United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING EMRE SELI'S
MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 19] AND GRANTING-IN-PART AND
DENYING-IN-PART YALE UNIVERSITY'S MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT.
VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff Asli Uyar (“Uyar”) brings this action
alleging sexual harassment and sex discrimination in a
ten-count Complaint against defendants Emre Seli
(“Seli”) and Yale University (“Yale”)
(collectively, “Defendants”). Seli has moved to
dismiss Counts Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine of the
Complaint, and Yale has moved to dismiss Counts One, Two,
Three, Four, and Ten of the Complaint, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that
follow, Seli's Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 19] is
GRANTED, and Yale's Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 23] is
GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART.
otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from the
Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff is a Turkish national
who was granted a visa to work in the United States as a
post-doctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine's
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive
Sciences doing research in the area of early embryo genetics.
[Dkt. No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 4, 6.] Seli
was a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive
Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine. Id. ¶
7. He ran the laboratory where Uyar performed her fellowship
work and he supervised her fellowship research. Id.
Plaintiff's fellowship research was funded by, and her
position was dependent on, grant money obtained by Seli, and
Seli could at any time decide not to continue funding
Plaintiff's position. Id. ¶ 8.
Additionally, to continue to advance in her field, Plaintiff
was dependent on positive recommendations from Defendant Seli
to obtain other positions or to publish in academic journals.
Id. ¶ 9.
summer of 2012, Seli, who was married, began to pursue a
romantic relationship with the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff
initially rejected his advances, but Seli persisted and Uyar
relented in September 2012. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.
Plaintiff claims that she tried to end this relationship
repeatedly, but each time, Seli coerced her into continuing
the relationship by threatening that Plaintiff would lose her
fellowship if she ended it. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.
The Plaintif continued the relationship in order to remain in
the United States and pursue her career. Id. at 15.
31, 2014, Seli's wife learned of the relationship.
Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff alleges that Seli sought to
terminate her relationship with Yale to appease his wife.
Id. at 19. On June 1, 2014, Seli sent an email to
his department's business manager, claiming that
Plaintiff's research “did not look promising for
next year and I think we may not renew her appointment,
” and he forwarded this email to his wife, even though
his wife had no professional involvement with the Plaintiff.
Id. ¶ 20, 24. The same day, Seli cancelled
Plaintiff's research project, and cancelled
Plaintiff's flight to and registration at a professional
conference she was scheduled to attend. Id. ¶
21, 25. The cancellation of the Plaintiff's research
project prevented her from producing and publishing a major
research project during her fellowship. Id. ¶
22. This cancellation would have been fatal to
Plaintiff's academic career prospects. Id. Seli
also told the Plaintiff that if she continued coming to work,
Seli would tell her friends and family about the relationship
in order to ruin her reputation. Id. ¶ 23, 28.
He also threatened to ruin her academic career by telling
others that she had falsified her curriculum vitae in order
to obtain her fellowship at Yale. Id. ¶¶
27, 28. Plaintiff initially complied with Seli's
18, 2014, Yale emailed Seli that her position would expire on
August 18, 2014. Id. ¶ 31. On June 24, 2014,
Plaintiff reported the relationship and Seli's threats to
the Department Chair, who returned Plaintiff to work.
Id. ¶ 33. Once she returned to the laboratory,
Seli became hostile and threatening when he interacted with
Plaintiff, including by excluding her from meetings and
preventing her from working on the laboratory's research
projects. Id. ¶¶ 34-35 In order to
preserve her professional reputation, Plaintiff succumbed to
Seli's pressure, terminated her fellowship at Yale and
accepted a position at a less prestigious academic
institution. Id. ¶ 37-38. Subsequently, Seli
threatened Plaintiff with litigation if she attempted to
pursue a sexual harassment claim at Yale, and Yale published
her research without crediting her. Id. ¶¶
filed an administrative complaint with the Connecticut
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
(“CHRO”) on March 31, 2015, alleging that she was
discriminated against in the terms and conditions of her
employment, sexually harassed, constructively discharged, and
retaliated against by the Defendants. [Dkt. No. 19-2]. She
received a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment
Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”) on December 1,
2015. [Compl. ¶ 45, Exh. A].
filed the instant action on February 5, 2015, alleging as to
Yale sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation
in violation of Title VII, sexual harassment in violation of
Title IX, and negligent supervision, and alleging as to Seli
tortious interference with a business expectancy, defamation,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of
privacy. [Compl. at 1]. Seli and Yale moved to dismiss the
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) on April 4, 2016 [Dkt. No. 19] and April 15, 2016
[Dkt. No. 23], respectively.
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. at 678
(quotations and 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. (citations omitted).
considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the Court should follow a “two-pronged approach”
to evaluate the sufficiency of the complaint. Hayden v.
Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). “A
court ‘can choose to begin by identifying pleadings
that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.'” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “At the
second step, a court should determine whether the
‘well-pleaded factual allegations, ' assumed to be
true, ‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679). “The plausibility standard is not akin to
a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotations omitted).
general, the Court's review on a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) “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 in the complaint by reference.”
McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d
184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court may also consider
“matters of which judicial notice may be taken”
and “documents either in plaintiffs' possession or
of which plaintiffs had knowledge and relied on in bringing
suit.” Brass v. Am. Film Techs., Inc., 987
F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993); Patrowicz v. Transamerica
HomeFirst, Inc., 359 F.Supp.2d 140, 144 (D. Conn. 2005).
Here, Plaintiffs attach the EEOC right to sue letter to her
Complaint, and Seli attaches the CHRO complaints to his
briefing. These documents are integral to the Complaint and
may be considered.
Claims Against Yale
to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “[i]t
shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . .
. to discriminate against any individual with respect to
[her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of
employment, because of such individual's . . .
sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). “[S]exual
harassment so ‘severe or pervasive' as to
‘alter the conditions of . . . employment and create an
abusive working environment' violates Title VII.”
Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 786
(1998) (quoting Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson,
477 U.S. 57, 64 (1986)). “[A] plaintiff seeking relief