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Winter v. State

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 27, 2016



          Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs George Winter (“Winter”), Howard Jacobs (“Jacobs”), Amy Jones (“Jones”), James Smollen (“Smollen”), Bill Cortez (“Cortez”), Fred Torres (“Torres”), Chris St. Jacques (“St. Jacques”), and Tony Santos (“Santos”), employees of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”), bring claims of race and age discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Equal Protection Clause, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a), et seq., against Defendants the State of Connecticut and the DMV, and individual defendants Philippia Fletcher-DeNovellis (“Fletcher-DeNovellis”), Dan Callahan (“Callahan”), Natalie Shipman (“Shipman”), and Victor Diaz (“Diaz”) (collectively the “Employer Defendants”).[2]The Employer Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings and for summary judgment. The Caucasian plaintiffs allege that they were victims of reverse discrimination, claiming that the Defendants promoted a younger African America male applicant instead of them on the basis of his race and age, thereby denying them a promotion on the basis of their race and age. For the reasons that follow, the motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED and DENIED in part, and the motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs allege that during the events in question, they were each employed by the DMV. [Dkt. #23, Second Am. Compl. at ¶ 4]. In 2012, the DMV conducted a promotional exam. [Id. at ¶ 13]. In order to be eligible for a promotion, the DMV employee must have served as a Motor Vehicle Inspector for at least four years. [Id. at ¶ 14]. For this round of promotions, the DMV initially set a closing date of February 17, 2012, by which point all employees seeking promotion would need to have satisfied the four-year service requirement. [Id. at ¶ 15]. At the Police Union's request, the closing date for the position was moved back four days, to February 21, 2012. [Id. at ¶ 16].

         One of the positions open for promotion was that of sergeant. [Id. at ¶ 15]. The plaintiffs allege that the DMV implemented a program called “Temporary Service in a Higher Class, ” through which applicants were interviewed and temporarily promoted to the sergeant position before their written examinations were graded. [Id.]. An African American male, Robert Tyson (“Tyson”) and each of the Plaintiffs applied for the sergeant position and took the sergeant examination. None of the Plaintiffs are African-American and all are over forty years old. [Id. at ¶ 37].

         In the course of reviewing the personnel files of each of the applicants for the position, Defendant Fletcher-DeNovellis, a human resources employee, discovered that the date on which Tyson began his employment with the DMV had been inaccurately recorded in the agency's computer system. [Id. at ¶ 18]. On March 20, 2012, Fletcher-DeNovellis advised all applicants scheduled for interviews on March 21 and March 23, 2012 that the interviews had been postponed indefinitely. [Id. at ¶ 17]. The next day, March 21, 2012, the agency notified Tyson that he was not eligible to sit for the sergeant exam, based on the February 21, 2012 closing deadline. [Id. at ¶ 19].

         Two days later, on March 23, 2012, Tyson appealed the denial of his eligibility to take the sergeant exam, and he claimed that in denying his application, the DMV discriminated against him on the basis of his race and age. [Id. at ¶ 20]. On March 27, 2012, Tyson filed a formal complaint against the DMV and James Rio, a Division Chief at the DMV. [Id. at ¶ 21]. The complaint alleged that Tyson was denied the opportunity for promotion because he was an African-American and the youngest candidate who applied for a promotion. [Id.]. Plaintiffs contend that Tyson's formal complaint was never investigated. [Id. at ¶ 22].

         On April 27, 2012, a new sergeant exam was announced, with a closing date of May 11, 2012. [Id. at ¶ 23]. Tyson and another police inspector, whose race and age are not disclosed, had sufficient tenure to qualify for promotion to sergeant based on the later closing date. [Id. at ¶ 24]. On the same day as the closing date, May 11, Tyson withdrew his formal complaint. [Id. at ¶ 25]. After the closing date, a four-person interview panel was assembled to conduct interviews on June 28, June 29, and July 6, 2012. [Id. at ¶¶ 26-27]. The panel consisted of Chief Rio, whom Tyson named in his March 27, 2012 complaint, Elizabeth Kranz, a branch manager, and Defendants Fletcher-DeNovellis and Diaz, Deputy Commissioner of the DMV. [Id. at ¶ 27]. In light of Tyson's allegations, Rio sought to remove himself from the panel, but Defendant Callahan, who was aware of the substance of Tyson's complaint, encouraged Rio to remain on the panel. [Id. at ¶¶ 22, 28]. During his interview with the panel, Tyson disclosed the complaint, and the panel members discussed it afterwards. [Id. at ¶ 29].

         Following the interviews, the panel members prepared a flow chart in which they ranked each of the candidates. [Id. at ¶ 30]. Defendant Shipman, the DMV's Equal Employment Opportunity Manager, signed off on the chart, which designated three applicants as “highly recommended.” [Id. at ¶¶ 12, 31-32]. Tyson was one of the three applicants so designated. [Id. at ¶ 32]. Like Callahan, Shipman was aware of and discussed Tyson's formal complaint, though neither she nor anyone else investigated it. [Id. at ¶¶ 22, 31]. Thereafter, Tyson and the other applicant were approved for two of the sergeant positions. [Id. at ¶ 33]. Neither Tyson nor the other successful applicant had sufficient tenure to qualify to sit for the exam the first time the promotion was posted. [Id. at ¶ 33]. All of the Plaintiffs completed the selection process for the sergeant position, but none were selected. [Id. at ¶ 34]. Plaintiffs further allege that the selection process did not comply with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 5-220, which requires a delegation plan by heads of agencies and a post-procedural audit. [Id. at ¶ 35].

         II. Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         A. Standard for Judgment on the Pleadings

         “After the pleadings are closed, but early enough not to delay trial, a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “A motion for judgment on the pleadings is decided on the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Barnett v. CT Light & Power Co., 900 F.Supp.2d 224, 235 (D. Conn. 2012) (citing Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 159 (2d Cir. 2010)).

         “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.” Sarmiento v. U.S., 678 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted). “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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (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.” Id. (internal citations omitted).

         In general, the Court's review on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c) “is limited to the facts as asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated by reference.” McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Jureli, LLC v. Schaefer, 53 F.Supp.3d 552, 554 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (“[E]vidence outside of the pleadings may not be considered by the Court when deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.12(c).”).

         B. Plaintiffs' Title VII Claims Against the Individual Defendants, Their § 1983 claims against Defendants the State of Connecticut, the DMV, and the Individual Defendants in their Official Capacity, and Their CFEPA Claims Are Dismissed

         The unsustainability of Plaintiffs' Title VII claims against the individual defendants, their § 1983 claims against Defendants the State of Connecticut, the DMV, and the individual defendants in their official capacity, and their CFEPA c are well settled. “Title VII does not impose liability on individuals . . . .” Lore v. City of Syracuse, 670 F.3d 127, 169 (2d Cir. 2012); see also Speigel v. Schulmann, 604 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 2010) (“[T]he remedial provisions of Title VII . . . do not provide for individual liability.”). Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Title VII claims against individual defendants Fletcher-DeNovellis, Callahan, Shipman, and Diaz are DISMISSED.

         CFEPA claims brought against the state, state entities, and individual state employees in their official capacities, like the claims Plaintiffs bring here, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and the State's sovereign immunity. See, e.g., Hubert v. State of Connecticut Dep't of Corr., No. 14-cv-00476 (VAB), 2016 WL 706166, at *7 (D. Conn. Feb. 22, 2016) (dismissing official capacity claims under the CFEPA); Perez v. Connecticut Dep't of Corr. Parole Div., No. 3:13-cv-150 (JCH), 2013 WL 4760955, at **4-5 (D. Conn. Sept. ...

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