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Ciulla-Noto v. Xerox Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 7, 2017

TAMARA CIULLA-NOTO, Plaintiff,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge United States District Court

         A very basic question lies at the heart of this employment discrimination case: did Xerox Corporation (“Xerox”) fire Plaintiff Tamara Ciulla-Noto (“Plaintiff”) for a prohibited reason? Plaintiff claims that she was fired in retaliation for engaging in protected activity and seeks relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”). But Plaintiff's complaint lacks any plausible factual allegations regarding the causal connection between her protected activity and her termination. Therefore, Xerox's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 4) must be granted.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff began working at Xerox in 1988 and most recently held the position of “M-2 Material Handler/Fork Truck Driver.” During Plaintiff's time at Xerox, she had repeatedly complained to management and to her union about discrimination and was well known for vocally opposing unlawful treatment in the workplace. On August 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge alleging disability and gender discrimination.[2] The EEOC issued its determination on September 26, 2013.[3]

         A year later, on September 25, 2014, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with co-worker Susan Arena. Shortly after Plaintiff's shift, Arena approached Plaintiff in the workplace and began yelling at her and threatening her without any provocation. Arena said she would “kick [Plaintiff's] fucking ass” and pointed her finger near Plaintiff's face in an offensive and unwelcome manner.

         Plaintiff did not reciprocate and instead attempted to remove herself from the situation by walking away, but Arena followed Plaintiff to another area and continued to wave her finger in Plaintiff's face. Plaintiff, feeling physically threatened and intimidated by Arena, “gently removed Ms. Arena's hand away from her facial area to protect herself.” After Plaintiff moved Arena's hand away from her face, Arena walked away from Plaintiff and said “she's a rat and I want to kill her.” Plaintiff alleges that she “conducted herself as a model employee” during this incident, “never once reciprocating or engaging in any offensive response to Ms. Arena's hostilities.”

         On October 7, 2014, after investigating the September 25, 2014 altercation, Xerox decided to fire both Plaintiff and Arena. Xerox concluded that Plaintiff used “inappropriate language” in violation of the Xerox Code of Conduct, but Plaintiff alleges that she never used “any language that was inappropriate in the slightest.” Although dock security cameras would have corroborated Plaintiff's version of events, they “were conveniently not in operation at the time of the incident.”

         Following her termination, Plaintiff received an unsolicited telephone call from a former co-worker who she refers to as “Mr. R.” Mr. R told Plaintiff that he had observed the September 25, 2014 incident and was “shocked and dismayed” that Xerox fired Plaintiff. Mr. R also said that he had relayed his observations, which matched Plaintiff's version of events, to Xerox management.

         Despite Xerox's stated justification for her termination, Plaintiff alleges that the “real reason” Xerox filed her was to retaliate against her for having previously opposed discrimination in the workplace. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Xerox fired her for filing an EEOC charge on August 23, 2013 alleging disability and gender discrimination and for filing approximately nine previous discrimination and retaliation complaints during her employment at Xerox.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 572 (2007), and “draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). The application of this standard is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         DISCUSSION

         Xerox argues that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for retaliation[4] under either Title VII or the ADA because she has failed to plausibly allege a causal connection between her protected activity and her termination. ECF No. 4. The Court agrees.

         Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because that employee “has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Similarly, the ADA provides that “[n]o person shall discriminate against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this chapter or because such individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this chapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a). To state a claim for retaliation under either Title VII or the ADA, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that: (1) the defendant ...


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