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Doe v. New England Stair Company, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 19, 2018

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW ENGLAND STAIR COMPANY, INC., Defendant.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.

         Pseudonymous Plaintiff John Doe brings suit against his former employer, New England Stair Company, Inc. ("NESCO"), for discriminatory treatment and discriminatory termination on the basis of his sexual orientation and disabilities (HIV-positive status and learning disability), under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e etseq. and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ([Doc. # 17]), raises only one ground for dismissal- un timeliness, due to Plaintiffs failure to file his federal claims within 90 days of the issuance of his right-to-sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Plaintiff alleges, however, that he did file his federal claims within 90 days of his receipt of the notice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Amended Complaint, ([Doc. # 15]), alleges that Defendant, primarily through its President William J. Sylvia, subjected Plaintiff to discriminatory treatment, harassment, and discriminatory termination.

         In September 2015, Plaintiff filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) The CHRO is obligated by regulation to provide protection of confidential HIV-related information, which it attempted to do here by using its mailing address for Plaintiff when corresponding with the Respondent (Defendant). (Id. ¶ 7.) Correspondence sent to Plaintiff in care of the CHRO was then sent to Plaintiff by the CHRO. (Id.) During the pendency of Plaintiffs case, the CHRO practice was to forward any correspondence it received regarding Plaintiff to Plaintiff at his home address. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff understood that it was his responsibility to keep the CHRO informed as to his address so that the agency could provide him with all documents received on his behalf. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         On August 8, 2016, Plaintiff informed the CHRO investigator working on his case that he had changed his home address, who responded by email to Plaintiff "as for the change in address, the change has been noted and will be the new mailing address for future mail correspondence." (Id. ¶ 10.) The CHRO continued to forward all mail correspondence to Plaintiffs new address after August 2016. (Id. ¶ 11.) On April 17, 2017, the CHRO issued a Release of Jurisdiction, stating that "the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities hereby releases its jurisdiction over the above-identified complaint. The Complainant is authorized to commence a civil action against the Respondent in the Superior Court for the judicial district in which the discriminatory practice is alleged to have occurred, in which the Respondent transacts business or in which the Complainant resides." (Id. ¶ 12.)

         On August 4, 2017, unbeknownst to Plaintiff, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue regarding Plaintiffs pending federal claims. (Id. ¶ 13.) This Notice of Right to Sue was sent to Plaintiff in care of the CHRO at 55 West Main Street, Waterbury, CT 06702. (Id.)

         The CHRO's Waterbury office received the notice on August 8, 2017. (Id. ¶ 14.) At that time, Plaintiffs case file had been closed by the CHRO. (Id.) The CHRO investigator handling the case had the file retrieved from storage, placed the EEOC Right to Sue notice in the file and returned it to storage. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         No one from the CHRO sent the EEOC notice to Plaintiff, nor did anyone from the CHRO contact Plaintiff to find out if he had otherwise received a copy of the notice or let him know that they had received it. (Id. J 16.) The EEOC notice states, "This will be the only notice of dismissal and of your right to sue that we will send you." (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff did not receive the EEOC Right to Sue from the CHRO until February 6, 2018. (Id. ¶ 18.) "That Notice indicated that Plaintiff had the right to sue in federal court within 90 days of his receipt of that Notice[.]" (Id.) Ninety days from February 6, 2018 was May 7, 2018. (Id.) Plaintiff represents that at no time during the pendency of the CHRO case did he elect to make the CHRO his agent for any purpose and that none of the regulations or statutes governing the CHRO appoint the CHRO as Plaintiffs agent for the purposes of receiving notice from the EEOC. (Id. 19.)

         II. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Although detailed allegations are not required, a claim will be found facially plausible only if "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Id. at 678-79; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "Although consideration of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is generally limited to the facts stated on the face of the complaint," a plaintiffs EEOC charge and right-to-sue letter "maybe considered either as matters referenced in the complaint or as public records subject to judicial notice." McBride v. Routh, 51 F.Supp.2d 153, 155 (D. Conn. 1999) (citations omitted).

         B. The Timeliness of Plaintiffs Filing of ...


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