United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHAUDHRY M. SHOUQ, Plaintiff,
NORBERT E. MITCHELL CO., INC., Defendant.
RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND
MOTION TO STRIKE [DOC. 22]
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Chaudhry M. Shouq ("Plaintiff") brings this action
pro se against Defendant Norbert E. Mitchell Co.,
Inc. ("Defendant"), his former employer. Plaintiff
alleges that, based on his national origin, he was subjected
to a hostile work environment, discriminated against, and
constructively discharged from his position. Plaintiff brings
statutory claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1962, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et
seq. Defendant now moves to dismiss the complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and moves to strike certain portions of the
complaint pursuant to Rule 12(f). Plaintiff resists the
motions. This Ruling resolves them.
an individual of Pakistani descent, was hired by Defendant in
or around October 1999. Complaint, Doc. 1 ¶ 4-5. The
terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment state that
the company will not discriminate against any person based on
national origin in selection or treatment, nor will the
company tolerate any abusive or threatening language, or
harassment. Id. ¶ 14. Starting in or around
2004, Plaintiff's supervisor, Henry Stolz, and the
assistant supervisor, Joe Ronka, started treating Plaintiff
differently than the other employees, who were American.
Id. ¶ 6.
August 2004, Plaintiff's supervisor forced him to work at
a different location. Id. ¶ 7(a). Although he
was promised additional money to work there, he never
received it. Id. In or around 2005, Plaintiff's
supervisor forced him to sign a letter, the effect of which
would strip Plaintiff of his managerial position.
Id. ¶ 7(b). After Plaintiff confronted the
supervisor, the supervisor ripped up the letter and asked
Plaintiff not to tell anyone about it. Id.
around 2009, Plaintiff's supervisor and the assistant
supervisor forced him to sign a letter regarding a three-day
suspension. Id. ¶ 7(c). Plaintiff was told that
he was being suspended for opening the store late the
previous Sunday, and for writing down the wrong time on the
payroll sheet. Id. Plaintiff explained that he had
opened the store on time. Id. Plaintiff's
account was confirmed with the alarm company, which reported
that they had been having issues with their system.
Id. After hearing from the alarm company,
Plaintiff's supervisors ripped up the three-day
suspension letter and left the store. Id.
around December 2015, Ronka presented Plaintiff with a
Christmas bonus check that was for less money than Plaintiff
had been promised. Id. ¶ 7(d). After asking
Ronka about the discrepancy, Ronka yelled at Plaintiff and
insulted him, humiliating him in the process. Id.
That same year, when the other employees received a 50 cent
to one dollar raise, Plaintiff only received a ten cent
raise. Id. ¶ 7(e). When he inquired about the
raise, Plaintiff was told by Ronka that he was lucky to even
receive a ten cent raise. Id. In December 2016,
Plaintiff was paid a much smaller Christmas bonus.
Id. ¶ 7(f).
around May 2016, Plaintiff received a "written and final
reprimand for nothing." Id. ¶ 7(g);
see also Doc. 16 at 7.The company had just fired an
employee who worked in the afternoons at Plaintiff's
location, after determining that the employee was stealing.
Id. Plaintiff strongly denied knowing anything about
the ongoing thefts at his location but he still received a
about December 3, 2016, Plaintiff arrived at work and
realized he had forgotten his key to open the store.
Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff notified Ronka that he was
going to go back home to look for his key. Id. When
Plaintiff got home, he was unable to find the key.
Id. Plaintiff returned to the store, and found Ronka
waiting for him there. Id. Ronka informed Plaintiff
that if he did not find his key, he would be in trouble.
Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff went back home to look for
the key, and found it underneath his bed. Id. When
Plaintiff returned to work with the key, Ronka started to
yell and swear at him. Id. ¶ 10. Ronka told
Plaintiff that he was suspended, and threatened to call the
police if he did not leave. Id. Plaintiff explained
that he was ready to work and the key had been located.
Id. In response, Ronka threw Plaintiff's bag of
medications onto the floor, along with his blood pressure
cuff. Id. Ronka's outburst was captured on the
Defendant's surveillance video. Id.
days later, Plaintiff spoke with Andy Mongan, Defendant's
Human Resources Officer. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff
made Mongan aware of the December 3rd incident involving
Ronka. Id. Plaintiff told Morgan that Ronka would
not have treated an American employee the way he treated
Plaintiff. Id. Mongan stated that "Ronka is
your boss and he can do anything to you." Id.
Dissatisfied with that response, the same day, Plaintiff
spoke to the owner of the business, Matt Mitchell.
Id. ¶ 12. Mitchell told Plaintiff that he would
look into the incident, review the video, and speak to the
other supervisors. Id.
December 7 or December 8, 2016, Mongan told Plaintiff that
Mitchell wanted to see him. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff
met with Mitchell, who complimented Plaintiff on being a good
employee over the past eighteen years. Id. Plaintiff
informed Mitchell that the December incident was not the
first incident that he had with Ronka. Id.
the December 3, 2016, incident with Ronka, Plaintiff
continued to work. However, he experienced stress from the
incident and the working environment, and his health
deteriorated as a result. Id. ¶
see also Doc. 16 at 2-4. On January 19, 2017,
Plaintiff filed Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and
Opportunities ("CHRO") and United States Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")
complaints of harassment and discrimination based on national
origin (Pakistan) against Defendant. Id. ¶ 15.
Then, on February 13, 2017, Plaintiff was constructively
discharged "due to the ongoing harassment and
discrimination" he faced. Id. ¶ 17.
