United States District Court, S.D. New York
LOVETTA S. NELSON, Plaintiff,
MOUNT VERNON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT and DR. HASNA MUHAMMAD, as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and individually, Defendants.
J. Kelly, Esq.Law Offices of Paula Johnson Kelly Counsel
S. Smith, Jr., Esq. Karen C. Rudnicki, Esq. Silverman &
Associates Counsel for Defendants
OPINION & ORDER
KENNETH M. KARAS UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lovetta S. Nelson (“Plaintiff”) brings this
Action against the Mount Vernon City School District
(“School District” or “District”) and
Dr. Hasna Muhammad (“Dr. Muhammad” and
collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that
Defendants unlawfully retaliated against her for making
complaints about sexual harassment in violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq., and the New York State Human Rights Law
(“NYSHRL”), N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq.
(See generally Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 15).)Defendants
have filed a Partial Motion To Dismiss the Amended Complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (the
“Motion”), seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's
NYSHRL claims. (Dkt. No. 16.) For the reasons stated below,
the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint and the documents appended thereto, and are taken
as true for the purpose of resolving the Motion. Only the
facts necessary to the resolution of the Motion are recounted
began working for the School District in 2007 as a per diem
substitute teacher. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff
continued in that position until 2013. (Id. ¶
15.) In January 2013, the School District hired Dr. Muhammad
to serve as the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.
(Id. ¶ 23.) On February 28, 2013, Plaintiff was
summoned to a meeting with Dr. Muhammad, during which Dr.
Muhammad questioned Plaintiff about a sexual misconduct
complaint Plaintiff made in January 2011 against a fellow
teacher. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 67.) Dr. Muhammad
stated she was going to be “looking into” the
incident, (id. ¶ 24 (internal quotation marks
omitted)), and informed Plaintiff that Plaintiff's name
was going to be removed from the “active”
substitute teacher list for the duration of the
investigation, (id. ¶ 25 (internal quotation
this initial meeting with Dr. Muhammad, Plaintiff had been
assigned to work as a substitute teacher at the Longfellow
Elementary School in March 2013. (Id. ¶ 29.)
Plaintiff continued to appear as assigned despite Dr.
Muhammad's indication that Plaintiff was being removed
from the substitute teaching list. (Id.) On March
11, 2013, Plaintiff was removed from a classroom at
Longfellow and directed to appear again before Dr. Muhammad.
(Id. ¶ 30.) Dr. Muhammad stated that she was
still looking into the sexual harassment complaint and told
Plaintiff that she was suspended until Dr. Muhammad told her
otherwise. (Id.) Plaintiff nonetheless accepted
other substitute teaching assignments in the District in
April and May 2013. (Id. ¶ 43.)
September 24, 2013, Dr. Muhammad sent Plaintiff a memorandum
stating that Plaintiff had been insubordinate by accepting
substitute teaching positions in the District and informed
Plaintiff that she could no longer serve as a substitute
teacher. (Id. ¶¶ 44-47; see also
Id. Ex. 4.) Plaintiff thereafter submitted a letter to
the School District's Superintendent, dated October 1,
2013, stating that Dr. Muhammad's actions were
discriminatory. (Id. ¶ 50; see also
Id. Ex. 3-A.) The Superintendent did not respond to the
letter. (Id. ¶ 50.)
November and December 2013, Plaintiffs counsel communicated
with the Superintendent and counsel for the School District.
First, on November 8, 2013, Plaintiffs counsel sent a letter
to the Superintendent in an attempt to resolve the matter.
(Id. ¶ 51; see also Id. Ex. 3-B.)
Plaintiff did not receive a response from the Superintendent.
Plaintiffs counsel was thereafter contacted by a lawyer for
the School District, who represented that he was
“authorized to discuss the . . . matter with
[Plaintiffs counsel] in all respects.” (Id.
Ex. 3-C.) On November 29, 2013, Plaintiffs counsel submitted
a settlement demand letter to the School District's
counsel. (Id. Ex. 3-D.) The letter noted that
Plaintiff understood that counsel for the School District had
to present the settlement proposal to the Board of Directors
for the School District before a settlement could be reached.
(Id. Ex. 3-D, at 2.) After failing to hear from
counsel for the School District for several weeks, Plaintiffs
counsel sent an email to the School District's counsel
asking him whether he presented the settlement proposal to
the Board of Directors, and informing the School District of
Plaintiff s intention to file a charge of retaliation with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). (Id. Ex. 3-E.) Plaintiff did
not receive a response to these communications. (Id.
¶ 53.) In January 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge with
the EEOC, alleging Defendants violated Title VII.
(Id. ¶ 54.)
August 2014, Plaintiff applied to be a substitute teacher for
the School District, the same position she held before Dr.
Muhammad fired her. Plaintiff was advised by a District
representative that the District was not hiring.
(Id. ¶ 58.) Plaintiff alleges that the School
District hired other substitute teachers for the 2014-2015
school year. (Id. ¶ 59.) After Plaintiff
learned that the School District was in fact hiring,
Plaintiff attempted to apply a second time. (Id.
¶ 60.) A different School District employee informed
Plaintiff that Plaintiff could not be given an application
“because of what Dr. Muhammad said.”
(Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).)
again attempted in August or September 2015 to apply for
substitute teaching positions with the School District.
(Id. ¶ 62.) School District employees did not
return Plaintiff's calls inquiring about being re-hired
by the School District. (Id.)
alleges that Defendants' decision to suspend and
terminate her employment with the School District was in
retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment in 2011.
(Id. ¶¶ 67-69.) The School District's
retaliatory conduct allegedly continues to this day because