United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
A. Engelmayer United States District Judge
Renee LeeHim brings this action against the New York City
Department of Education ("DOE"), New York City
Board of Education ("BOE"), and Carmen Farina as
Chancellor of the New York City School District
(collectively, "defendants"). LeeHim alleges
discrimination on the basis of race and gender in violation
of 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et. seq.
("Title VII"), the New York State Human Rights Law,
N.Y Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq.
("NYSHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law,
N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq.
now move to dismiss all claims under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the Court
dismisses plaintiff's complaint in its entirety.
a black woman, was employed by defendants as Director of
Capacity Building within the DOE's Office of Community
Schools ("OCS") from September 15, 2015 until
February 19, 2016. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8. The OCS was
created to implement the DOE's Community Schools
Initiative, which aims to develop schools with robust social
services such as afterschool programming, parent job
training, student wellness assistance, and family engagement
activities. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. The DOE, in
turn, performs the administrative operations of the BOE,
which is the government entity tasked with managing New York
City's public school system. Id. ¶ 10.
Director of Capacity Building, LeeHim was a member of the
eight-member leadership team atop the OCS, led by Executive
Director Chris Caruso and Deputy Executive Director Sarah
Jonas. Id. ¶¶ 14, 21. Among leadership
team members, LeeHim was the only black woman and one of only
two non-white members. Id. ¶¶ 1, 21.
LeeHim felt a special affinity for the job as a result of her
own experience as a student who was "tracked" into
lower-level high school courses rather than the advanced
courses offered mainly to white students. Id.
¶¶ 16, 23.
and others made the decision to hire LeeHim. Id.
¶ 25. During the interview process, defendants
represented that the position needed to be filled
immediately. Id. ¶ 27. Yet within her first
week of work, LeeHim was excluded from multiple meetings,
"core work, " and "communication
streams." Id. ¶¶ 27-28. In her third
week, LeeHim was "shushed" by a white male peer
while a white donor berated her over the phone in what she
perceived to be an inappropriate manner. Id. ¶
28. The same donor also chastised LeeHim the following week
for being "too aggressive" and "young" to
serve in her position, asking whom LeeHim knew to help her
get hired. Id. After LeeHim apologized to the donor
at Caruso's suggestion and generally expressed her desire
for feedback and constructive criticism, Caruso described
LeeHim as "not a team player" and "too
aggressive." Id. ¶ 29. This, LeeHim
alleges, was an example of defendants ascribing to her
"the most insidious racial stereotypes and preconceived
months later, during a meeting with the entire leadership
team, LeeHim objected to the omission of the terms
"equity, " "achievement, " and
"student" from a draft of an OCS promotional
document. Id. ¶ 31. When LeeHim challenged
Caruso's reluctance to promote equity and diversity as
priorities, Caruso responded with a "profane and angry
tirade . .. including very personal attacks."
Id. LeeHim fled the room in humiliation.
complaint also alleges that LeeHim was a victim of wage
discrimination. Id. ¶ 42a.Along with Jonas,
LeeHim was one of only two members of the leadership team
with K-12 classroom teaching experience and an advanced
degree in education. Id. ¶¶ 1,
24.Nevertheless, she received "among one
of the lower salaries" on the OCS leadership team.
Id. ¶ 42a. According to the complaint, this pay
gap is consistent with a "striking disparity"
between DOE's payment of men and women at the same
seniority level. Id.
to the complaint, as a result of the foregoing, LeeHim felt
so suppressed, disrespected, and unwelcome as to force her to
submit her resignation on February 1, 2016. Id.
¶¶ 1, 33. This resignation roughly coincided with
the resignation of five other black women in middle- or
high-ranking positions at the DOE. Id. ¶ 38.
Since her resignation, LeeHim alleges, her position has been
filled by others, "some or all" of whom are black.
2016, LeeHim filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
Id. ¶ 7. On February 23, 2017, the EEOC issued
a right to sue letter. Id.
22, 2017, LeeHim filed the complaint in this action. Dkt. 2.
On July 31, 2017, defendants moved to dismiss. Dkt. 14. On
August 10, 2017, the Court issued an order notifying LeeHim
that she could file an amended complaint as a matter of
course by August 21, 2017, or choose to file an opposition to
the motion to dismiss by the same date. Dkt. 17. Following
two extensions, see Dkts. 19, 24, on September 25,
2017, LeeHim, having chosen not to amend, filed an opposition
to the motion to dismiss. Dkt. 25. On October 13, 2017,
defendants filed a reply. Dkt. 26.
Applicable Legal Standards
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face." BellAtl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim will only
have "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). A complaint is properly dismissed where, as a matter
of law, "the allegations in a complaint, however true,
could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558. For the purpose of
resolving a motion to dismiss, the Court must assume all
well-pleaded facts to be true, drawing all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Koch, 699
F.3d at 145. That tenet, however, "is inapplicable to
legal conclusions." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A
pleading that offers only "labels and conclusions"
or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Pattern or Practice of Discrimination under Title
complaint purports to raise two federal causes of action:
"Pattern or Practice of Discrimination" under Title
VII, and "Discrimination against Plaintiff in Violation
of Title VII." See Compl. ¶¶ 42b-46.
Plaintiffs pursuing Title VII relief under a
pattern-or-practice framework need establish only the
existence of a discriminatory policy, rather than all
elements of a prima facie case of discrimination. Chin v.
PortAuth. OfN.Y. & N.J., 685 F.3d 135, 149 (2d Cir.
2012). But this framework is a method of proof, not a
stand-alone cause of action, and it is "not available to
private, nonclass plaintiffs." Id. As the
Second Circuit has explained, an individual plaintiff may
adduce evidence of an employer's general practice of
discrimination to support her disparate treatment claim, but
such evidence "cannot relieve the plaintiff of the need
to establish each element of [her] claim." Id.
LeeHim brings this action on an individual basis, she may not
establish liability solely by proving the existence of a
discriminatory policy. The Court therefore proceeds to
analyze LeeHim's individual Title VII disparate impact
claim without reference to the pattern-or-practice method of
Individual Discrimination on the Basis of Race and ...