQ., Malta, NY, Counsel for County Defendants.

HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General for the State of New York, CHRISTOPHER W. HALL, ESQ., Assistant Attorney General, Albany, NY, Counsel for Defendant Ernest Barboza.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this pro se employment discrimination action filed by Michelle A. LeBarron ("Plaintiff") against the Warren County Sheriff's Office and twelve of its employees (the "County Defendants"), [1] as well New York State Police Patrol Officer Ernest Barboza ("NYSP Officer Barboza"), are (1) Defendant NYSP Officer Barboza's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and (2) the County Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 13, 22.) For the reasons set forth below, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Generally, in her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, between the date on which she filed a gender-discrimination complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against the Warren County Sheriff's Office (on March 3, 2005) and the date on which she was terminated from her job as a correction officer (on July 22, 2011), Defendants discriminated against her based on her gender, and retaliated against her based on her filing of the EEOC complaint and the fact that she resolved it in her favor in 2009. (Dkt. No. 1.)

More specifically, the alleged discriminatory and retaliatory actions included the following: (1) following her filing of the EEOC complaint on March 3, 2005, Plaintiff was subjected to both a pattern of adverse actions and false rumors "within the department and union, " and a refusal by the "administration" to address her complaints; (2) in January of 2011 she was called into the office of Defendant York by Defendants LaFarr and Marlo Barboza to answer allegations of misconduct and violations of departmental rules and regulations, and was informed that either (a) she would have her shift and "pass days" changed to less-desirable ones, would be placed on probation and would lose 10 earned-vacation days, or (b) she would be charged with the aforementioned allegations in an Article 75 hearing and then be terminated; (3) when she resisted, Defendant York changed her shift and "pass days"; (4) despite her numerous complaints to unidentified "[s]ergeants" and "[l]ieutenants, " and to Defendant Gates, departmental "staff and administration" continued to harass her; (5) she was suspended in March of 2011 due to Defendant NYSP Officer Barboza's filing of a criminal charge against her of Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"), of which she was found not guilty on March 21, 2011; (6) following Article 75 hearing on March 10, April 11, and April 12, 2011, she was terminated on July 22, 2011, purportedly due to performance issues (although unidentified "similarly situated male Correction Officers" were neither disciplined nor terminated based on similar or worse performance issues); and (7) on January 27, 2012, Defendant York wrongfully released to the media the results of her closed Article 75 hearing. ( Id. )

Liberally construed, based on the above-described factual allegations, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts the following claims against Defendants: (1) a claim that the County Defendants discriminated against her based on her gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); (2) a claim that the County Defendants discriminated against her based on her gender in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a claim that the County Defendants retaliated against her based on her EEOC complaint in violation of Title VII; (4) a claim that the County Defendants retaliated against her based on her EEOC complaint in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment; (5) a claim that the County Defendants deprived her of substantive due process through their actions in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment; (6) a claim that Defendant Trooper Barboza retaliated against her based on her EEOC complaint (and internal complaints) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment; and (7) a claim that Defendant York wrongfully released her closed disciplinary hearing charges and results to the media in violation of Section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Act. ( Id. )[2]

Familiarity with these claims, and the factual allegations supporting them, is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties.

B. Parties' Briefing on Defendant NYSP Officer Barboza's Motion

1. Defendant NYSP Officer Barboza's Memorandum of Law

Generally, in his memorandum of law, Defendant NYSP Officer Barboza asserts two arguments: (1) Plaintiff fails to state a retaliation claim under either Title VII or 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment because she has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that his act of pulling her over and charging her with DUI in March of 20011 was caused by her filing of her EEOC complaint against the Warren County Sheriff's Office in March of 2005 and the resolution of that EEOC proceeding in her favor in 2009; and (2) in any event, her retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment is redundant of, and thus barred by, her retaliation claim under Title VII. (Dkt. No. 13, Attach. 1 [Def. NYSP Officer Barboza's Memo. of Law].)

