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Hull v. County of Schenectady

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 28, 2015

TANYA HULL, Plaintiff,


LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.


Plaintiff Tanya Hull ("Plaintiff") filed this employment action against Defendants County of Schenectady and Schenectady County Sheriff's Department ("the Department") (collectively, "Defendants"), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to dismiss. Dkt. No. 8 ("Motion"). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff is an African-American woman who has been employed as a corrections officer with the Department at the Schenectady County Jail since March 31, 2002. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9. On October 30, 2010, Plaintiff took the Department's promotional exam for the position of corrections sergeant ("sergeant"). Id . ¶ 12. She scored an 85 on the exam. Id . In the summer of 2012, the Department conducted interviews for that position. Id . ¶ 13. Plaintiff was interviewed for the position on August 1, 2012, by Sheriff Dagostino, Undersheriff Pollard, and Major Ewell. Id . ¶¶ 13, 16. The interviewers informed Plaintiff that her interview was "one of the best that had ever been conducted by an applicant." Id . ¶ 16. Plaintiff had more seniority than any other applicant who was interviewed, by at least four years. Id . ¶ 14.

The Department interviewed five other applicants for the position, all of whom were Caucasian men. Id . ¶ 15. The candidate pool also contained one bi-racial male and one Guyanese male, neither of whom were interviewed for the position. Id . On August 7, 2012, Plaintiff was informed that Anthony Sinatra, a Caucasian male, was promoted to sergeant. Id . ¶ 26.

Plaintiff was told that she was denied the promotion based on a disciplinary incident that occurred on August 4, 2012, just three days after her interview. Id . On August 4, Plaintiff brought a gift bag containing a bottle of wine onto the premises of the Schenectady County Jail. Id . ¶ 17. Plaintiff intended to give the wine as a birthday gift to a nurse who worked in the medical unit of the jail. Id . When Plaintiff arrived at the medical unit, the nurse was on the phone. Id . ¶ 18. Plaintiff then placed the bag on a chair, and while she was waiting next to it, the wine fell and broke on the floor of the medical unit. Id . ¶ 19. When the bottle broke, the only inmates in the vicinity of the broken glass were preparing breakfast in the kitchen. Id . ¶ 20. Plaintiff removed the broken glass and left the medical unit to find an inmate to assist in cleaning up the spilled wine. Id . ¶ 21. Sergeant Karen Pelletier ("Sergeant Pelletier"), the only female sergeant at the Department, was alerted to the situation. Id . ¶¶ 22, 28. Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Pelletier was "elated to sign a statement against [Plaintiff], as she has a demonstrated dislike for African-Americans and definitely did not want [Plaintiff] promoted to Correction Sergeant." Id . ¶ 23.

Plaintiff alleges that the Department "unfairly singled out [Plaintiff] for unequal treatment" by turning the August 4 incident into a disciplinary issue. Id . ¶ 30. According to Plaintiff, on another occasion, a different corrections officer brought wine into the jail and was not disciplined. Id . ¶ 31.

Since she was denied the promotion in 2012, Plaintiff has applied for promotion four more times. Id . ¶ 29. In each case, Plaintiff had the highest test score and the most seniority of any applicant. Id . In each round, however, a Caucasian man was selected for promotion. Id . ¶¶ 34, 38-43. Plaintiff alleges that the Department used the August 4, 2012 incident, as well as an incident that occurred on February 19, 2013, in which Plaintiff had a verbal disagreement with Sergeant Pelletier, as pretextual reasons to deny her a promotion to sergeant. Id . ¶¶ 36, 45.

Plaintiff alleges that the Department operates under the discriminatory policy of denying promotions to otherwise qualified African-Americans and women. Id . ¶ 2. In support of this theory, Plaintiff alleges that the Department has never promoted an African-American woman to sergeant, despite the fact that numerous African-American women are employed by the Department. Id . ¶ 27. In the past several decades, the Department has only promoted two African-American men to sergeant. Id . Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that there is only one female sergeant currently employed at the Department, Sergeant Pelletier. Id . ¶ 28. Plaintiff alleges that the only other woman to be promoted to sergeant in the Department's recent history was promoted because she was married to a Lieutenant in the Department at the time of her promotion. Id . ¶ 28. After the couple divorced, this sergeant was demoted back to corrections officer. Id.

Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge associated with her first two denials of promotion with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on May 16, 2013. Id . ¶ 50. Plaintiff subsequently added the third, fourth, and fifth denials of promotion to her EEOC Complaint. Id . ¶¶ 51, 52. The EEOC issued Plaintiff a right-to-sue letter on July 18, 2014. Id . ¶ 53. On October 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint, alleging race and gender discrimination under Title VII and race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See generally id. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cause of action and on the ground that the Complaint was untimely. See Mot.; Dkt. No. 8-4 ("Memorandum of Law"). Plaintiff filed a Response opposing the Motion. See Dkt. No. 10 ("Response"). Defendants conceded in their Reply that the action was timely commenced. See Dkt. No. 12 ("Reply").


To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). A court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of a plaintiff. See Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006). A complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) only where it appears that there are not "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Plausibility requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged misconduct]." Id. at 556. The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, ...

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