Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Robinson v. Department of Motor Vehicle

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 23, 2017

MELBA C. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLE, Defendant,

          RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 28)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Melba C. Robinson (“Robinson”), pro se, brings this employment discrimination action against the defendant, the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”). Robinson “asserts claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (‘Title VII'), ” consisting of “claims for discrimination on the basis of race and color, ” including “both direct discrimination claims and claims of retaliation.”[1] Rec. Ruling (Doc. No. 12) (Merriam, J.) at 1, 6-7, recommendation adopted Endorsement Order (Doc. No. 13). At the initial review stage, this court allowed Robinson's Title VII claims to “proceed.” Rec. Ruling at 7. DMV now moves to dismiss these Title VII claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 28). “Specifically, ” DMV argues that (1) Robinson “has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted regarding her termination, because such claims are time-barred, ” (2) Robinson “has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, because the plaintiff had entered into a Stipulated Agreement, barring her claims, ” and (3) Robinson “cannot establish a prima facie case on her remaining claims because no adverse action is pled, the claims do not rise to the level of hostile work environment, and her allegations of discrimination are bereft of any specific factual allegations.”[2] Id. Additionally, DMV “moves to strike” Robinson's “jury claim, ” arguing that “there is no right to a trial by jury on claims of equitable relief under [the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA)][3] or Title VII.” Id. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. FACTS

         The initial review stage Recommended Ruling, which this court has adopted, sets out the facts alleged as follows:

Plaintiff alleges that she was unlawfully terminated by her employer, defendant, on March 1, 2013. See [Compl. (Doc. No. 1)] at 2. According to plaintiff's Complaint, she was terminated because of discrimination due to her race[ and] color[ ], and in retaliation for filing a complaint of discrimination. Id. at 5, 7. The Complaint includes allegations of several incidents in support of her claims.
Specifically, plaintiff alleges that in June 2011 she was suspended and given a “last chance agreement” as a result of an incident involving a customer, in which “branch management refused to assist” her. Id. at 3. She contends that she had repeated meetings with supervisors and even the Commissioner regarding what she viewed as unfair treatment in connection with this discipline, and that from that point forward things “continued to get worse for” her. Id. On July 26, 2011, she was involved in a “minor disagreement with a Caucasian co-worker” after a near car accident. Id. at 3. Plaintiff states that while she was suspended for two days due to the incident, the other worker faced no punishment because [ ]she was [ ] Caucasian. Id. at 4. Plaintiff further claims that she was transferred from defendant's Norwalk office to its Bridgeport office the day after this incident. Id.
Plaintiff states that while working in Bridgeport she was treated by management “in a discriminatory manner” and “in a disrespectful manner.” Id. Plaintiff describes several instances in which she alleges she was treated unfairly, including being “embarrassed in front of [her] customers” by her manager, being “accused of lying[, ]” and being made to “feel like [she] was under a microscope.” Id. at 4-5.
The plaintiff's employment was terminated on February 15, 2013, due to “Unsatisfactory Service Ratings” and for failure to meet the terms of the last chance agreement. Id. at 5. Plaintiff alleges that her employment was terminated after she filed a discrimination complaint against the defendant. Id. Plaintiff asserts that the defendant claimed she was terminated because of her attendance, but she states that she was never disciplined for her attendance and that several of her absences should have been covered by FMLA. Id. Plaintiff claims that she had a “note from the doctor” but that defendant “refused to take it.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated by defendant because she had become “a target for them.” Id. at 6.
On July 21, 2016, plaintiff filed a “right to sue” letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. See [“Right to Sue” Letter (Doc. No. 10)].

Rec. Ruling at 2-4.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a legally cognizable claim by making allegations that, if true, would show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (interpreting Rule 12(b)(6), in accordance with Rule 8(a)(2), to require allegations with “enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief'”). The court takes all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Crawford v. Cuomo, 796 F.3d 252, 256 (2d Cir. 2015). However, the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         To survive a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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. 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 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Time Barring of Termination Claim

         DMV argues that Robinson “has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted regarding her termination, because such claims are time-barred.” Mot. to Dismiss. DMV argues that Robinson's “claim that her termination was due to discrimination or retaliation is time barred, ” because Robinson “was notified of her termination on February 15, 2013, and the termination was effective as of March 1, 2013, ” but Robinson “did not file her Amended Complaint with the [Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO)] alleging that her termination was due to retaliatory treatment [ ] until February 25, 2014.” Def.'s Mem. (Doc. No. 28-1) at 6. As discussed below, DMV may ultimately prove correct that Robinson's termination claim is time-barred. However, because Robinson's Complaint contains facts sufficient to plausibly allege that equitable tolling may apply, the court concludes that it would be premature to decide the time-barring question at this motion to dismiss stage.

