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Melton v. Poughkeepsie City School District

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 18, 2017

CAROL MELTON, Plaintiff,
v.
POUGHKEEPSIE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT and ASFCME LOCAL 3209, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Vincent L. Briccetti United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Carol Melton, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), alleging defendants Poughkeepsie City School District (the “District”) and ASFCME Local 3209 (the “Union”) discriminated against her on the basis of race.

         Before the Court is the District's motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. #17).

         For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. In addition, the Court sua sponte dismisses the Union as a defendant.

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         BACKGROUND

         For purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all factual allegations of the amended complaint as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.

         Plaintiff, who identifies as “Black or African American” and “Asian, ” began working for the District as a teaching assistant in September 1999, and continues to hold that position to date. (Am. Compl. at 8).[1]I. 2015-2016 School Year Plaintiff alleges on September 1, 2015, she was “involuntarily transferred” instead of less-senior “non-Black” employees. (Am. Compl. at 14). In addition, on September 14, 2015, the District transferred plaintiff in an “emergency” to a “mandated class room” at a different school, rather than transfer a “non-Black” employee with less seniority. (Id.).

         Plaintiff further alleges between September 15 and December 23, 2015, a “classroom teacher . . . treated non-Black employees (and students) in the classroom different than [plaintiff] and other Black employees in the same classroom, ” including by speaking to black employees in “a very disrespectful manner.” (Am. Compl. at 14). The classroom teacher “[s]ubsequently . . . had [plaintiff] transferred from the classroom.” (Id.).

         On October 14, 2015, the District “took away [plaintiff's] paid (approximately $12, 000 in pay) 2015-2016 school year extra assignment position . . . and gave it to a non-Black person which was out of seniority and violated past practice.” (Am. Compl. at 14).

         On December 23, 2015, the school principal, Nadine Dargan, met plaintiff in her classroom “to remove [plaintiff's] personal items and belongings in the middle of the day in front of other co-workers and students, which was embarrassing and mortifying, ” and leaving plaintiff “in limbo without an assigned class” just before the winter break. (Am. Compl. at 15).

         On December 31, 2015, plaintiff completed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Intake Questionnaire (“EEOC charge”). (See Am. Compl. at 8-11). Plaintiff's EEOC charge contains two allegations:

1. “Moving [plaintiff] and other Black employees to certain Mandated classes while not moving Caucasian employees to those classes even thou [sic] they state that all employees in our position is [sic] suppose [sic] to be in those said classes.”
2. “Treating Caucasian employees (and Students) in the classroom different than [plaintiff] and other Black employees in the same classroom. Talking to Black employees in a very disrespectful manner while always being polite to the Caucasian employees in similar situations. Having [plaintiff] removed from the classroom.”

(Id. at 9).

         On April 28, 2016, plaintiff “received an inappropriate memo from [Ms. Dargan] regarding [plaintiff's] husband.” (Am. Compl. at 15). On April 29, 2016, Ms. Dargan asked plaintiff to cover another class. After that class, plaintiff met with Ms. Dargan “upon the Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Ronel Cook's directive.” (Id. at 15). Ms. Dargan then “proceeded to have an inappropriate meeting regarding [plaintiff's] husband.” (Id.).

         On May 17, 2016, the school assistant principal, Nicole Penn, asked plaintiff to cover another class. Plaintiff “politely declined as per [her] rights in the contract, ” which was “the first time that [plaintiff] declined to do an extra assignment.” (Am. Compl. 16). Later that day, Ms. Dargan directed plaintiff both orally and in writing to cover the class, even though “it was clearly understood that another teacher assistant with less seniority, did not have to cover a class.” (Id.).

         On May 18, 2016, plaintiff received a letter from Ms. Dargan directing plaintiff to meet with her the next day and to bring a union representative to the meeting.

         Present during the May 19, 2016, meeting were plaintiff, Dr. Cook, Ms. Penn, Ms. Dargan, and plaintiff's union representative. Only after the meeting was convened did plaintiff and her union representative learn it was a disciplinary meeting. Plaintiff added in her opposition to defendants' motion that she had never been the subject of a disciplinary hearing in her previous seventeen years of employment with the District. (Opp'n at pp. 45-46).

         Plaintiff found Dr. Cook's presence and behavior at this meeting-including the fact that he “slammed his fist on the table” at one point during the meeting-to be very distressing. (Am. Compl. at 16). She alleges she “became very ill, ” that her “blood pressure . . . sho[]t up very high, ” and that each time she “thought or spoke about what transpired . . . [she] would have a relapse.” (Id.). Plaintiff called in sick on May 20, 23-27, and 31, 2016.

         When plaintiff returned to work in early June, there was an incident in which she felt Ms. Dargan had accused her of steeling school laptops. (See Am. Compl. at 17).

         Plaintiff alleges in June 2016, “[t]he District, based on the actions of [Dr. Cook], in collusion with [plaintiff's] union, deducted 3½ days of pay” from her June 24, 2016, paycheck. (Am. Compl. at 17). The District allegedly refused to explain why plaintiff's pay was deducted for one of those days.

         On June 30, 2016, Dr. Cook wrote in an email he was “not interested” in participating in a meeting with plaintiff because there was “a current complaint against [him] and the District.” (Am. Compl. at 15). However, plaintiff alleges Dr. Cook nevertheless “continuously inserted himself into [plaintiff's] daily work activities.” (Id. at 18).

         On July 1, 2016, the District and Dr. Cook “hired union employees to fill summer extra assignment positions out of order of seniority and/or job title, ” and did not offer plaintiff one of these positions. (Am. Compl. at 18). II. 2016-2017 School Year Plaintiff alleges on October 25, 2016, she “was out on a sick day, ” but Dr. Cook “surveilled [her] in one school building and hours later followed [her] to another school building” and “confronted” her. (Am. Compl. at 18). She alleges Dr. Cook told her she was required to attend a meeting the next day.

         During the meeting on October 26, 2016, according to plaintiff, Dr. Cook “colluded” with the president of the Union and made inappropriate statements about union affairs. (Am. Compl. at 18). Plaintiff alleges she again only learned at the end of the meeting that it had been a disciplinary meeting. Dr. Cook allegedly wanted plaintiff to sign certain paperwork that “would have been detrimental to [plaintiff's] union membership.” (Id. at 19).

         On October 27, 2016, plaintiff participated in “union nominations & election.” (Am. Comp. 19). She alleges Dr. Cook “stalked” and “proceeded to harass” plaintiff and her husband. (Id.). Dr. Cook later “ejected” plaintiff's husband from the school. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges on February 1, 2017, she participated in another disciplinary meeting with Ms. Dargan, at which Ms. Dargan mentioned plaintiff's EEOC case. III. Right to Sue Letter On November 1, 2016, plaintiff received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC dated October 26, ...


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