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Monger v. Connecticut Department Of Transportation

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 11, 2017

ABRAHAM MONGER, Plaintiff,
v.
CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant.

          RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. No. 24)

          Janet C. Hall, United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         plaintiff, Abraham Monger, filed an Amended Complaint on February 27, 2017. Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 11). Monger brings three claims of employment discrimination against the Connecticut Department of Transportation (“DOT”). Id. Count One alleges that the DOT denied Monger promotional opportunities on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., which prohibits disparate treatment, harassment, and the creation of a hostile work environment. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 23-25 (First Count). Count Two alleges that the same actions also violated Monger's rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at ¶ 25 (Second Count). Finally, Count Three alleges that the DOT further violated Title VII by retaliating against Monger for filing a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights (“CHRO”) and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”). Id. at ¶¶ 28-30 (Third Count).

         The DOT filed a Motion to Dismiss all counts on April 19, 2017. Motion to Dismiss (“Mot. to Dismiss”) (Doc. No. 24). The DOT moves under both Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Mot. to Dismiss at 1. The DOT first argues that Counts One and Three should be dismissed for failure to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies. Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss (“Mem. in Supp.”) (Doc. No. 24-1) at 3. The DOT also argues that Count Two should be dismissed because the Eleventh Amendment bars suit against the DOT as a state agency. Id. at 4.

         For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the Motion to Dismiss as to Count Two and denies the Motion as to Counts One and Three.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The DOT's Motion raises primarily procedural and jurisdictional issues, so only a brief accounting of the alleged facts from the Amended Complaint is necessary here.[1]Monger is an African-American man employed by the DOT as a Transportation Engineer 2. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 3, 5. In January 2016, he applied for two available promotions to Transportation Engineer 3 positions, but was not granted an interview despite being qualified for the positions. Id. at ¶¶ 6-10. The DOT promoted two Caucasian employees instead, at least one with less experience than Monger. Id. at ¶¶ 11-13. After filing a complaint with the DOT's Affirmative Action office, Monger again applied for a promotion to Transportation Engineer 3 in December of 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. This time, the DOT granted him an interview, but again promoted a Caucasian employee with less experience instead of Monger. Id. at ¶ 15. On May 25, 2016, Monger filed a complaint with the CHRO and the EEOC, claiming employment discrimination on the basis of race. Id. at ¶ 21. After the filing, the DOT retaliated by promoting less qualified applicants and posting positions to the general public instead of considering Monger for the promotion. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27 (Third Count).

         The Amended Complaint alleges that Monger received a release of jurisdiction letter from the CHRO on November 14, 2016. Id. at ¶ 22. Monger then initiated the current action on February 13, 2017, and filed the Amended Complaint on February 27, 2017. Although Monger also received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on February 16, 2017, the Amended Complaint did not mention or attach this letter. See id. The DOT moved to dismiss the entire complaint on April 20, 2017. Mot. to Dismiss. First, the DOT argues that the court should dismiss Counts One and Three because Monger failed to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies by neither referencing nor attaching the EEOC's right-to-sue letter to the Amended Complaint. Mem. in Supp. at 3. In response to the DOT's Motion to Dismiss on this ground, Monger attached the right-to-sue letter to his Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss (“Mem. in Opp.”) (Doc. No. 26-1) Ex. B. Second, the DOT argues that Count Two is barred by the Eleventh Amendment because the DOT is a state agency protected by sovereign immunity. Mem. in Supp. at 4.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), “[a] case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction . . . when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the existence of subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. In determining whether the plaintiff has met this burden, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Carter v. Healthport Techs., LLC, 882 F.3d 47, 57 (2d Cir. 2016); Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005). In contrast to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is not limited under Rule 12(b)(1) to the complaint itself, but may also consider evidence outside the pleadings, such as affidavits. Kamen American Tel. & Tel. Co., 791 F.2d 1006, 1011 (2d Cir. 1986).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Failure to State a Claim Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a complaint to plead “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(a). Under Rule 12(b)(6), to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, that plain statement must allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While this plausibility standard does not require probability, it is not satisfied by “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” or by facts that are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept all material factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Hemi Grp., LLC v. City of New York, 559 U.S. 1, 5 (2010); Jaghory v. N.Y. State Dep't Educ., 131 F.3d 326, 329 (2d Cir. 1997). However, the court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). In those instances, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In contrast to Rule 12(b)(1), under Rule 12(b)(6), the court may consider “only the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the pleadings, and matters of which judicial notice should be taken.” Samuels v. Air Trans. Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The DOT moves to dismiss all counts of the complaint. The DOT first argues that Counts One and Three should be dismissed because Monger failed to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies as required by Title VII. Mem. in Supp. at 3. The DOT further argues that ...


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