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Rainey v. State of Connecticut Department of Social Services

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 26, 2018




         Charlene Rainey (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Social Services (“Defendant” or “the Department of Social Services” or “the Department”), alleging claims for illegal race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and for violation of her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Amended Complaint, dated Sept. 28, 2017 (“Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 15. The Department of Social Services has moved to dismiss, claiming that Ms. Rainey failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit and failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

         For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         The motion to dismiss is granted as to Ms. Rainey's claim for damages under Section 1983 because of the Department of Social Services's sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. The motion to dismiss is denied as to all of Ms. Rainey's other claims.


         A. Factual Allegations

         Ms. Rainey, an African-American woman, works as an Accounts Examiner at the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. She alleges that approximately fifteen people work in her position, and the “vast majority are white.” Id. ¶ 3.

         Ms. Rainey alleges that, on or about August 18, 2015, she filed a complaint against a co-worker, Susan Mangifico, alleging workplace violence. Id. ¶ 4. She claims that, since filing that complaint, she has “been the subject of discrimination and retaliation by [her] employer.” Id. ¶ 5. She alleges that both she and Ms. Mangifico were moved, Ms. Rainey “next to another employee who was known by management to be a severe problem employee, ” and Ms. Mangifico to “an area where there were no problems[.]” Id. ¶ 5(a). She also alleges that, before filing the complaint, her evaluations were very good, but that, after filing the complaint, her evaluation in September 2016, “was down-graded, ” and she was “written up for taking off sick time that was unpaid, which [she] had done in the past without incident.” Id. ¶ 5(b).

         Ms. Rainey also alleges that, before filing the complaint, she performed audits of dental offices. Id. ¶ 5(c). She alleges that, even though she had failed the Associate Accounts Examiner test, she was told that if she took and completed another exam her supervisor would recommend her for a promotion. Id. She alleges that she completed the test, at her own cost of approximately $20, 000. Id. Ms. Rainey claims that, when she “returned to work from a pregnancy, [she] was removed from [her] duties, and they were ‘outsourced, '” and that now, she “log[s] in complaints.” Id. She claims that, “[a]s a result, [her] changes for advancing within the Department have been drastically reduced, and the $20, 000 [she] spent is wasted.” Id.

         Ms. Rainey alleges that she has been “called an ‘animal' and a ‘savage, '” which, she claims, was “reported in writing to supervisors, and to Human Resources as a complaint of discrimination.” Id. ¶ 5(d). She alleges that in response, “[n]ot only was nothing done, but [her] treatment worsened.” Id.

         Ms. Rainey alleges that she was “told in writing by [her] supervisor that if [she] wanted ‘everything to stop', [she] should email the union that [she] did not wish to pursue this.” Id. ¶ 5(e).

         Ms. Rainey alleges that her former supervisor, Walter Pacyna, instructed her at the end of February 2016 that she “had to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, or [she] would lose health benefits for [her] new child.” Id. ¶ 6.

         Ms. Rainey claims that “[t]his all has caused [her] emotional distress, and required [her] to seek medical treatment.” Id. ¶ 7.

         On April 24, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued Ms. Rainey a right-to-sue letter. Id. ¶ 8; U.S. E.E.O.C. Dismissal and Notice of Rights, dated Apr. 24, 2017, annexed as Ex. 1 to Am. Compl., ECF No. 15-1 (adopting findings of state or local fair employment practices agency that investigated the charge).

         B. Procedural History

         On July 21, 2017, Ms. Rainey filed a pro se Complaint against the Department of Social Services. Complaint, dated July 21, 2017 (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1. The Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Garfinkel, who reviewed Ms. Rainey's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, and found that the Complaint “appear[ed] to state as a cause of action an employment discrimination claim, ” but did not “sufficiently describe the facts which support this claim.” Order, dated Aug. 3, 2017, ECF No. 14. Judge Garfinkel therefore instructed Ms. Rainey to file an amended complaint within 60 days of the Order. Id.

         Ms. Rainey filed an Amended Complaint on September 28, 2017. Am. Compl., ECF No. 15. Judge Garfinkel granted her motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on October 11, 2017. Order, dated Oct. 11, 2017, ECF No. 16.

         On January 29, 2018, the Department of Social Services filed a motion nunc pro tunc to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Motion Nunc Pro Tunc to Dismiss, dated Jan. 29, 2018 (“Mot.”), ECF No. 26. The Department of Social Services then filed a motion to stay discovery until the Court rules on the motion to dismiss or until six months from the Order. Motion to Stay, dated Jan. 31, 2018, ECF No. 28. The Court granted the motion to stay discovery on February 21, 2018, Order, dated Feb. 21, 2018, ECF No. 31, and then held oral argument on the motion to dismiss on September 4, 2018, Minute Entry, dated Sept. 4, 2018, ECF No. 35.


         First, “[a] case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims. Id. In evaluating whether the plaintiff has established that the court has subject matter jurisdiction, “the court may resolve the disputed jurisdictional fact issues by referring to evidence outside of the pleadings, such as affidavits, and if necessary, hold an evidentiary ...

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