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Aldrich v. Town of Bloomfield

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 22, 2018

ALECIA ALDRICH, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD, PHILLIP SCHENCK, PAUL B. HAMMICK, CINDY COVILLE, ARTHUR FREDERICKS, JAMES SALVATORE, CHRISTINE BENVENUTO, ELLEN WHITE; Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 13]

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss filed May 11, 2017 and fully briefed on September 12. 2017. [Dkt. 13 (Mot. Dismiss); Dkt. 18 (Extension Mot.); Dkt. 19 (Order); Dkt. 30 (Opp'n); Dkt. 31 (Reply)]. Plaintiff Alecia Aldrich (“Aldrich”) brings this action to recover for her alleged unlawful employment termination. She raises counts of sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, et seq., violations of procedural due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against Defendants Town of Bloomfield (“Town”), Town Manager Phillip Schenck (“Schenck”), Chief of Police Paul B. Hammick (“Hammick”), Human Resources Director Cindy Coville (“Coville”), Police Lieutenant Arthur Fredericks (“Fredericks”), Police Lieutenant James Salvatore (“Salvatore”), Police Sergeant Christine Benvenuto (“Benvenuto”), and Police Sergeant Ellen White (“White”). Defendants move to dismiss all counts except the CFEPA claim. For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         Background

         The following facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion. Aldrich worked at Fairfield University as a security officer for the Connecticut National Guard from approximately 2010 until 2015. See [Dkt. 1 (Compl.) ¶ 14]. Fredericks is a Command Sergeant Major in the Connecticut National Guard. Id. ¶¶ 8, 17. Aldrich and Fredericks met at a “SWAT” challenge for her National Guard security unit, and Fredericks recruited her to apply to the Bloomfield Police Department (“BPD”). Id. ¶ 18. Fredericks gave her t-shirts and other paraphernalia, and he told her that she would “fit in and do well” at the BPD. Id.

         Aldrich alleges Fredericks “promoted an inappropriate intimate relationship” with her an “us[ed] his position as commander of the patrol division” to “objectify and sexually harass” Aldrich while she was employed at the BPD. Id. ¶ 19. Fredericks sent “unsolicited personal and sexually suggestive communications, ” such as texts depicting him in a towel outside a shower and calling her “sweetheart” and “meatball.” Id. ¶ 22. Fredericks also commented on her body and told her he was “taking care of” her. Id. Fredericks and Aldrich met on multiple occasions to go on runs at Penwood State Park, and afterwards he asked her to go to his home and shower with him. Id. ¶ 24. On one occasion after a run, Fredericks said to Aldrich, “I want to throw you up against a tree, kiss your neck and finger your pussy.” Id. ¶ 25. Aldrich alleges he said other sexually suggestive comments. Id. He also tried to get Aldrich to have sex with him. Id. ¶ 26. Aldrich alleges she was “swept up” in the relationship with Fredericks and could not “extricate herself for fear of retaliation.” Id. ¶ 28.

         Fredericks engaged in the same sexual behavior with other “probationary female employees.” Id. ¶ 29. Fredericks solicited two other white female probationary officers to go on “runs” at Penwood Park. Id. ¶ 42.

         Benvenuto repeatedly spoke about sex among police officers. Id. ¶ 30. She “fostered a profane, crude and sexually and racially charged environment. Id. For example, Benvenuto referred to female officers as “fucking bitches” and “sluts.” Id. On multiple occasions, Benvenuto stated, “We have to stop hiring these crazy white females.” Id. She also told Aldrich that “the only way to succeed at BPD is by ‘fucking the right people'” and that she knew Aldrich was having sex with Fredericks. Id. ¶¶ 30-31.

         The Complaint alleges Schenck and Hammick initiated an investigation “into the accident” on March 31, 2016. Id. ¶ 49. However, it is unclear what accident they investigated because the accident-wherein Aldrich responded to a motor vehicle accident and was herself hit by a motor vehicle, sustaining injuries-is alleged to have occurred on April 3, 2016. Id. ¶ 47. Aldrich alleges that her denial of proper field officer training was the direct cause of the accident. Id. ¶ 48. Aldrich was not provided notice or results of the investigation. Id. ¶ 50.

         The Complaint also refers to a motor vehicle stop and driving while intoxicated arrest that Aldrich conducted on May 20, 2016. Id. ¶ 52. On August 8, 2016, Hammick and Schenck assigned Lieutenant Salvatore to conduct “a sham and discriminatorily motivated” internal investigation regarding the motor vehicle stop and driving while intoxicated arrest. Id. ¶ 52. It was concluded that “there were ‘inaccurate details written within the described arrest report.'” Id. Aldrich alleges “Salvatore conducted a biased investigation, ignored facts and manipulated past practice in order to find misconduct by Aldrich.” Id. ¶ 53.

         Aldrich complained of sexual harassment and discrimination on September 27, 2016 to Hammick. Id. ¶ 41. While Aldrich was employed, two other white, female probationary officers were “similarly sexually harassed and subjected to discrimination, denied their due process and equal protections rights and unlawfully terminated because of their sex and race.” Id. ¶ 40. Hammick “coerced” these two individuals into resigning. Id. ¶ 41. Aldrich alleges Hammick told her he would open a sexual harassment investigation. Id. ¶ 44. He “demanded and ordered” her to speak with him in his office about Fredericks's actions. Id. ¶ 45. Aldrich alleges Hammick never initiated an investigation. Id. ¶ 46. Aldrich also alleges Schenck, Coville, Hammick, Fredericks, Salvatore, Benvenuto and White “were aware, refused to investigate and allowed this sexual harassment and hostile work environment to remain, ” although she does not provide additional facts. Id. ¶ 39.

         Schenck and Coville were thereafter notified in writing of Aldrich's complaint. Id. ¶ 64. The complaint “concerned] specific members of [the] police department command staff, including Chief Hammick, LT Salvatore, LT Fredericks, SGT Benvenuto, and others.” Id. ¶ 65. Aldrich requested Schenck and Coville investigate the matter without Hammick's involvement “as they were the subjects of the sexual discrimination complaint.” Id. ¶ 66. Instead of investigating the case, Schenck and Coville immediately fired her. Id. ¶ 67. After Aldrich was fired, Detective Spellman said to her, “You should have fucked Art to keep your job.” Id. ¶ 32.

         Aldrich alleges Ellen White, a supervisor and president of the local police union, “colluded with Schenck, Hammick and management” to deny Aldrich competent representation while acting in her capacity as the union president. Id. ¶ 34. Aldrich alleges “White refused and neglected to adequately represent white, female probationary members” and that she “neglected these union members in return for favorable treatment by management.” Id. ¶ 35. Aldrich alleges White fostered a hostile work environment and discriminatory actions by the male defendants, and “[t]his included sexist statements and collusion with management in the discriminatory environment, discipline and corruption of the grievance process and collective bargaining agreement.” Id. ¶ 36.

         The Town of Bloomfield has a sexual harassment policy that prohibits “unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature.” Id. ¶ 58. The policy identifies the Director of Human Resources and the Town Manager as contact people for sexual harassment complaints, upon which it is required that an investigation ensue. Id. ¶ 59. Such investigations are to be conducted “promptly and thoroughly” in a manner that maintains confidentiality and protects the complainant from retaliation. Id. ¶ 60. Hammick also instituted General Order No. 26, which prohibits sexual harassment. Id. ¶ 61. General Order Nos. 2-07-09, 10, and 11 also prohibit unethical conduct. Id. ¶ 62.

         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 ...


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