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Osmond v. Department of Economic

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 29, 2018

ADAM OSMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC and COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING, MARTIN ANDERSON, CATHERINE SMITH, EVONNE KLEIN, JOYCE HERIOT, IRENA BAJ-WRIGHT, GARY ROBERGE, LINDA YELMINI, SUSAN SHELLARD, And GREGORY MESSNER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS

          WARREN W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action, plaintiff alleges statutory violations of Title VII (Count I), Section 1981 (Count II), Section 1983 (Counts III, IV), and Sections 1985 and 1986 (Count VI) against various state agencies for whom he was employed and against individual defendants in supervisory roles at those agencies. Plaintiff also alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count V). All of plaintiff’s claims stem from allegations that he was subjected to discrimination on the basis of his race, color, and national origin.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff’s claim in its entirety. For the following reasons, defendants’ motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an African American who was born in Somalia. He has a Bachelor of Science in business administration. Between July 2000 and the filing of the instant complaint, plaintiff was employed by the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”), the Department of Social Services (“DSS”), the Department of Economic and Community Development (“DECD”), and the Department of Housing (“DOH”). Plaintiff asserts that over that time he applied for at least 20 various job positions for which he was the most qualified candidate. Nevertheless, defendants hired less qualified “non-basis individuals.” Plaintiff also alleges that defendants conspired to misuse state issued credit cards and to overcharge the state on small business loans. On June 6, 2016, plaintiff filed the first of multiple whistleblower complaints against DECD based on these allegations.

         Plaintiff suffered from a gambling addiction. He printed lottery tickets for himself, apparently without purchasing them, from a store that he owned. As a result of the delinquency, the State Lottery Commission caused plaintiff to be criminally prosecuted in 2008. He was charged with Second Degree Larceny and subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor larceny charge. A letter detailing the conviction was placed in his personnel file. Plaintiff asserts that this letter negatively impacted his applications with respect to the 20 positions for which he applied and was interviewed. Plaintiff alleges that subsequent to his conviction, he was subjected to increased scrutiny, such as background checks and monitoring.

         Plaintiff’s complaint is a vast, rambling, repetitive mishmash of conclusory legal terminology.[1] At base, it asserts that defendants disseminated among themselves plaintiff’s personal information, including social security number, immigration status, arrest records, and health records. Plaintiff further alleges that defendants used the information, primarily the criminal conviction, as a basis to deny plaintiff employment opportunities.

         Specifically, plaintiff alleges that he was subject “to disparate treatment with respect to the terms and conditions of employment, including obtaining, sharing, providing, passing on, personal and confidential information about [him] to other defendants, in order to negatively impact [his] employment and promotional opportunities.”

         DISCUSSION

         The function of a motion to dismiss is "merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Ryder Energy Distribution v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir. 1984). When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the pleader. Hishon v. King, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). The complaint must contain the grounds upon which the claim rests through factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). A plaintiff is obliged to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Under Title VII, a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing (1) membership in a protected class, (2) qualification for the position, (3) adverse employment action, and (4) minimal evidence suggesting an inference that the employer acted with discriminatory motivation. Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 307-11 (2d Cir. 2015).

         There is no dispute that plaintiff is a member of a protected class, that he was qualified for the positions at issue, and that a decision not to hire is an adverse employment action.

         The fundamental problem with plaintiff’s complaint is its lack of any description of a causal connection to his race, color, or national origin that would create an inference of discrimination. Plaintiff does explicitly plead, many times, that he was subjected to “various acts of discrimination on the basis of [his] race, color, [and] national origin,” but that is the complete extent of his effort to demonstrate any inference of discrimination. It is an example of legal conclusions that present only a “sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         At the initial pleading stage, the complaint must have “at least minimal support for the proposition the employer was motivated by discriminatory intent.” Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 311. Here, plaintiff himself alleges that defendants were motivated in large part by his criminal conviction, which is unrelated to his protected class. Plaintiff has failed to allege that any similarly situated employees outside of his protected class received preferential treatment, so there is no indication that his criminal conviction was not the actual reason for defendants’ decision not to hire him into alternative positions. See Kpaka v. City University of New York, 708 Fed.Appx. 703, 704-05 (2d Cir. 2017) (summary order). And ...


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