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Wynn v. New York City Housing Authority

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 29, 2015


Lee Sam Nuwesra, Esq., Law Offices of Lee Nuwesra, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Diana Marie Murhpy, Esq., Marni Blank, Esq., New York City Housing Authority, New York, NY, for Defendants New York City Housing Authority.


SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.


Brian Wynn, John Williams, Awilda Guzman, Jose Otero, and Kevin Fulton bring this action alleging that their employer, the New York City Housing Authority ("NYCHA"), has been systematically under-compensating them due to their race and/or ethnicity. Plaintiffs assert causes of action for violations of their civil rights under section 1981 of title 42 of the United States Code as well as the New York City Human Rights Laws ("NYCHRL"). NYCHA now moves to dismiss all claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs cross-move for leave to amend their Complaint in order to: (1) bring this case as a class action lawsuit; (2) add the local chapter of their union, Local 237 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the "Union"), as a defendant; and (3) assert additional causes of action. For the reasons set forth below, NYCHA's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and plaintiffs' cross-motion for leave to amend is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


Plaintiffs are all minorities - either Black or Hispanic - who reside in New York.[2] All plaintiffs are currently employed by NYCHA and perform the job duties of Plasterer Tenderers, also known as Plasterer Helpers.[3] Plaintiffs have held their respective jobs at NYCHA for varying lengths of time, ranging from a low of approximately twelve to a high of approximately seventeen years.[4]

Plaintiffs contend that NYCHA discriminates against them on the basis of their race or ethnicity by failing to pay them prevailing wages.[5] Further, plaintiffs allege that NYCHA attempts to disguise its employment practices by assigning to plaintiffs the job title "Caretaker P" instead of Plasterer Tenderer.[6]


A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to assert by motion the defense that a court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a claim. Federal courts have limited subject-matter jurisdiction.[7] "The plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence."[8] Courts also have an "independent obligation to establish the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction."[9] In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the court "must take all uncontroverted facts in the complaint [] as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party asserting jurisdiction."[10] However, in cases where the defendant challenges the factual basis of the plaintiff's assertion of jurisdiction, "the court has the power and obligation to decide issues of fact by reference to evidence outside the pleadings, such as affidavits.'"[11]

B. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept[] all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor."[12] The court evaluates the sufficiency of the complaint under the "two-pronged approach" set forth by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal. [13] Under the first prong, a court may "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth."[14] For example, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."[15] Under the second prong of Iqbal, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief."[16] A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."[17] Plausibility requires "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully."[18]

When deciding a motion to dismiss, "a district court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint."[19] A court may also consider a document that is not incorporated by reference "where the complaint relies heavily upon its terms and effect, ' thereby rendering the document integral' to the complaint."[20]

C. Leave to Amend

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that, other than amendments as a matter of course, "a party may amend [its pleading] only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party."[21] Although "[t]he Court should freely give leave when justice so requires, "[22] it is "within the sound discretion of the district court to grant or deny leave to amend."[23] When a motion to dismiss is granted, "[i]t is the usual practice... to allow leave to replead.'"[24] Where a plaintiff inadequately pleads a claim and cannot offer additional substantive information to cure the deficient pleading, granting leave to replead is futile.[25] ...

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