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Rock v. Blaine

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 17, 2015

PENNY ROCK, Plaintiff,

ELMER ROBERT KEACH, III, ESQ., MARIA K. DYSON, ESQ., ELMER ROBERT KEACH, III, P.C., Albany, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

CATHY Y. SHEEHAN, ESQ., NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL - ALBANY, Albany, New York, Attorneys for Defendants State of New York and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.


MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.


On November 11, 2015, Plaintiff Penny Rock commenced this action against Defendants State of New York and three individuals (Blaine, LaValley, and Holdrige) pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging retaliatory conduct for making a formal complaint of gender discrimination. See Dkt. No. 1. In response to Defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, naming the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") as an additional defendant. See Dkt. No. 6.

Presently before the Court is Defendant State of New York's motion to dismiss the claims against it, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. Nos. 8-1.


A. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

1. Factual Allegations Pleaded

In February 2013, Plaintiff was involved in an incident with another corrections officer who "flew into a rage" and threatened Plaintiff. See Dkt. No. 6 at ¶ 11. Plaintiff submitted a written, informal complaint to her captain, Defendant Holdrige, who then invited Plaintiff to his office to discuss the incident. See id. at ¶ 12. During this discussion - but following resolution of the issue between Plaintiff and the involved corrections officer - Defendant Holdrige asked Defendant Blaine, Plaintiff's supervisor, whether he had anything to add to the discussion. See id. Defendant Blaine, who had "a known and documented history of... disdain for women who work in correctional facilities, " refused to discuss the incident while Plaintiff was present and "slammed [the] door."[1] See id. Plaintiff then expressed to Defendant Holdrige her belief that Defendant Blaine would "come after" her because of the incident. See id.

Plaintiff consequently suffered harassment at work "almost every day" for the next year. See id. at ¶ 13. Defendant Blaine would "come into her work area, often at night when [Plaintiff] was alone, and stare at her[, ]" and "laugh and smirk at her" when she walked by. Id. After Plaintiff's coworker stated to Defendant Blaine that Plaintiff had no intention of "bid[ding] out of her job in [Blaine's] location[, ]" he remarked that he would "continue to apply pressure on [Plaintiff]" to request a work assignment at a different location. Id. During this time, Plaintiff informally complained to her superiors - including Defendant Holdrige and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey[2] - but Defendant Blaine's conduct was not remedied. See id.

On July 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging that Defendant Blaine was discriminating against her based on her sex. See id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff's complaint also detailed the alleged discrimination of five other women - most of whom had requested reassignment to a different location after being sexually harassed by Defendant Blaine. Id. The EEOC's findings were ultimately inconclusive, and Plaintiff was issued a Right to Sue letter. See Dkt. No. 6, Exhibit A.

Defendant Blaine thereafter began to stalk Plaintiff outside of the workplace; and in one instance on October 15, 2013, he pushed a shopping cart in front of Plaintiff's cart and made vulgar statements at her when she greeted him. See id. at ¶ 18. Immediately following this incident, Plaintiff made a statement to the New York State Police detailing Defendant Blaine's harassment at work and noting that he was "now following her outside the facility." See id. Plaintiff provided a copy of the police report to Defendant Holdrige and informed him that the "escalating harassment was causing her to fear for her physical safety and was also causing her severe stress for which she was seeking medical help." Id. The following day, October 31, 2013, Plaintiff received a workplace evaluation from her supervisor with a negative comment regarding her ability to "get along with others, " which her supervisor stated he had to include otherwise "he would get in trouble."[3] Id. Plaintiff again complained to her superiors, but no corrective action was taken. See id.

On November 4, 2013, Plaintiff met with the director of EAP and complained of severe chest pains. See id. at ¶ 21. The director instructed Plaintiff to seek immediate medical attention because she ...

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