2. Plaintiff's Opposition Memorandum of Law

Generally, in her opposition memorandum of law, Plaintiff does not address either of Defendant NYSP Officer Barboza's two arguments. ( See generally Dkt. No. 29 [Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

C. Parties' Briefing on the County Defendants' Motion

1. County Defendants' Memorandum of Law

Generally, in their memorandum of law, the County Defendants assert nine arguments. (Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 1 [Cnty. Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

First, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed as against the twelve individual County Defendants for the following reasons: (a) it fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting that nine of them (i.e., Gates, Maday, Farmer, Clifford, Feldeison, Farmer, Perilli, Gordon and Kelly) were personally involved in the constitutional violations alleged (which is required to state a claim against them in their individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983), and it alleges only conclusory supervisory involvement of the remaining three of them (i.e., York, LaFarr and Marlo Barboza); (b) the individual County Defendants are not amenable to suit under Title VII, because they are not "employers" for purposes of Title VII; (c) even if the individual County Defendants were so amendable, Plaintiff failed to name them in her EEOC complaint and has thus failed to exhaust her administrative remedies regarding her Title VII claims against them; and (d) in any event, based on the Complaint's factual allegations, all individual County Defendants are protected from liability as a matter of law by the doctrine of qualified immunity. ( Id. )

Second, argue the County Defendants, to the extent that Plaintiff's Title VII claims are based on events occurring before April 16, 2011, those claims are untimely and must be dismissed, for the following reasons: (a) under Title VII, a claimant may bring suit in federal court only if she has filed a timely complaint with the EEOC and obtained a right-to-sue letter; (b) to be timely, an EEOC complaint must be filed within 300 days of the alleged discrimination; (c) the 300-day time period starts to run when the claimant receives notice of the alleged discriminatory act, not when the allegedly discriminatory decision takes place; (d) here, Plaintiff alleges she filed her EEOC complaint on February 10, 2012; and (e) thus, her allegation regarding being suspended in March of 2011, and her allegation regarding the coercive meeting that allegedly occurred in January of 2011, may not give rise to her current Title VII claims. ( Id. )

Third, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's Title VII claims must be dismissed on the alternative ground that (a) a Title VII claim must be filed within 90 days of the date that the plaintiff receives her right-to-sue letter, and (b) here, Plaintiff did not file her Complaint until December 20, 2013, 91 days of her receipt of the EEOC's right-to-sue letter, which she alleges occurred on September 20, 2013. ( Id. )

Fourth, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's retaliation claims must be dismissed for the following reasons: (a) she has failed to state a retaliation claim under Title VII arising from events occurring in, and after, January of 2011, because she has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting a causal connection between the filing of her EEOC charge (in March of 2005) and the resolution of that charge in her favor (in 2009) and the coercive meeting she allegedly experienced (which occurred in January of 2009), given the two-year delay between the events and the fact that (according to Plaintiff's own Complaint) Defendant York was not the County Sheriff at the time that her EEOC charge was filed (which instead was Larry Cleveland); and (b) her retaliation claim under the First Amendment must be dismissed as redundant of her retaliation claim under Title VII. ( Id. )

Fifth, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's substantive due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment must be dismissed because she fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting government conduct that is so egregious and outrageous as to shock the contemporary conscience, which is necessary to support a substantive due process claim (but rather she alleges that she was afforded a three-day Article 75 hearing after notice thereof). ( Id. )

Sixth, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant County Sheriff's Office must be dismissed for failure to allege facts plausibly suggesting municipal liability under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Serv.s of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), including the fact that any of the violations alleged occurred pursuant to a governmental custom, policy or practice. ( Id. )

Seventh, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's claim under Section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Act against Defendant York must be dismissed due to her failure to, on a timely basis (i.e., within 90 days of the accrual of the claim, which here is by October 10, 2011) serve a Notice of Claim upon Warren County, and affirmatively plead her compliance with that statutory requirement, as mandated by New York County Law § 52 and New York General Municipal Law § 50-i. ( Id. )

Eighth, argue the County Defendants, in the alternative, Plaintiff's claim under Section 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Act must be dismissed because that statute does not give rise to a private cause of action. ( Id. )

Ninth, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's punitive damage claim against Defendant County Sheriff's Office must be dismissed because (a) ordinarily municipalities are immune from punitive damages on claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and (b) Defendant County Sheriff's Office is not organized for any purpose of gain or profit but for ...


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