United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER RE MOTIONS TO DISMISS
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Curtis Johnson is an employee of the Connecticut Department
of Administrative Services Bureau of Enterprise Systems and
Technology (the “Department”). He has filed this
action for race discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile
work environment against the Department as well as his two
supervisors, James Wells and David Ruiz. Defendants have now
moved to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons set forth
below, I will grant in part and deny in part the motions to
following alleged facts are accepted as true solely for
purposes of this motion to dismiss that challenges the
adequacy of the pleadings in the complaint. Plaintiff began
working for the Department's Bureau of Enterprise Systems
and Technology in July 2007 with the
Operations/Infrastructure Support Team. Plaintiff has a
bachelor's degree and a master's degree. He served as
the backup to his supervisor, defendant James Wells, and he
was one of two black employees supervised by Wells.
Additionally, plaintiff suffered from sleep apnea and had a
medical certificate entitling him to use sick time to come to
order for plaintiff to serve in his role as backup, Wells was
supposed to provide certain training to plaintiff. But Wells
never provided this training, rendering plaintiff not fully
capable of fulfilling his role. For six years, Wells
frustrated plaintiff's ability to fulfill his role by
withholding “mission critical information and
processes.” Doc. #1 at 2 (¶ 11). Plaintiff also
perceived Wells to be disrespectful to him in the workplace.
Wells frequently told plaintiff to stop looking at his phone
or not to take too long in the bathroom, while not treating
other employees in this fashion.
August 23, 2012, Wells called plaintiff's personal cell
phone while he was on vacation. Wells began to
“berate” plaintiff about the completion of
documentation related to work he completed with Arnold
Correa. Id. at 3 (¶¶ 16-17). Plaintiff
texted defendant David Ruiz, the Data Center Manager, to
inform him that Wells was harassing him while on vacation.
When he returned from his vacation, plaintiff discussed the
incident with Ruiz. After Wells was confronted, he demanded
that plaintiff cease wearing headphones in his work center
while others continued to use them.
October 2012, plaintiff applied for a position in the
Enterprise Planning and Architecture Division, a position for
which he was qualified. Although plaintiff had three of the
four preferred skills for the position, plaintiff was told he
would not be interviewed because he possessed none of the
preferred skills. Many of the employees that were selected
did not possess more of the preferred skills required for the
job than plaintiff possessed. According to plaintiff's
administrative complaint that he filed before the Connecticut
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity (CHRO), the
position was filled by a black male with a doctorate degree
in IT security. Doc. #15-2 at 5.
in January 2013, plaintiff called into the command center at
7:00 a.m. to advise that he would be using three hours of
paid leave that day. Despite the fact that plaintiff had
taken leave at the last minute before, Wells approached
plaintiff to demand that he inform Wells one day ahead of
time when taking paid time off. Wells did not require this of
any other employee in the data center.
September 4, 2013, plaintiff briefly detoured into the office
library to greet some co-workers. While there, he spotted a
newspaper that contained an article about someone he knew
personally. Wells then passed by and scolded plaintiff in
front of his co-workers for looking at the newspaper.
this incident, plaintiff notified a union steward about his
problems with Wells and then filed a formal complaint against
Wells with the human resources department (“HR”).
After plaintiff started lodging his complaints with the union
and HR, Wells ceased speaking to plaintiff altogether,
restricted communication to only e-mail, and began to report
daily tasks to Arnold Correa, an employee who worked under
plaintiff. One week after filing his complaint with HR,
plaintiff learned that HR was working with Affirmative Action
on the matter.
