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Fleurentin v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 3, 2020

FRANCOIS M. FLEURENTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY HEALTH AND HOSPITALS CORP. AND KINGS COUNTY HOSPITAL CENTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ANN M. DONNELLY, United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff brings this action against defendants New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. ("H") and Kings County Hospital Center ("KCHC") alleging that the defendants failed to promote him and created a hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 el seq. ("Title VII"), New York State Executive Law § 296, and New York City Human Rights Law § 8-107. (ECF No. 25.) The defendants[1] move to dismiss the complaint as untimely under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 and for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 26.) For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

         BACKGROUND [2]

         The following facts are drawn from the plaintiffs amended complaint. (ECF No. 25.) Plaintiff Francois M. Fleurentin was born in Haiti and immigrated to the United States. (Id. ¶ 18.) In 1993, the plaintiff began working in medical offices connected with the New York City Department of Health. (Id. ¶ 19.) He earned bachelor degrees in Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Chemistry Education from Brooklyn College. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 35.) In 2004, H hired the plaintiff as a Public Health Educator I at KCHC, where his responsibilities included "conducting] educational activities that address the needs of target populations, evaluat[ing] the effectiveness of then-existing public health programs, and maintain[ing] relationships with other health care professionals." (Id. ¶¶ 20, 28.)[3] H also has more senior Public Health Educator II positions; those employees "work on special projects as required," "carry out on-the-job training and evaluate performance of assigned staff, and perform more supervisory roles over Level I's [sic] and other staff members." (Id. ¶ 29.)

         In March of 2005, the defendants moved the plaintiff to another operating division of H, East New York Diagnostic and Treatment Center ("ENY"). (Id. ¶ 40.) There, he continued as a Public Health Educator I in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology ("OB/GYN"). (Id.) The defendants asked him to perform additional duties for patients in the Diabetes Department. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42.) In August 2006 and again in December 2007, the plaintiff asked for a raise because of these additional responsibilities but received no response. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) On February 27, 2008, the plaintiff filed an internal grievance, claiming he should be promoted to Senior Public Health Educator if he had to work for multiple departments. (Id. ¶ 45.) The defendants denied the plaintiffs request at a grievance meeting on March 17, 2008. (Id. ¶ 47.) The plaintiff contacted his union hearing officer, Denise Johnson-Green, requesting additional compensation; she also denied his request. (Id. ¶ 48.)

         In May of 2008, having unsuccessfully sought promotions four times in two years, the plaintiff approached Dr. Reba Williams, the physician in charge of the program, and "spoke to her about his desire to be paid more." (Id. ¶ 49.) The next day, the plaintiffs direct supervisor, Patricia Hinds, confronted him for "going outside of the in-office chain of command." (Id. ¶ 51.) Ms. Hinds "began screaming" at the plaintiff and was "visibly angry." (Id. ¶ 51.) The plaintiff felt "threatened ... upset and dismayed." (Id.) A month later, Ms. Hinds met with the plaintiff and gave him "an extremely negative" work evaluation. (Id. ¶ 54.) The plaintiff asked Ms. Hinds to explain the basis for the negative review, but she did not. (Id. ¶ 54.) At the end of June, the plaintiff filed a grievance for several unspecified "instances of harassment" by Ms. Hinds, but his union did not take any action. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.)

         The next several years appear to have passed without incident. In 2011, the defendants assigned the plaintiff to a new project, the Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative, where he worked for the next five years. (Id. ¶¶ 57-58.) The plaintiffs responsibilities included attending conferences and developing educational programs. (Id. ¶ 59.) During this period, the plaintiff incurred travel expenses in connection with his new position. (Id. ¶ 60.) He submitted an arbitration claim for the travel expenses, which the defendants denied. (Id. ¶ 60.) In 2015, the plaintiffs fellow staff members selected him to portray Santa Claus for a holiday event. (Id. ¶ 62.) However, the plaintiffs supervisor at the time, Marie Millet, "rejected the idea," saying that it would be "unacceptable" to have someone with a "heavy Haitian accent" play Santa Claus. (M¶ 63.)[4]

