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Morgan v. State ex rel. Department of Motor Vehicles

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 5, 2018

ALICIA MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES Defendant.

          RULING ON THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS THE AMENDED

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         COMPLAINT Plaintiff Alicia Morgan filed this action against Defendant, the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (“the DMV”), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. In Count One of her amended complaint, Morgan alleges that the DMV discriminated against her by subjecting her to a hostile work environment because of her race. In Count Two, she alleges that she was terminated in retaliation for filing a complaint of racial discrimination with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CCHRO”) and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The DMV moves to dismiss both counts under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). It asserts that Morgan failed to allege facts showing the existence of a hostile work environment in support of Count One. The DMV also argues that Morgan failed to allege facts suggesting a causal connection between her EEOC/CCHRO complaint and her termination in support of Count Two. For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED with respect to Count One and DENIED with respect to Count Two.

         I. Factual Allegations

         The following facts are taken from Morgan's amended complaint (ECF No. 21) and are treated as true for the purposes of the motion to dismiss:

         Plaintiff Alicia Morgan is an African American woman. (Id. at 1 ¶ 3.) Defendant, the DMV, is an agency in the Executive Branch of the State of Connecticut. (Id. at 1-2 ¶¶ 4.) The DMV employed Morgan as an Inspector from February 2013 through April 2017. (Id. at 2 ¶ 6; Id. at 7 ¶ 15.) Morgan's performance evaluations were always “satisfactory or better” (Id. at 2 ¶ 6), but in 2014 she was denied “selective and preferred job assignments.” (Id. at 2 ¶ 7.) The DMV Chief explained “that she was lacking in certain qualifications, ” but he did not provide further detail. (Id.) The job assignments were given to Caucasian men. (Id.)

         On February 14, 2016, Morgan attended a mandatory training on the use of force taught by three Caucasian men. (Id. at 2 ¶ 7.) Although she believed she had completed the training properly, she was notified a month later by a Caucasian lieutenant that the instructors had “stated that her attitude was negative” and “that she did not take the training seriously.” (Id. at 2 ¶ 8.) The instructors accused Morgan of saying “that she would shoot first and let the courts decide the outcome.” (Id. at 2-3 ¶ 8.) Morgan denies the instructors' claims. (Id.) She was required to complete a remedial training program after March 27, 2016, and she was notified that she had completed the program successfully on April 7, 2016. (Id. at 3 ¶ 9.) On April 10, 2016, though, she was required to “submit to another meeting” about her attitude and statements at the original February training. (Id. at 3 ¶ 9.) She asserts that the meeting was “contrary to established practice within” the DMV. (Id.)

         In the summer of 2016, Morgan was involved in two traffic incidents while on duty. First, she was “involved in an early morning pursuit of a speeding vehicle” on June 21, 2016. (Id. at 3 ¶ 11.) She reported the pursuit to her supervisors as required. (Id.) Second, she was involved in a “traffic incident in which she required backup support from other officers” on July 26, 2016. (Id. at 3 ¶ 12.) She states that she “handled the situation appropriately and within departmental guidelines.” (Id.) The same day, she was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave. (Id. at 3 ¶ 13.) She was required to attend a fact-finding hearing on September 16, 2016. (Id.) A lieutenant with the DMV later testified that no Inspector had ever been disciplined for engaging in a pursuit like the incident on June 21. (Id. at 4 ¶ 16.) He also stated that Morgan “had not violated any appropriate procedures in her handling of the incident on July 26 . . . .” (Id. at 9 ¶ 22.)

         Morgan filed a racial discrimination complaint with the EEOC and the CCHRO on September 19, 2016, while still on administrative leave. (Id. at 7 ¶ 14.) The DMV sent her a letter on April 7, 2017, terminating her employment effective April 20, 2017. (Id. at 7 ¶ 15.) The letter stated that her termination was “related to the incidents described above.” (Id. at 8 ¶ 20.) Morgan asserts that she was the “only DMV [I]nspector subjected to a disciplinary termination for any reason whatsoever” between 2012 and April 20, 2017 (Id. at 9 ¶ 23.) The DMV opposed her application for unemployment compensation benefits, requiring Morgan to participate in an evidentiary hearing at the Connecticut Department of Labor, at which she prevailed over the DMV's opposition. (Id. at 9 ¶¶ 21-22.)

         Morgan received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC and CCHRO on September 20, 2017. (Id. at 2 ¶ 5.) She filed this action on December 18, 2017. (ECF No. 1.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the plaintiff has alleged “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). The Court accepts all of the complaint's factual allegations as true when evaluating a motion to dismiss. Id. at 572. The Court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). “However, the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to ‘[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.'” Gonzales v. Eagle Leasing Co., No. 3:13-CV-1565 JCH, 2014 WL 4794536, at *2 (D. Conn. Sept. 25, 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Thus, “[w]hen a complaint is based solely on wholly conclusory allegations and provides no factual support for such claims, it is appropriate to grant [a] defendant[']s motion to dismiss.” Scott v. Town of Monroe, 306 F.Supp.2d 191, 198 (D. Conn. 2004).

         “[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a Title VII plaintiff's complaint must be facially plausible and allege sufficient facts to give the defendant fair notice of the basis for the claim; it need not, however, make out a prima facie case.” Brown v. Daikin America, Inc., 756 F.3d 219, 228-29 & n. 10 (2d Cir.2014); see also E.E.O.C. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 768 F.3d 247, 254 (2d Cir. 2014) (reconciling Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510 (2002) and Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680) (“[W]hile a discrimination complaint need not allege facts establishing each element of a prima facie case of discrimination to survive a motion to dismiss, it must at a minimum assert nonconclusory factual matter sufficient to nudge its claims across the line from conceivable to plausible to proceed.”)

         III. Discussion

         A. Hostile ...


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