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Lopos v. Hughes

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 21, 2018

MARK HUGHES Defendant.


          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Michael John Lopos filed this action against Defendant Mark Hughes, who the complaint describes as “Dean of Students of the East Haven Public Schools, ” alleging that Hughes failed to hire him for an in-school suspension paraprofessional position in retaliation for his past litigation against the Meriden Board of Education, in violation of the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and because of his age and race. Lopos seeks $15, 000 in damages, or half of a paraprofessional's salary. Defendant moves to dismiss Lopos's claims for retaliation, race discrimination, and age discrimination. (ECF No. 44.) Lopos has moved for judgment on the pleadings. (ECF No. 45.)

         For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED. Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is DENIED.

         I. Factual Allegations

         Lopos made the following factual allegations in his original complaint and in his motion to amend. (ECF No. 1; ECF No. 34.) Lopos alleges that Hughes failed to hire him for the position of in-school suspension paraprofessional because of Lopos's prior charges of discrimination and lawsuits. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) One of these lawsuits was against the Meriden Board of Education and the Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni. (Id.; ECF No. 34 at 1.) Lopos alleges that Hughes “knew about the content of the Plaintiff[']s claim and lied to the EEOC that he had no knowledge of the litigation brought against The Meriden Board of Education on a sworn affidavit submitted to the EEOC.” (Id.) Lopos alleges that Hughes was at one point the president of the Meriden Board of Education and Benigni's best friend and was aware of Lopos's prior lawsuit. (ECF No. 34 at 1.)

         On July 16, 2015, Lopos filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, alleging that Hughes failed to hire Lopos in retaliation for prior charges of discrimination and lawsuits filed in federal court. (ECF No. 1 at 3.)

         On August 21, 2017, Lopos filed a motion to amend, seeking to add claims of race discrimination and age discrimination to his retaliation complaint. (ECF No. 34.) The Court granted the motion to amend and allowed Lopos to file an amended complaint to add those claims, but Lopos did not do so. (ECF No. 39.)

         In the motion to amend, Lopos alleges that the East Haven Schools administration team interviewed five candidates for the paraprofessional position. (ECF No. 34 at 1.) The five candidates included one white male, two Hispanic males, and two African-American males. (Id.) Lopos also alleges that “not one Senior Citizen” was interviewed for the position. (Id.) Lopos does not allege his race, ethnicity, or age in the complaint or the motion to amend.

         Lopos left blank the box on the application that he could fill out to indicate his race. Lopos alleges that “[t]he rationale for leaving the box blank was to promote the interviewing and hiring process to [be] based on the applicant's qualifications, credentials and content of character and not on the color of one's skin or ethnicity.” (Id.) Lopos was not interviewed for the paraprofessional position. Lopos also alleges that he was “not interviewed and considered less favorably because of his age.” (Id.)

         Lopos makes factual allegations that do not appear in the complaint or the motion to amend in other filings in this case. In his “Motion for In Camera Review of Documents, ” Lopos alleges that the Meriden Board of Education offered him a settlement in his prior lawsuit, and that the Board, of which Hughes was the president, “had to vote and approve the settlement.” (ECF No. 49.) In two of his “motion[s] to compel discovery documents, ” Lopos alleges that “Plaintiff was the most qualified candidate for the position of In-School Suspension Paraprofessional with the East Haven schools.” (ECF No. 50 and 52.) Lopos also attaches exhibits to a “motion to strike affidavit of Defendant Mark Hughes, ” and his opposition brief, which he argues support his claim that Hughes was aware of his past litigation. (ECF No. 51 at 3-4.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court must determine whether the plaintiff has alleged “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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). The Court accepts all of the complaint's factual allegations as true when evaluating a motion to dismiss. Id. at 572. The Court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). “When a complaint is based solely on wholly conclusory allegations and provides no factual support for such claims, it is appropriate to grant [a] defendant[']s motion to dismiss.” Scott v. Town of Monroe, 306 F.Supp.2d 191, 198 (D. Conn. 2004). “[W]hile a discrimination complaint need not allege facts establishing each element of a prima facie case of discrimination to survive a motion to dismiss, it must at a minimum assert nonconclusory factual matter sufficient to nudge its claims across the line from conceivable to plausible to proceed.” E.E.O.C. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 768 F.3d 247, 254 (2d Cir. 2014) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510 (2002); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680).

         Rule 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). District courts “employ the same standard applicable to Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss” in deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, 78 (2d Cir. 2015). This requires “[a]ccepting the non-moving party's allegations as true and viewing the facts in the light most favorable to that party, ” and granting judgment on the pleadings “if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A party is entitled to judgment on the pleadings “only if it has established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved.” Juster Assocs. v. City of Rutland, 901 F.2d 266, 269 (2d Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Because Mr. Lopos appears pro se in this case, the Court construes his pleadings liberally to raise the strongest arguments they suggest. Pabon ...

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