         In March of 2016, Ms. Millet assigned the plaintiff to a new department, the Department of Community Affairs. (Id. ¶¶ 65-73.) When the plaintiff refused to accept the reassignment, his union representative, George Wade, contacted him and told him that Ms. Millet would fire him if he did not accept the position. (Id. ¶¶ 66-71.) In June of 2016, the plaintiff met with Ms. Millet and his new direct supervisor, Karen James-Wade, to sign an updated job description. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants assigned him "degrading" tasks unworthy of someone with his professional background: picking up food from grocery stores and restaurants, preparing and serving food, and inspecting cooking equipment. (Id. ¶¶ 76-77.) The defendants also required the plaintiff to distribute bananas to patients, a task he considered racially motivated and a reference to his Haitian background. (Id. ¶¶ 75-76.) The plaintiffs similarly-situated non-Haitian colleagues were not expected to perform these tasks. (Id. ¶¶ 79, 85.) The plaintiff felt that he "was a Public Health Educator in title, but a bus boy in practice." (Id. ¶ 77.) During this same time period, the defendants asked the plaintiff to take on additional responsibilities typically assigned to a Public Health Educator II, a more senior position. (Id. ¶ 77.) For example, Karen James-Wade, the plaintiffs supervisor after his transfer, asked the plaintiff to train a new Public Health Educator I in the OB/GYN department, a responsibility usually assigned to a second-level Public Health Educator. (Id. ¶¶ 81, 29.)

         After several months, the plaintiff applied for a new position in a different H operating division because he felt "humiliated" about picking up food for events and performing tasks below his experience and educational level. (Id. ¶ 86.) The plaintiff did not receive an interview. (Id. ¶ 88.) Instead, according to the plaintiff, the supervisor hired a friend for the position, and told the plaintiff that she did not select him because he "lacked prior managerial experience." (Id.)

         On July 11, 2017, the plaintiff brought his allegations of discrimination before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. ¶ 5.) In October of 2017, the defendants transferred the plaintiff back to the OB/GYN Department. (Id. ¶ 91.) The EEOC notified the plaintiff of his right to sue on May 31, 2018. (Id. ¶ 6.) The plaintiff then commenced this action on August 31, 2018. (ECF No. 1.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A court considering a Rule 12 motion must accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor. See Town of Babylon, 699 F.3d at 227. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 514 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim is 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. (quoting Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678). Although the pleading standard does not require "detailed factual allegations," it demands "more than labels and conclusions" and "a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In an employment discrimination action, the plaintiff must allege sufficient non-conclusory facts to "nudge" his claim "across the line from conceivable to plausible" to survive a motion to dismiss. Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, 87 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal citations omitted).

         A court limits its consideration to "the factual allegations in plaintiff['s] amended complaint, which are accepted as true, to documents attached to the complaint as an exhibit or incorporated in it by reference, to matters of which judicial notice may be taken, or to documents either in plaintiff['s] possession or of which plaintiff [ ] had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit." Faconti v. Potter, 242 Fed.Appx. 775, 777 (2d Cir. 2007) (alterations in original); see also Samuels v. Air Transp. Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993) (noting that on a 12(b)(6) motion, "only the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the pleadings and matters of which judicial notice may be taken are considered.").

         DISCUSSION

         I liberally construe the amended complaint as asserting discrimination claims in violation of Title VII, New York State Executive Law § 296 ("NYSHRL"), and New York City Human Rights Law § 8-107 ("NYCHRL"). Most of the plaintiffs claims are untimely. None of them states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         I. Plaintiffs Failure to Promote Claims Under Title VII and the NYSHRL (Counts I and III)

         A. Timeliness

         A plaintiff must file a Title VII employment discrimination charge within 300 days of the alleged unlawful practice. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). The plaintiff filed charges with the EEOC on June 11, 2017. (ECF No. 25 ¶ 5.) Accordingly, any claims occurring before August 15, 2016 are untimely unless the plaintiff ...


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