United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Collazo (“Plaintiff”), pro se, brings
employment discrimination and retaliation claims against the
State of Connecticut Department of Social Services
(“Defendant, ” or “DSS”) under the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), and
the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act
(“CFEPA”). DSS has moved to dismiss all of Mr.
Collazo's claims under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Def. Mot. to Dismiss,
ECF No. 18.
reasons outlined below, DSS's  Motion to Dismiss is
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. The
motion is GRANTED as to Mr. Collazo's disability claims
under the ADA, and the motion is DENIED as to Mr.
Collazo's hostile work environment and retaliation claims
under Title VII.
Collazo, who is Hispanic, worked for DSS as a shopkeeper for
over twenty-six (26) years. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1. He claims
that his duties in that role were primarily physical, and
that, in 2005, he suffered a back injury in the workplace.
Id. Following this injury, his doctor ordered him to
perform only “light duty” without “bending
or lifting.” Id. He alleges that his superiors
were aware of these physical limitations. Id.
February of 2014, DSS assigned him a new supervisor, Bernard
Szreders. Id. According to Mr. Collazo, in March of
2014, Mr. Szreders called him “boy” on two
occasions. CHRO Compl. at 2, Compl. Ex. B, ECF No.
Mr. Collazo alleges that he told Mr. Szreders not to call him
“boy, ” and that, in response, Mr. Szreders
stated: “Great. Now I have to deal with this Spic who
I'd rather put a bullet in, than argue with.”
that same month, Mr. Collazo states that he reported this
interaction to DSS's Director of Affirmative Action,
Astread Ferron-Poole, as well as to the Director of Personnel
and the Deputy Commissioner. Id. at 2; Compl. at 3,
ECF No. 1. Mr. Collazo claims that, following this internal
complaint, he was subjected to harassment in the workplace
that ultimately concluded with his departure. Id. He
states that, following his internal complaint, Mr. Szreders
docked his pay on May 22, 2014 after a doctor's
appointment took longer than expected, upgraded a verbal
warning into a written warning against Mr. Collazo in April
2014, denied Mr. Collazo's requests for vacation days,
and “micromanaged” his activities, including by
requiring him to complete a daily report and questioned him
about the amount of time he would spend in the restroom. CHRO
Compl. at 3, Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 1-2.
Collazo also claims that Mr. Szreders made his work
environment difficult by deliberately disregarding Mr.
Collazo's doctor's orders, exacerbating his back
injury. Id. According to Mr. Collazo, Mr. Szreders
ordered him to perform physical duties despite clear
doctor's orders that he was to be restricted to
“light duty with no bending or lifting....”
Id. Mr. Collazo also alleges that, as an
accommodation to his physical limitations, he requested a
transfer to the Purchasing Department from his post at the
Facilities Management Department, where he was required to
perform more physical labor, but his request was denied. CHRO
Compl. at 3, Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 1-2. Mr. Collazo alleges
that he suffered severe depression as a result of this
treatment, and that he has not been able to return to work in
this environment given his physical limitations. Id.
September 1, 2014, Mr. Collazo filed for disability
retirement from the State of Connecticut, and, on March 14,
2016, DSS notified him that they were no longer holding his
position. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1. Mr. Collazo filed an
administrative complaint with the Connecticut Commission on
Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) on June
16, 2014, and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission
(“EEOC”) issued a release of jurisdiction on
February 9, 2015. CHRO Compl., Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 1-2;
EEOC Letter, Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1. He then filed suit in
this Court on April 5, 2016.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court may not entertain a case where it lacks
subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1);
Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d
Cir. 2000) (“A case is properly dismissed for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the
district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to
adjudicate it.”). Generally, the plaintiff bears the
burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the
court has subject matter jurisdiction over its claims.
Id. This burden is met “as long as [the]
complaint states a colorable federal claim.”
Rodriguez v. DeBuono, 175 F.3d 227, 233 (2d Cir.
1999) (citation omitted). When reviewing a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(1), “a court must accept as true all
material factual allegations in the complaint.”
Shipping Fin. Serv. Corp. v. Drakos, 140 F.3d 129,
131 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). The court, however,
must also refrain from “drawing from the pleadings
inferences favorable to the party asserting
[jurisdiction].” APWU v. Potter, 343 F.3d 619,
623 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).
district court may also dismiss a case for failure to state a
claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In order to survive a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must
contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a
right to relief above the speculative level” and
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 555, 570 (2007). A claim is facially
plausible if “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).
Although “detailed factual allegations” are not
required, a complaint must offer more than “labels and
conclusions, ” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked
assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual
enhancement.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557
(2007). Plausibility at the pleading stage is nonetheless
distinct from probability, and “a well-pleaded
complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that
actual proof of [the claims] is improbable, and . . .
recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. at
556 (internal quotation marks omitted).
brought by pro se plaintiffs must be reviewed
“with a lenient eye, allowing borderline cases to
proceed.” Fleming v. United States, 146 F.3d
88, 90 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). Generally, pro
se litigants “are entitled to a liberal
construction of their pleadings, which should be read
‘to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest.'” Green v. United States, 260
F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Graham v.
Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996)); see
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (holding that
the allegations in a pro se complaint are
“h[e]ld to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers”).
seeks dismissal of Mr. Collazo's Complaint in its
entirety. DSS argues that the ADA and CFEPA claims should be
dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, asserting that such suits are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment. He also seeks dismissal of the Title VII
hostile work environment and retaliation claims under Rule
12(b)(6), arguing that (1) the racial slur alleged by Mr.
Collazo is insufficient to state a hostile work environment
claim; and (2) the alleged adverse actions are insufficient
to support a retaliation claim.
reasons outlined below, DSS's motion to dismiss is
granted as to Mr. Collazo's ADA and CFEPA claims and
denied as to Mr. Collazo's Title VII claims.