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Reho v. Sacred Heart University, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 15, 2017

GARY M. REHO, Plaintiff,
v.
SACRED HEART UNIVERSITY, INC., Defendant.

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR PARTIAL DISMISSAL (DOC. NO. 13)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On October 11, 2016, plaintiff Gary M. Reho (“Reho”) instituted this suit against his former employer Sacred Heart University, Inc. (“SHU”). See Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 1. Reho alleges that his employment was terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“Count 1”), see Compl. ¶¶ 25-30, and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“Count 2”), see Compl. ¶¶ 31-36. Reho also claims that SHU “intended to inflict emotional distress upon [him] or knew or should have known that emotional distress was a likely result of terminating [Reho] because [he] was a loyal employee for over twenty-five years and [SHU] was aware that continuing to and returning to work would improve his ‘cognitive functioning and emotional wellbeing'” (“Count 3”). Compl. ¶ 37. Included among Reho's damages demands was a request for “punitive damages under C.G.S.A. § 46a-60(a)(1).” See Compl. at 8.

         SHU filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal, in which it contends that Count 3 should be dismissed, whether it is based on a theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress, and that punitive damages are not available under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”). See Mot. for Partial Dismissal (“Motion”) (Doc. No. 13) at 1.

         After initially failing to respond to the Motion, see Order (Doc. No. 15), Reho simultaneously filed an Amended Complaint, see generally First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) (Doc. No. 22), and opposed the Motion to the extent it was not rendered moot by the FAC, see Pl.'s Obj. to Def.'s Mot. for Partial Dismissal (“Obj.”) (Doc. No. 23) at 1. First, the FAC removes any request for punitive damages pursuant to section 46a-60(a)(1) of the Connecticut General Statutes.[1] See Obj. at 1; FAC at 8. Second, Reho clarified that he is asserting a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress-not negligent infliction of emotional distress-that he argues has been sufficiently pleaded. See Obj. at 1.

         SHU replied in a timely manner. See generally Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss (“Reply”) (Doc. No. 26).

         For the reasons set forth below, SHU's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and TERMINATED AS MOOT IN PART.

         II. FACTS[2]

         In July 1990, SHU hired Reho to serve as its head football coach. FAC ¶ 9. Several years later, Reho assumed the position of Associate Director of Athletics, while continuing to serve as head football coach. Id. ¶ 11. In July 1997, Reho accepted a new position at SHU: Director of the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center and Athletic Facilities (“Pitt Center”). Id. ¶ 12. In that role, Reho reported to the Dean of Students, managed both daily and special events at the Pitt Center, supervised other SHU employees, and developed the Pitt Center's operating budget. See id. ¶ 13.

         In December 2014, Reho received the results of neurological tests he had recently undergone. See id. ¶¶ 16-17. His doctors, including Christine McCarthy (“Dr. McCarthy”) and Srinath Kadimi (“Dr. Kadimi”), determined that his test results were consistent with the onset of dementia. See id. ¶ 17. Reho informed SHU of Dr. McCarthy's conclusions shortly thereafter and provided SHU with the “Neuropsychological Evaluation Report” from his December 22, 2014 evaluation. Id. ¶ 19. That Report contained Dr. McCarthy's note that Reho's “cognitive functioning and emotional wellbeing [would] be improved by returning to work.” Id. ¶ 18-19. It also identified accommodations and modifications to Reho's professional responsibilities that Dr. McCarthy recommended. Id. ¶ 19.

         Between February and June 2015, employees of SHU's Human Resources Department corresponded with people affiliated with the medical practice-Associated Neurologists of Southern Connecticut, P.C.-from which Reho had received his diagnosis. See id. ¶ 20. Among these communications was an inquiry into whether Reho remained capable of performing his job responsibilities. Id. In a June 10, 2015 letter sent to SHU's Executive Director for Human Resources Julie Nofri, Dr. McCarthy made clear that “Mr. Reho is NOT described as an ‘ . . . individual who is possibly a candidate for legal conservatorship' in any portion of my report of his December 2014 neuropsychological evaluation.” Id. ¶ 21. Dr. McCarthy further characterized portions of a letter from SHU that claimed she had opined that Reho was unable to perform the essential functions of his job as “an entirely incorrect and inaccurate account of the overall gist of the professional opinions that I related over the course of our past telephone conversations.” Id. ¶ 22.

         On August 27, 2015, Reho was terminated as Director of the Pitt Center. Id. ¶ 24. This decision was made notwithstanding the fact that, throughout his employment with SHU, Reho “never received verbal or written warnings, disciplinary actions, or reprimands, ” id. ¶ 14, and “received high praise in each of his annual performance reviews, ” id. ¶ 15.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         In reviewing a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court “accept[s] all factual allegations as true and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Trs. of Upstate N.Y. Eng'rs Pension Fund v. Ivy Asset Mgmt., 843 F.3d 561, 566 (2d Cir. 2016) (citing City of Pontiac Policemen's & Firemen's Ret. Sys. v. UBS AG, 752 F.3d 173, 179 (2d Cir. 2014)). “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.'” In re Actos End-Payor Antitrust Litig., 848 F.3d 89, 97 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A claim has facial ...


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