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Rosario v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 22, 2016

MARIA B. ROSARIO, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN BRENNAN and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          JANET BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Maria Rosario brought this action against Defendants Megan Brennan, Postmaster General, and the United States of America, alleging violations of Plaintiffs "Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from deprivation of liberty without due process of law ... in violation of [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act]"[1] (Count One); retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count Two); and intentional infliction of emotional distress ('TIED") (Count Three). Defendants move [Doc. # 21] to dismiss Counts Two and Three. Oral argument was held on June 20, 2016. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted as to Count Three and denied as to Count Two.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts in her Second Amended Complaint [Doc. #21]. On July 28, 2012, Plaintiff was hired as a Motor Vehicle Driver by the United States Postal Service ("USPS"). (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) At some point thereafter, Jeff B. Cureton, the Supervisor of Transportation for the USPS, began to "constantly stare at Plaintiffs body on a daily basis and follow her around the building, making her feel unsafe, intimidated and apprehensive about what he might do to her." (Id. ¶¶ 6, 23.) He "would also engage in lewd behavior such as grabbing parts of his body while staring at her." (Id. ¶ 24.) "On one occasion, [Mr.] Cureton even told her that, as her supervisor, he could do whatever he wanted to her, and that she has to do whatever he said to do." (Id.) As a result, on May 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint regarding Mr. Cureton's harassment of her. (Id. ¶ 8.) Thereafter, Mr. "Cureton's efforts to harass and intimidate the Plaintiff greatly intensified." (Id. ¶ 25.)

         Plaintiff "repeatedly informed" William A. Rodriguez, the Acting Manager of Transportation at the USPS, of Mr. Cureton's conduct toward her, but "he chose to do nothing about [it] saying there was nothing he could do and in any event he did not believe her." (Id. ¶¶ 5, 25.) "Significantly, [Mr.] Rodriguez also told the Plaintiff that he actually wanted her to drop the EEO complaint." (Id.) "As a direct result of the sexual harassment she experienced . . . Plaintiff suffered an acute anxiety attack that required she go to the emergency room." (Id. ¶ 28.)

         On June 21, 2014, Mr. Rodriguez, with whom Plaintiff was engaged in an intimate relationship, observed Plaintiff talking with another USPS employee, John Thomas. (Id. ¶ 15.) Within ten minutes, Mr. Rodriguez terminated Mr. Thomas and then called Plaintiff "to threaten" her, "saying, 'see what I can do to you? You don't want to f**k with me!'" (Id.) Mr. "Rodriguez also used his position to change the hours and assignment of another one of Plaintiff s co-workers, Willy Colon, whom he suspected of having a relationship with the Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 16.)

         On July 10, 2014, "Plaintiff injured her back while unloading a truck with a postcom (rolling equipment) because [Mr.] Rodriguez would not allow other mail handlers to help her unload a truck even after she asked for help." (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs doctor, Dr. Michael Collins instructed her to perform only light duty following the injury. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff ended her relationship with Mr. Rodriguez on September 16, 2014. (Id. ¶ 14.) Mr. Rodriguez "became exceedingly angry and began harassing [Plaintiff] and making things extremely difficult for her in the workplace by, among other actions, constantly watching her, threatening her, and bullying male coworkers who attempted to talk to her." (Id.) On "several occasions" Mr. Rodriguez "sent Plaintiff home" early, claiming that "there was no work for her." (Id. ¶ 17.) Two days after Plaintiff ended the relationship, Mr. Rodriguez "harassively [sic] limited the Plaintiffs work time" to 2.5 hours a day. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         On September 30, 2014, Mr. Rodriguez assigned Plaintiff "to case mail on a restbar, " although the assignment violated her medical restrictions. (Id. ¶ 20.) That same day, Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Cureton presented Plaintiff with an offer of Modified Assignment (Light Duty), which also "improperly violated her medical restrictions." (Id. ¶ 19.) When she refused to sign the offer, they sent her home early and gave her limited hours on October 1, October 2, and October 3, 2014. (Id.) From October 4, 2014 to December 13, 2014, Plaintiff "did not return to work, " believing that "she had either been fired or released." (Id. ¶ 21.)

         II. Discussion[2]

         A. Count Two (Title VII Retaliation)

         In order to make out a colorable claim of retaliation under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) she participated in a protected activity, (2) the defendant knew of her participation in the protected activity, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) there exists a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. Hicks v. Baines, 593 F.3d 159, 164 (2d Cir. 2010). Defendants here concede that Plaintiff has adequately alleged that she participated in a protected activity by filing the EEO complaint and that Defendants knew of her participation in that activity. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss [Doc. # 25-1] at 6.) However, they contend that she has not adequately alleged the third and fourth elements-an adverse employment action and a causal connection. (Id.)

         "Title VII's anti-retaliation provision applies broadly to 'employer actions that would have been materially adverse to a reasonable employee or job applicant.'" Hicks, 593 F.3d at 164 (quoting Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 57 (2006)). "Actions are 'materially adverse' if they are 'harmful to the point that they could well dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.'" Id. (quoting White, 548 U.S. at 57).

         Here, Plaintiff alleges the following adverse actions: (1) Mr. Cureton intensified his harassment of her after she filed the EEO complaint against him (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 25); (2) Mr. Rodriguez terminated John Thomas and changed Willy Colon's hours (id. ¶¶ 15, 16); (3) Mr. Rodriguez refused to permit other employees to help Plaintiff unload her truck (id. ¶ 10), and on September 30, 2014, Mr. Rodriguez assigned her to perform tasks that violated her medical restrictions (id. ¶ 20); and (4) Mr. Rodriguez limited Plaintiff to 2.5 hours per day for an unknown period of time beginning September 18, 2014, and ending no later than October 3, 2014, [3] sent her ...


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