September 18, 2013, plaintiff met with Lorraine Vittner from
HR and Eric Lindquist. He described his complaints about
Wells and explained that his role as backup to Wells was
mandated by the Data Center Manager. Plaintiff elaborated
that he received inadequate training to fulfill his role as
compared to when he held a similar position elsewhere. When
asked by Lindquist, plaintiff said he believed that Wells was
treating him in this manner because, among other reasons, he
is black. Plaintiff described Wells's conduct toward him
as “prejudicial treatment and harassment” and
used the term “berate-berating, ” giving the
example of the phone call on vacation to illustrate its
meaning. Doc. #1 at 7 (¶¶ 37-38). Plaintiff
informed Lindquist that he would rather report to Ruiz and
would like the “knowledge transfer, ” which is a
set of training meetings to help plaintiff fulfill his job
role. Id. at 7-8 (¶¶ 38, 41).
met again with Vittner on September 30, 2013. At that
meeting, Vittner informed him that plaintiff would continue
to report to Wells, but Ruiz would coordinate meetings
between plaintiff and Wells while Vittner would meet with
plaintiff biweekly to monitor the work relationship.
Additionally, Vittner told plaintiff that Wells would take
supervisor training classes. Vittner also informed plaintiff
that Wells had complained to her about his inability to find
plaintiff at certain times.
in October 2013, seven “knowledge transfer”
meetings were held with plaintiff, Ruiz, and Wells-one in
October, three in November, two in December, and one in March
2014. For his part, Wells continued to meet with Vittner to
satisfy monitoring requirements imposed by HR, but he did not
attend any formal supervisor training.
of the “knowledge transfer” meetings in December
2013, Ruiz and Wells required plaintiff to notify them
whenever he planned to come in late using sick time afforded
him by his medical certificate. In April 2014, Wells modified
this directive to require plaintiff to e-mail him whenever he
arrived late to work irrespective of the type of leave to be
used. No other employee supervised by Wells was required to
give such notice.
January 2014, at Ruiz's request, Wells invited plaintiff
to attend systems assurance meetings on certain scheduled
days. Plaintiff regularly attended these meetings for three
months until one day he arrived for the meeting while an
earlier meeting that had run late was still proceeding. Wells
informed plaintiff that he was in the wrong meeting, but
plaintiff stayed in the meeting. Thereafter, plaintiff was no
longer told when the systems assurance meetings were held.
February 13, 2014, plaintiff left work at 8:30 a.m. because
the Governor of Connecticut closed the state and ordered
non-essential personnel to remain at home. On plaintiff's
timesheet, Ruiz coded the absence as “unauthorized
leave” resulting in a garnishment of 6.5 hours of pay.
Because of this action, plaintiff's union filed a
grievance on his behalf. In April 2014, as part of the
negotiations between the union and HR to resolve the matter,
HR proposed, among other requirements, that plaintiff
withdraw all harassment complaints filed with HR, the union,
the CHRO, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) in exchange for being “made
whole” and a restoration of the garnished wages.
Id. at 10 (¶ 51).
continued to frustrate plaintiff's ability to fulfill his
duties. For example, on April 25, 2014, Ruiz asked plaintiff
to assist a co-worker on a project, but plaintiff was
completely unfamiliar with the project because Wells had not
informed him about it. On April 29, plaintiff informed
Vittner that Wells was marginalizing plaintiff, giving all
relevant information to Correa and not speaking to plaintiff
at all. Ibid. (¶ 55).
filed his complaint with the CHRO on June 4, 2014. Doc. #15-2
at 1. On October 1, 2014, plaintiff was given a performance
review that indicated he had “regressed” in
“quantity of work.” Doc. #1 at 14 (¶¶
74-75). Plaintiff inquired with Ruiz why he had received a
negative evaluation. Ruiz described three separate incidents
of deficient performance, all three of which plaintiff
disputed as legitimate grounds for the negative performance
and tardiness continued to be a source of discord between
plaintiff and Wells. On two occasions, once in February 2014
and once in January 2015, plaintiff was late on mornings it
had snowed. On the earlier occasion, Wells tried to force
plaintiff to use personal leave to cover the time missed, but
backed off when a co-worker corroborated plaintiff's
explanation that the highway was shutdown. On the latter
occasion, Wells again asked plaintiff to use his personal
time but did not make the same request of a white co-worker
who had also arrived late.
marginalization and discord continued in February 2015. For
example, on February 6 and 11, Wells went on a job run to
Groton for the day without telling plaintiff or instructing
him as to what should be done that day. On February 17,
plaintiff informed a union representative that he went to the