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Garcia v. Kings County Hospital Center

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 11, 2018



          RAMOS, D.J.

         Pro se plaintiff Shaneis Mardia Garcia brings this action pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) against Kings County Hospital Center and Melissa Walters, alleging employment discrimination and retaliation on the basis of her disability. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff's submissions are poorly written and poorly organized. However, the Court remains obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally, Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011), and to interpret a pro se plaintiff's claims as raising the strongest arguments that they suggest. Triestman v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006). The obligation to be lenient while reading a pro se plaintiff's pleadings “applies with particular force when the plaintiff's civil rights are at issue.” Jackson v. N.Y.S. Department of Labor, 709 F.Supp.2d 218, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (citing McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004)). With these principles in mind, the Court accepts the following allegations from Plaintiff's complaint (“Compl.”) and Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss[1] (“Pl.'s Opp.”) as true for purposes of this motion. See Koch v. Christie's International PLC, 699 F.3d 141, 145 (2d Cir. 2012); Vail v. City of New York, 68 F.Supp.3d 412, 427 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (“Where new allegations in a pro se plaintiff's opposition memoranda are consistent with the allegations contained in the Complaint, they may be read as supplements to the pleadings.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, the Court considers Plaintiff's filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). See Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 305 n.3 (2d Cir. 2015) (“In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, ‘it is proper for this court to consider the plaintiff[']s relevant filings with the EEOC and other documents related to plaintiff's claim, even if they are not attached to the complaint, so long as those filings are either ‘incorporate[d] by reference' or are ‘integral to' and ‘solely relie[d]' upon by the complaint.”) (citation omitted).

         Plaintiff was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1997. Compl. at 72.[2] On October 6, 2014, she was hired by the New York City Health Hospitals to work as a Peer Counselor at Kings County Hospital Center (“KCHC”). Compl. at 82. Plaintiff alleges that her supervisor, Melissa Walters, mistreated and verbally abused her throughout her time at KCHC. See Compl. at 3, 5, 86. According to Plaintiff, Walters was aware of Plaintiff's disability since the moment she was hired. Pl.'s Opp. at 5. The complaint is in essence a chronology of contentious interactions between Plaintiff and Walters from December 2014 to April 2016. See Compl. 8-47; Opp. at 5- 14. Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' motion also primarily consists of the same factual allegations. While too numerous to include here, the Court summarizes some of the alleged interactions between Plaintiff and Walters for the sake of illustration:

• Plaintiff alleges that in December 2014, Walters accused her of sitting in a room doing nothing during work hours and told her that she was not “fit for the job.” Compl. at 9; Pl.'s Opp. at 7.
• Plaintiff alleges that in January 2015, Walters discredited her work ability “in an abusive and cruel tone” and told her that she could not give her a good evaluation because some of her colleagues had complained that she was dismissive and belligerent. Compl. at 12; Pl.'s Opp. at 9. According to Plaintiff, Walters approached her the following day and told her that people complained about her lipstick color and that it was Walters' responsibility to tell her if she was dressing provocatively. Compl. at 13.
• Plaintiff alleges that during an August 7, 2015 meeting about patients wearing sleepwear during a visit from the Department of Justice, she expressed an opinion and Walters angrily put her hand in her face and scolded her. Compl. at 86; Pl.'s Opp. at 10.

         Plaintiff contends that Walters' behavior severely impacted her disability. See Pl.'s Opp. at 3-4, 17-21. In particular, Plaintiff asserts that Walters' emotionally abusive treatment of her triggered a decline in her mental health, causing her to become violent and angry and preventing her from being able to work. See id. On February 24, 2016, Plaintiff requested a four-week leave of absence pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), claiming that she was unable to perform her job functions as a result of her mental illness and would benefit from taking time off from work. Compl. at 70-74. Plaintiff's request was granted and her leave was subsequently extended on two occasions after her psychiatrist informed KCHC that she was not ready to return to work. See id. at 75-76. On March 21, 2016, she filed an application seeking worker's compensation benefits on the basis that Walters' harassment and negative feedback regarding her job performance had affected her physical and emotional health and overall well-being. Compl. at 77-78.

         Plaintiff's FMLA leave expired on June 28, 2016. See Pl.'s Opp. at 40. Plaintiff, however, did not return to work. Id. KCHC sent her multiple letters informing her that she was “Absent Without Official Leave” or “AWOL” and that she could be subject to disciplinary action, including termination. See Pl.'s Opp. at 40-42. After two disciplinary hearings-which Plaintiff did not attend despite having been provided notice-Plaintiff's employment was terminated on January 20, 2017, as a result of her failure to return to work after her FMLA leave expired. See id. at 44-50. Plaintiff does not allege that her termination was discriminatory or violated the ADA.

         II. Procedural History

         During her FMLA leave, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging discrimination on the basis of her disability on April 8, 2016, and the EEOC issued a dismissal and right-to-sue letter on April 13, 2016. Id. at 6-7, 80-85. Plaintiff brought this action on April 27, 2016. Doc 2. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on March 21, 2017. Doc. 26.

         III. Legal Standard

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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. Nielsen v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). The court is not required to credit “mere conclusory statements” or “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)); see also Id. at 681 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 551). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially 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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). More specifically, the plaintiff must allege sufficient ...

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