United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
November 28, 2018, the plaintiff, Kezlyn Mendez, an inmate
currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut,
filed a complaint pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, against twelve Department of Correction
(“DOC”) officials in their individual and
official capacities. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). The twelve
defendants are Warden William Mulligan, Captain Craig Paton,
Captain Rivera, Lieutenant Legassey, Lieutenant Harris,
Supervisor Oliver, Supervisor Ralph Rossi, Supervisor Osle,
Supervisor Johnson, Supervisor Rodriguez, Supervisor
Williams, and Counselor Bennett. Id. at 2-3. The
plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his First
Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion
and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment under the
Eighth Amendment. Id. at 9-10. He seeks monetary,
injunctive, and declaratory relief. Id. at 10-11. On
December 6, 2018, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel
granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma
paupers. See Order No. 6. For the following
reasons, the complaint is dismissed in part.
Standard of Review
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, this Court must review prisoner
civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint
that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint
must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair
notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are
based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory
allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic, 550
U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that
“[p]ro se complaints ‘must be
construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest
arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of
Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
474 (2d Cir. 2006)).
plaintiff is a practicing Muslim. Compl. ¶ 9. He works
in the kitchen at MWCI. One day in May of 2017, Ralph Rossi,
the kitchen supervisor brought in his own pork and cooked it
in the facility ovens, the same ovens where prisoner meals
are prepared. Id. at ¶ 10. Muslim meals are
also prepared in those same ovens, and Rossi cooked his pork
during Ramadan. Id. at ¶ 11. Rossi did not
clean the ovens after using them to cook his pork.
Id. at ¶ 12. The plaintiff immediately sent a
request to Warden Mulligan complaining about Rossi's
violation of institutional policies. Id. at ¶
3, 2017, Rossi gathered all of the kitchen workers in the
dining area and said, “I'm going to find the rat in
my kitchen and kill it. [P]eople need to stop minding my
business and mind their own. Whoever you are you need to try
again. I have too much power . . . I'm batting a
thousand.” Compl. ¶ 14. Rossi stood next to the
plaintiff as he gave his last comments. Id.
8, the plaintiff was not called to work his 5:00 a.m. shift
in the kitchen. Compl. ¶ 15. He was removed from the
work list without a clear reason or sufficient notice.
Id. He asked a correction officer to call the
kitchen and inquire as to why he had been removed from the
work list. Id. at ¶ 16. After contacting the
kitchen staff, the officer informed the plaintiff that he was
not fired; “he just wasn't wanted in the kitchen
anymore because he was a snitch who didn't know how to
mind his business.” Id. at ¶ 17. The
officer suggested that the plaintiff find another work
plaintiff went to Captain Paton, his unit manager, and told
him about the circumstances surrounding his removal from the
kitchen. Compl. ¶ 18. Paton assured the plaintiff that
he would look into the matter. Id. The plaintiff
also spoke with the other kitchen supervisors, Oliver,
Rodriguez, Williams, and Johnson, asking them why he had been
removed. Id. at ¶ 19. The four supervisors told
him, “Rossi makes the list, and you crossed him. [Y]ou
put your nose in the wrong person['s] business so
we're not getting involved.” Id. at ¶
22, the plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the situation
with Rossi, explaining that Rossi had retaliated against him
for reporting that he had cooked personal pork products in
the facility ovens. Compl. ¶ 21; Pl.'s Ex. A (Dkt.
No. 1 at 12-13). He also requested that the other supervisors
move him to the second kitchen shift in order to avoid any
future problems with Rossi. Compl. ¶ 22. In response to
the grievance, Paton suggested that the plaintiff write an
apology letter to Rossi “for not minding his
business.” Id. at ¶¶ 23-24. The
plaintiff, who just wanted his job back, agreed and wrote the
apology letter to Rossi. Id. at ¶ 25.
the apology letter was delivered to Rossi on July 15, it
became a significant topic of discussion amongst the kitchen
staff at MWCI. Compl. ¶¶ 25-26. The letter was
posted on the kitchen supervisors' office window with the
word “snitch” written on the bottom in bold
letters. Id. at ¶ 27. The plaintiff asked
several staff members about the posting, but none of them
gave him any information, and many of them joked about the
plaintiff addressed the posting with Paton, explaining that
his plan for writing an apology letter had backfired. Compl.
¶ 29. Paton told the plaintiff not to worry and that he
would see about getting him his job back. Id. at
nothing was done to address the problem, the plaintiff went
back to the other kitchen supervisors, Oliver, Johnson, Osle,
Rodriguez, and Williams, and asked them why he had not been
permitted to return to work in the kitchen. Compl. ¶ 31.
The five supervisors said that the reason was “because
[he] [had] sent that request to [Mulligan's] office about
31, Rossi entered the plaintiff's housing unit during
chow time. Compl. ¶ 32. The plaintiff approached him and
asked why he had not been permitted to return to work.
Id. Rossi said, “You'll never work in my
kitchen again. I don't care who says otherwise or has
something to say about it. [M]y kitchen, my rules, my
workers.” Id. at ¶ 33. Rossi then turned
to another prisoner in the area and said, “If this
snitch [(referring to the plaintiff)] comes back to my
kitchen, he'll be my bitch.” Id.
Rossi left the area, the plaintiff went to a correction
counselor, explained what had just occurred, and asked her to
file a PREA complaint against Rossi. Compl. ¶ 34.
The plaintiff was permitted to call the PREA hotline.
Id. Afterward, the counselor said that she would
draft an incident report based on what the plaintiff had told
her and that the plaintiff needed to report all interactions
with Rossi. Id. at ¶ 35. The plaintiff then
wrote two requests to Commissioner Semple and Warden
Mulligan, explaining the incident that occurred on July 31,
particularly the comments made by Rossi. Id. at
¶¶ 36-37; Pl.'s Exs. D, E (Dkt. No. 1 at
August 4, the plaintiff was walking back to his unit when he
was approached by Supervisor Oliver. Compl. ¶ 38. Oliver
informed the plaintiff that he had been moved to the second
shift in the kitchen, which starts at 1:00 p.m. Id.
at ¶ 39. He asked the plaintiff if he felt safe working
on the weekend with Rossi. Id. at ¶ 40. The
plaintiff assured Oliver that he was okay with working on the
plaintiff returned to work at 1:00 p.m. without incident, but
he was not permitted to work on the weekend because Rossi had
refused to call him to work. Compl. ¶ 41. He documented
the missed work days and sent a request to Mulligan, Paton,
Oliver, and Counselor Bennett. Id. at ¶ 42.
None of the addressees responded to the request. Id.
From then on until October 14, 2017, the plaintiff was not
permitted to work while Rossi was the supervisor on duty.
Id. at ¶ 44.
October 13, after attending Muslim services, the plaintiff
returned to the kitchen intending on working, but Rossi once
again would not permit him to work. Compl. ¶ 45.
Lieutenant Harris had been in the area at the time, and the
plaintiff tried to explain to her what was going on.
Id. at ¶ 46. However, Harris rejected the
plaintiff's complaint and told him, “I already know
what happened, Mendez. [Y]ou snitched on Rossi, so I'm
not going to tell him to open the door. [S]o go back to your
unit now.” Id. The plaintiff returned to his
unit where he informed ...