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Craig v. State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 28, 2017

LOIS CRAIG, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION SERVICES, ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 49)

          Janet C. Hall, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Lois Craig (“Craig”) brings this action against the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (“DMHAS”) and Celeste Cremin-Endes, Rachel Manemeit, Melody Davis, Abby Cramer, Tommy Wilson, Debby Baker, and Stephanie Leonard Harris in their individual and official capacities on the basis of claims arising out of Craig's employment relationship with DMHAS. Second Amended Complaint (“2nd Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 45). In her five-count Second Amended Complaint, Craig alleges violations of her rights under sections 1981 and 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code (Count One); negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) (Count Two) and defamation (Count Three) under state common law; violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (Count Four); and violations of her rights under sections 1985 and 1986 of title 42 of the United States Code (Count Five). Id.

         The defendants bring this Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 49) under Federal Rules of Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6), asserting that the Second Amended Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety. For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Craig is an African-American female who has been employed by DMHAS as a Mental Health Assistant II for over sixteen years. 2nd Am. Compl. at ¶ 3. As a union delegate, Craig frequently represents her coworkers and herself in disputes between the union and management. Id. at ¶ 5.

         In October 2012, Craig received a five-day suspension on the grounds that she failed to supervise a client and then falsified documents about her client's whereabouts. Id. at ¶ 9, Ex. 2. Craig filed a complaint of discrimination with the State of Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) in November 2012. Id. The notice of Craig's five-day suspension should have been removed from her file after eighteen months, but remains there as of October 2016. Id. at ¶ 10. Defendants have used the notice of the five-day suspension as a pretext to place Craig on multiple 90-day Performance Improvement Plans (“PIP”), which limit her promotional opportunities and expose her to termination.[2] Id. at ¶ 11.

         On September 24, 2015, a DMHAS Safety Officer sent an office-wide email informing DMHAS employees that several staff members had the air released from their cars' tires in a DMHAS parking lot. Id. at ¶ 13, Ex. 4. The email stated that an investigation was ongoing and did not name any suspects. Id. Subsequently, several of the defendants questioned Craig about the incident and gave her a brochure titled, “Violence in the Workplace.” Craig was the only employee questioned and counseled on workplace violence at the meeting. Id. at ¶ 13-14.

         At an unspecified time, defendant Debby Baker referred to Craig as “an angry Black Woman [sic], who often wore dread locks styled hair.” Id. at ¶¶ 16, 112. Baker also described Craig as “cocky, lacking respect, intimidating, exhibiting poor communication skills, being illogical, and rude”; said that Craig's hair style “harbored head lice”; and stated that Craig “was too cocky and needed to be cut down to size.” Id. at ¶¶ 17-18, 113-14. In addition, in Craig's performance evaluations, defendants wrote that Craig was “working too slowly on the job.” Id. at ¶¶ 22, 27, 118. DMHAS never disciplined any of the individual defendants for making derogatory remarks towards Craig. Id. at ¶¶ 17, 113.

         Following defendants' conduct described above, Craig developed serious mental and emotional conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure, and insomnia. Id. at ¶ 23. Craig was granted a leave of absence under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in January 2016. Id. at Ex. 9. Craig later applied for an accommodation for her mental health conditions, which she supported with documentation of her diagnosis of a nervous breakdown in 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 24, 29. In her accommodation request, Craig asked to be moved from the second shift to the third shift. Id. at Ex. 9. On November 18, 2016, the ADA Review Committee denied her request. Id. Craig states that the defendants determined that Craig's mental and emotional “conditions were not serious enough, and that she needed to develop a more concrete [version] of a nervous breakdown in order to qualify for an accommodation under the ADA.”[3] Id. at ¶ 30.

         In June 2016, Craig attempted to a file a grievance about receiving discipline without cause. Id. at ¶¶ 38-39. The defendants told Craig that “only managers could file complaints.” Id.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         “In resolving a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the district court must take all uncontroverted facts in the complaint . . . as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party asserting jurisdiction.” Tandon v. Captain's Cove Marina of Bridgeport, Inc., 752 F.3d 239, 243 (2d Cir. 2014). Where jurisdictional facts are in dispute, the court has the power to decide issues of fact by reference to evidence outside the pleadings, such as affidavits. Id. The burden is on the plaintiffs to establish jurisdiction. Renne v. Geary, 501 U.S. 312, 316 (1991); see also Tandon, 752 F.3d at 243.

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) is “the proper procedural route” to bring a challenge to a plaintiff's Article III standing to adjudicate a claim. Alliance for Environmental Renewal, Inc. v. Pyramid Crossgates Co., 436 F.3d 82, 88 n.6 (2d Cir. 2006).

         B. Rule 12(b)(2)

         Upon a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that the court may properly exercise jurisdiction over the defendants. See Dorchester Fin. Sec., Inc. v. Banco BRJ, S.A., 722 F.3d 81, 84-85 (2d Cir. 2013). “In order to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that jurisdiction exists.” Eades v. Kennedy, PC Law Offices, 799 F.3d 161, 167-68 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A plaintiff can make this showing through his own affidavits and supporting materials, containing an averment of facts that, if credited, would suffice to establish jurisdiction over the defendant.” Whitaker v. American Telecasting, Inc., 261 F.3d 196, 208 (2d Cir. 2008) (citations, internal quotation marks, brackets, and ellipsis omitted). The court “construe[s] the pleadings and affidavits in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, resolving all doubts in their favor.” Dorchester, 722 F.3d at 85.

         C. Rule 12(b)(5)

         When a plaintiff fails to effect proper service upon a defendant and the defendant does not waive service of process pursuant to Rule 4(d), the plaintiff's action may be subject to dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5). “On a Rule 12(b)(5) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that service was sufficient.” Khan v. Khan, 360 F. App'x 202, 203 (2d Cir. 2010).

         D. Rule 12(b)(6)

         When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must determine whether a 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” (alteration in original)). The court takes all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Crawford v. Cuomo, 796 F.3d 252, 256 (2d Cir. 2015). However, the principle 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.'” Id. (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.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Service of Process for the Individual Defendants in their Official Capacities

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, a plaintiff may serve process upon a government agency by “delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to its chief executive officer” or “serving a copy of each in the manner prescribed by that state's law for serving a summons or like process on such a defendant.” Taylor v. Norwalk Cmty. Coll., No. 3:13-cv-1889 (CSH), 2015 WL 5684033, at *5 (D. Conn. Sept. 28, 2015) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(j)(2)).

         Under Section 52-64 of the Connecticut General Statutes:

Service of civil process in any civil action . . . against any officer, servant, agent or employee of the state . . . may be made by a proper officer (1) leaving a true and attested copy of the process, including the declaration or complaint, with the Attorney General at the office of the Attorney General in Hartford, or (2) sending a true and attested copy of the process, including the summons and complaint, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the Attorney General at the office of the Attorney General in Harford.

         Defendants argue that Craig never served the individual defendants in their official capacities. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of the Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) (Doc. No. 49-1) at 9-13. Instead, DMHAS was the only defendant served at the Attorney General's Office. See id. at 11. Craig argues that all of the individual defendants received copies of the summons and complaint indicating that they were being sued in their individual and official capacities. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) (Doc. No. 57) at 12-15. Further, the summons and ...


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