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Greene v. Patricia Richards, Clasp, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 22, 2018

JOSEPH GREENE, JR., Plaintiff,


          Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Joseph Greene, Jr. (“Plaintiff” or “Greene”) brings this unlawful employment termination case against CLASP, Inc. (“CLASP”)[1] and Patricia Richards (“Richards”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff contends that CLASP as a quasi-governmental entity and Richards acting in her official capacity violated his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights and conspired with the Department of Developmental Services (“DDS”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in investigating, reporting, and testifying about allegations of Plaintiff's sexual abuse of a CLASP resident, which ultimately ended in Plaintiff's termination. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         I. Background

         The Court takes as true the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint for the purposes of this motion, although it notes the factual allegations are not set forth in chronological order and fail to constitute short, plain statements as required under Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. CLASP is a residential group home licensed and funded by DDS. [Dkt. 29 (Second Am. Compl.) ¶ 11]. Defendant Patricia Richards was the Vice President of Quality Assurance and Staff Training at the times relevant to this case. Id. Greene was employed by CLASP as a part-time Residential Instructor at the Westport, CT facility. Id. ¶ 7. He worked for nine years on a schedule where he started on Friday at 5:00 PM and ended on Saturday at 12:00 PM. See Id. ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff was alleged to have watched a CLASP resident “during his private time” and encouraged him to engage in sexual contact and conduct on October 3, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 13, 22. Greene denies this incident occurred. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff alleges that prior to this incident he had not been disciplined for improper or untruthful behavior. Id. ¶ 160.

         According to Plaintiff, the resident “regularly engaged in random and unjustified targeting of CLASP staff, ” which included comments about violence targeted at staff and statements that he would get staff fired. Id. ¶ 162. The resident is purported to have a history of physical and verbal aggression, threats of harm against others, inappropriate sexual behavior, vulgar language, and repeating the lyrics of sexually explicit rap songs. Id. ¶ 166. In addition, the resident previously received a sanction for “obsessing about rap music, ” verbalizing rap lyrics, using racial slurs, yelling and swearing at residents and staff. Id. ¶ 169. Residential instructors were required to prevent the resident from taking personal time before he completed daily chores. Id. ¶ 174.

         On October 10, 2014, Defendants initiated an investigation into the purported sexual abuse. Id. ¶ 20. The investigation entailed taking written statements from employees and residents. Id. ¶ 21. The Complaint alleges that “[s]ubsequently, DDS substantiated abuse.” Id. ¶ 23. CLASP thereafter referred Plaintiff's name to the DDS Abuse and Neglect Registry (“Registry”). Id. ¶ 11. The Complaint alleges the police did not find probable cause for sexual assault. Id. ¶ 192.

         Greene then received from the DDS a notice about a hearing to determine whether his name should be placed on the DDS Registry because of the October 3, 2014 incident. Id. The hearing took place on September 25, 2015. Id. ¶ 28. Defendant Richards testified that he engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior on more than one occasion. Id. ¶ 196. DDS concluded his name should be placed on the Registry. Id. ¶ 30. CLASP terminated his employment on October 29, 2016. Id. ¶ 46.

         The Complaint alleges the placement of his name on the Registry “imposed a stigma on the plaintiff that deprives the plaintiff of any real opportunity to obtain other employment in The Industry.” Id. ¶ 32. It also alleges that a background check will reveal the following information: that he “sexually abused a department client while he was in his bedroom, by watching him during his private time and encouraging him to engage in sexual conduct and contact.” Id. ¶ 33. Greene alleges that his personnel file is a public record under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act because he was a “quasi-public sector employee.” Id. ¶ 34.

         Plaintiff alleges he was deprived his constitutionally protected liberty interest without due process when Defendants caused his name to be placed on the DDS Registry. Id. ¶ 1. Specifically, the Complaint alleges Greene was entitled to either a pre-deprivation name-clearing hearing or a post-deprivation hearing satisfying minimal due process requirements. Id. ¶ 53. He contends he suffered severe emotional distress and a loss of income and benefits as a result of his placement on the Registry. Id. ¶¶ 51, 70-71. Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and equitable relief as well as attorney's fees.

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead “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). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court should follow a “two-pronged approach” to evaluate the sufficiency of the complaint. Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). “A court ‘can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “At the second step, a court should determine whether the ‘wellpleaded factual allegations, ' assumed to be true, ‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted).

         In general, the Court's review on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) “is limited to the facts as asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated by reference.” McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court may also consider “matters of which judicial notice may be taken” and “documents either in plaintiffs' possession or of which ...

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