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Salas v. New York City Department of Investigation

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 30, 2018

ANGELA SALAS, Plaintiff,



         Angela Salas brings this action against her employer, the New York City Department of Investigation ("DOI"), and five individuals at DOI, asserting various employment-discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Salas was proceeding pro se when she filed her Complaint (Dkt. 2) and her Amended Complaint (Dkt. 18), but pro bono counsel later entered an appearance on her behalf. Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint. For the reasons explained below, that motion is denied in part and granted in part.


         The following facts are drawn from the Amended Complaint, the original Complaint, and the documents attached to the original Complaint.[1] All non-conclusory facts are assumed to be true for the purposes of resolving Defendants' motion to dismiss. See Stadnick v. Vivint Solar, Inc., 861 F.3d 31, 35 (2d Cir. 2017).

         Salas is Jewish and has a pronounced stutter. In 2008, she began working in a clerical role for the Fingerprint Division (the "Division") of DOI. In that role, she regularly observes "members of the Hasidic sect of the Jewish religion" come in for fingerprinting. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. Men who are Hasidic have a religious objection to being touched by women and, thus, an objection to being fingerprinted by them. Id. In 2013, Salas wrote a letter to the Director of the Division, Danielle Desrouleaux, about the "contemptuous and rude behavior" of two of her coworkers, Maria Calvi and Judith Marrero, who Salas said had been "displaying] obvious disrespect toward [the] visiting Hasidic Jews." Dkt. 2 at 16.

         The "primary incident" that Salas complains of took place in September 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. According to Salas, Maria Calvi approached "a Hasidic man who came to the Division for fingerprinting" and "suddenly grabbed" the man's hand, proceeding to "forcibly" take his fingerprints over his screamed objections. Id. Salas "heard the commotion" in the fingerprinting area that adjoins her work space. Dkt. 2 at 15. She attempted to interfere, "beseech[ing] her Division colleague to let go of the man's hand, " but Calvi "sneered at her, made vulgar remarks, and carried on" with the fingerprinting. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Calvi allegedly "stuck her nose" in Salas's face and told Salas that it was "none of [Salas's] business" and that Salas could "report [her] to the Director!" Dkt. 2 at 15, 26. Salas went to management to report the September incident. After Salas reported it, Calvi confronted her, shouting in a "menacing manner" to "[g]et off [her] face." Id. at 26. Salas alleges that her reports about the treatment of the Hasidic man were "met with ridicule and indifference" and that "nothing was done" despite multiple follow-ups. Am. Compl. ¶ 10. According to Salas, the incident with the Hasidic man "was merely one of many which occurred at the Division over time, " and "a hostile work environment and religious discrimination has existed and been pervasive at the Division both before and after this incident." Am. Compl.¶ 11.

         In November 2015, Salas's supervisor wrote a formal warning to Salas about the September 2015 incident. In the warning, the supervisor criticized Salas for "[b]erating" Calvi and "tak[ing] matters into [her] own hands" rather than simply notifying her supervisor. Dkt. 2 at 47. In the Amended Complaint, Salas refers to the warning as a "derogatory note, " which she alleges was placed in her file as a result of her complaints about the September incident. See Id. at 51; Am. Compl. ¶ 12. A few weeks later, on December 14, Salas complained to DOFs Assistant Commissioner for Administration, Edgardo Rivera, that Calvi at some point had "humiliated and embarrassed" Salas "by mimicking [her] murmuring disability in front of co-workers." Dkt. 2 at 24. In that same complaint to Rivera, Salas asserted that she had been "victimized" for reporting the incident with the Hasidic man. Id. at 24. On February 1, 2016, Salas was notified that she would not receive a raise. Id. at 14.

         In April 2016, Salas filed a formal charge of discrimination with the EEOC, identifying retaliation, religion, and disability as the grounds for the charge. She provided the following description of the discriminatory conduct that she claimed to have experienced:

Maria Calvi improperly handled an Orthodox Jewish male. (She physically abused him and spoke to him in a harsh manner. She did not address any other patrons harshly), I reported the mistreatment to my supervisor and I received a command discipline. I filed an internal EEO complaint regarding the mistreatment of the Jewish male ... but it was never addressed.
Ms. Calvi makes fun of my stuttering and she intimidates me on a daily basis. I have reported the harassment to management and nothing was done to stop the harassment. In retaliation for filing my internal discrimination complaints I have not received a raise as all of the other employees in my unit[.]

Id. at 28-29. Allegedly as a result of this charge, DOI gave Salas a raise in June 2016. Id. at 21. Even after Salas received the raise, however, she corresponded several times with the EEOC. On August 5, 2016, she sent the EEOC a letter that, among other things, noted how "Calvi. . . mimic[s her] on a daily basis." Id. at 13.

         Salas further asserts that, after the September 2015 incident and her complaints about it, "she has repeatedly been mocked, ridiculed, and made fun of at the Division. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. She alleges that someone removed some of her files, that the "derogatory note" (apparently the written warning described above) "was put into her personnel file, " that "she has suffered abuse, " and that "her religion has repeatedly been mocked." Id. She concludes that she "has suffered discrimination and abuse at the Division on account of her stuttering disability and her religion" and that she has "suffered damages as a result." Id. ¶ 14.

         On November 2, 2016, Salas, proceeding pro se, filed the Complaint in this action, asserting claims of employment discrimination under the ADA and Title VII. Shortly after Salas filed her Amended Complaint, pro bono counsel entered an appearance on her behalf. Defendants now move to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Dkt. 26. Salas, through counsel, filed her opposition, and Defendants replied.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief."' Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the question is "not whether [the plaintiff] will ultimately prevail, " but rather "whether his complaint [is] sufficient to cross the federal court's threshold." Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). In answering this question, the Court must "accept[] all factual allegations as true, but giv[e] no effect to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations." Stadnick, 861 F.3d at 35 (quoting Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entm't, 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010)). This Court must construe a pro se plaintiffs pleadings liberally. Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008). But even pro se litigants must still "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.App'x 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).


         I. Title VII and ADA Claims Against the Individual Defendants

         As an initial matter, Defendants argue that Salas's claims against the individual defendants under Title VII and the ADA must be dismissed. As Defendants correctly point out, individuals cannot be liable under either Title VII or the ADA. See Spiegel v. Schulmann,604 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 2010); Wrighten v. Glowski,232 F.3d 119, 120 (2d Cir. 2000) (per curiam). Thus, ...

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