         Rather than relying solely on the allegations in the Complaint, DMV's time-barring argument relies in part on an Amended CHRO Complaint (Doc. No. 28-3), which DMV submitted to the court. Robinson's Complaint does allege that Robinson was notified of her termination on February 15, 2013 and that her termination was effective on March 1, 2013. See Compl. at 2, 5. Her Complaint also alleges that she “filed charges with the” CHRO. Id. at 8. However, Robinson's Complaint does not contain an allegation as to (1) the date when Robinson initially filed a complaint with the CHRO or (2) the date when Robinson amended her CHRO complaint. See id. at 8-9. Robinson's only allegations pertinent to the date when she informed the CHRO of her termination claim are that Robinson “inform[ed]” “CHRO's Regional Manager Tanya Hughes” (“Hughes”) “on May 2, 2013” that Robinson “was terminated by” DMV, but that Hughes failed or refused to file Robinson's Amended CHRO Complaint at that time. Id. at 9. From the Complaint itself, there is thus no basis upon which the court can conclude that Robinson “did not file her [Amended CHRO Complaint] alleging that her termination was due to retaliatory treatment [ ] until February 25, 2014.” Def.'s Mem. at 6.

         However, the Amended CHRO Complaint submitted to the court by DMV is dated February 25, 2014, and signed by Robinson. See Am. CHRO Compl. at 2. The Amended CHRO Complaint states that Robinson “amends” her previous complaint to the CHRO and “adds” that DMV “terminated [her] employment on or about February 15, 2013.” Id. ¶¶ 2, 5. The Amended CHRO Complaint thus supports DMV's argument that Robinson “did not file her [Amended CHRO Complaint] alleging that her termination was due to retaliatory treatment [ ] until February 25, 2014.” Def.'s Mem. at 6.

         “[I]n ruling on a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss, ” the Second Circuit has “acknowledged that [a] court may [ ] consider matters of which judicial notice may be taken.” Apotex Inc. v. Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., 823 F.3d 51, 60 (2d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). Specifically, the Second Circuit has held that, at the motion to dismiss stage, a court may take judicial notice of “regulatory filings.” Staehr v. Hartford Fin. Servs. Grp., Inc., 547 F.3d 406, 424-25 (2d Cir. 2008). For instance, a court in the Eastern District of New York has granted the defendants' request that the court “take judicial notice of-and thus consider for purposes of [a] motion [to dismiss]- [ ]a complaint filed by plaintiff [ ] with a[ state] administrative agency, ” and submitted to the court by the defendants. Volpe v. Nassau Cty., 915 F.Supp.2d 284, 291 (E.D.N.Y. 2013). It is thus proper for the court to take judicial notice of the date of the Amended CHRO Complaint, February 25, 2014.

         Due to Title VII's requirements, the fact that the Amended CHRO Complaint was filed on February 25, 2014, means that Robinson could not have lawfully filed a termination-related claim with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before February 25, 2014: Title VII provides that,

[i]n the case of an alleged unlawful employment practice occurring in a State . . . which has a State [ ] law prohibiting the unlawful employment practice alleged and establishing or authorizing a State [ ] authority to grant or seek relief from such practice . . ., no charge may be filed [with the EEOC] by the person aggrieved before the expiration of sixty days after proceedings have been commenced under the State [ ] law, unless such proceedings have been earlier terminated.

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(c). The CHRO is such a “State [ ] authority” “authorize[ed] to grant or seek relief from” the “practice” of racially discriminatory, and retaliatory, termination. Id.; see also Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46a-52, 46a-54 (establishing and empowering CHRO); Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(1), (4) (prohibiting racially discriminatory, or retaliatory, termination). Robinson thus could not have filed a valid EEOC charge of unlawful termination before she filed a CHRO charge of unlawful termination. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(c). Because the court has taken judicial notice of the fact that Robinson filed the CHRO charge of unlawful termination on February 25, 2014, see Am. CHRO Compl. at 2, the court concludes that Robinson could not have lawfully filed an EEOC charge of unlawful termination before February 25, 2014.

         Title VII also states the following:

A charge [with the EEOC] shall be filed . . . in a case of an unlawful employment practice with respect to which the person aggrieved has initially instituted proceedings with a State [ ] agency . . ., [ ] within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, or within thirty days after receiving notice that the State or local ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.