Plaintiff's position with Defendant at that time was a
gas station manager (Defendant is in the heating service
business in the Danbury, Connecticut area). On August 1,
2017, Plaintiff filed additional CHRO and EEOC complaints for
constructive discharge. Id. ¶ 18.
information and belief, no other non-basis employees were
subjected to similar harassment and discrimination in the
manner that [Plaintiff] was," due to his national origin
and ancestry. Id. ¶ 19.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
a motion to dismiss, the issue is 'whether the claimant
is entitled to offer evidence to support the
claims.'" Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106,
111 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416
U.S. 232, 236 (1984)). "To survive a motion to dismiss,
a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its
face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) ("Iqbal") (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)
("Twombly")). This pleading standard
creates a "two-pronged approach," Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679, based on "[t]wo working
principles". Id. at 678.
all factual allegations in the complaint must be accepted as
true and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the favor
of the non-moving party. See id.; see also Gorman v.
Consolidated Edison Corp., 488 F.3d 586, 591-92 (2d Cir.
2007) (citation omitted). The presumption of truth does not
extend, however, to "legal conclusions" or
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action supported by mere conclusory statements[.]"
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Second, "a complaint
that states a plausible claim for relief" will survive a
motion to dismiss and "[d]etermining whether a complaint
states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679) (quotation marks
omitted). "Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) is appropriate when 'it is clear from
the face of the complaint, and matters of which the court may
take judicial notice, that the plaintiff's claims are
barred as a matter of law.'" Associated Fin.
Corp. v. Kleckner, 480 Fed.Appx. 89, 90 (2d Cir. 2012)
(quoting Conopco, Inc. v. Roll Int'l, 231 F.3d
82, 86 (2d Cir. 2000)).
a pro se complaint. With respect to pro se
litigants, it is well-established that
"[p]ro se submissions are reviewed
with special solicitude, and 'must be construed liberally
and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l
Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
474 (2d Cir. 2006)). See also Sykes v. Bank of Am.,
723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (same); Tracy v.
Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010)
(discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se
litigants); Boykin v. KeyCorp., 521 F.3d 202, 214
(2d Cir. 2008) ("A document filed pro se is to
be liberally construed and a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."
(quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007))); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537
F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (where the plaintiff proceeds
pro se, a court is "obliged to construe his
pleadings liberally" (quoting McEachin v.
McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004))); Abbas
v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (in reviewing
a pro se complaint, the court "must liberally
construe [the] pleadings, and must interpret [the] complaint
to raise the strongest arguments it suggests").
inartfully pleaded, a pro se complaint may not be
dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) unless it appears beyond doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of
[his] claim which would entitle [him] to relief."
Legeno v. Corcoran Grp., 308 Fed.Appx. 495, 496 (2d
Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted). However,
despite being subject to liberal interpretation, a pro
se plaintiff's complaint still must "state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir.
2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Motion to Strike
moves to strike two paragraphs of Plaintiff's complaint,
and the entirety of the complaint's accompanying
exhibits. Doc. 22-1 at 12-17. Defendant contends that
paragraphs 11 and 13 of the complaint "refer to conduct
and settlement discussions that occurred during the mediation
process of an administrative proceeding at the CHRO,"
and they should therefore be "stricken as immaterial and
potentially prejudicial." Id. at 12. Defendant
argues that the exhibits attached to Plaintiff's
complaint, including medical records and "one document
purporting to be a disciplinary notice," should be
stricken because the documents do not serve to clarify the
pleadings; are not incorporated by reference into the body of
the complaint; contain Plaintiff's personal information;
and do not fall within the "commonly held definition of
a written instrument." Id. at 16-17. Plaintiff
argues that his medical exhibits offer proof of
Plaintiff's damages resulting from Defendant's
harassment, discrimination, and constructive discharge. Doc.
23-1 at 6.
12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
"[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient
defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or
scandalous matter. The court may act: (1) on its own; or (2)
on motion made by a party either before responding to the
pleading[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Motions to strike are
generally "viewed unfavorably and [are] rarely
granted." Tucker v. Am. Int'l Grp., Inc.,
936 F.Supp.2d 1, 15 (D. Conn. 2013) (quotation marks and
citation omitted) (collecting cases); see also Lipsky v.
Commonwealth United Corp., 551 F.2d 887, 893 (2d Cir.
1976) ("[T]he courts should not tamper with the
pleadings unless there is a strong reason for so doing."
(citation omitted)). Ultimately, it is within the district
court's discretion to determine whether to grant or deny
a motion to strike. See Tucker, 936 F.Supp.2d at 15;
Lamoureux v. AnazaoHealth Corp., 250 F.R.D. 100, 102
(D. Conn. 2008).
prevail on a motion to strike, the movant must establish that
"(1) no evidence in support of the allegations would be
admissible; (2) that the allegations have no bearing on the
issues in the case; and (3) that to permit the allegations to
stand would result in prejudice to the movant."Roe
v. City of New York, 151 F.Supp.2d 495, 510 (S.D.N.Y.
2001) (quotation marks and citation omitted); see also
Lipsky, 551 F.2d at 893 (stating that "a Rule 12(f)
motion to strike allegations claimed to be impertinent or
immaterial "will be denied, unless it can be shown that
no evidence in support of the allegation would be
admissible" (collecting cases)).
Evidentiary questions . . . should especially be avoided at
such a preliminary stage of the proceedings. Usually the
questions of relevancy and admissibility in general require
the context of an ongoing and unfolding trial in which to be
properly decided. And ordinarily neither a district court nor
an appellate court should decide to strike a portion of the
complaint on the ...