United States District Court, D. Connecticut
OMNIBUS RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Kenneth Blue brings this action against the City of Hartford,
Kelly Kirkley-Bey, Councilwoman rJo Winch, and Council
President Thomas J. Clarke II. Defendants Kirkley-Bey, Winch,
and Clarke are all sued in both their individual and
professional capacities. See Doc. 1
("Compl."). Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants
engaged in Title VII violations, harassed and retaliated
against him, and intentionally and negligently inflicted
emotional distress upon him. Compl. ¶¶ 157-162,
163-171, 178-183, 184-188. He also asserts a negligence claim
against only the City of Hartford. Id. ¶¶
172-177. Pending before this Court are the Defendants'
three motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint: one from
Kirkley-Bey, one from Winch, and one from the City of
Hartford and Clarke. See Docs. 12, 17, 18. Plaintiff
filed objections to all motions, [Docs. 20, 30, 31], and
Defendant Winch filed a reply, [Doc. 33]. This Ruling
resolves Defendants' motions.
facts herein are taken from the allegations in
Plaintiff's Complaint, which are accepted as true only
for the purposes of this Ruling.
is a gardener employed by the City of Hartford. Compl. ¶
11. Plaintiff's work duties apparently encompass
maintenance assignments such as setting up for special
events. Id. ¶¶ 16, 28, 68. He also serves
as President of the 1719 union. Id. ¶ 11.
describes multiple occasions when Defendant Kirkley-Bey
harassed him and, in one instance, sexually assaulted him.
Kirkley-Bey is the executive assistant to Defendant rJo
Winch, a councilwoman on the City of Hartford's Court of
Common Council. Id. ¶¶ 2, 3. From February
2016 to November 2016, Kirkley-Bey directed negative comments
at Plaintiff and other city maintenance employees about the
cleanliness of City Hall. Id. ¶ 18. Her conduct
eventually focused onto Plaintiff for refusing to share
confidential information regarding union negotiations with
the Mayor. Id. ¶ 21. For example, she told
people waiting in line to donate at a City Hall toy drive
event to make complaints about Plaintiff and the limited
amount of toys that were donated. Id. ¶¶
about January 12, 2017, Plaintiff was in the City Hall
parking lot when he saw Kirkley-Bey speed her car towards
him, causing him to step aside onto a platform. Id.
¶¶ 27, 30, 31. When informed of the event,
Defendant and then-Council President Clarke said that he had
spoken with Kirkley-Bey and Winch about "bullying"
and that he would "speak to her
again." Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff and
Winch also sat down in Plaintiff's office to discuss the
parking lot incident with police officer James Barrett that
afternoon. Id. ¶¶ 39, 42.
"Kirkley-Bey barged into the meeting and shouted that
[Plaintiff] was a 'clown ass nigger.'"
Id. ¶ 44. She continued yelling down the
hallway while Officer Barrett escorted her away. Id.
¶ 47. Winch provided a statement, which contained lies
and omissions, to Plaintiff's supervisor about what
happened in the meeting. Id. ¶¶ 51-55.
about February 3, 2017, Plaintiff and Kirkley-Bey were
present for a City Hall event when a security officer
informed Plaintiff that Kirkley-Bey had a maintenance issue
with her office door lock. Id. ¶¶ 67-70.
Plaintiff and the security officer went to inspect the door
when Kirkley-Bey pulled Plaintiff back by the arm to speak
with him, and later, placed her hands on Plaintiff again when
he was speaking with other employees. Id.
¶¶ 71-72, 75. At the end of the event, Plaintiff
was in the maintenance office when Kirkley-Bey came in and
hugged him. Id. ¶¶ 77-78. She then tried
to place Plaintiff's hands on her breasts and genital
area and to kiss Plaintiff on the mouth, asking him
"[W]hat can I do to fix this[?]." Id.
¶¶ 80-81. She also smacked Plaintiff's behind
several times as Plaintiff was leaving the office.
Id. ¶ 85. Kirkley-Bey appeared to be
intoxicated throughout the events of February 3, 2017.
Id. ¶¶ 74, 79, 95. The security officer
witnessed these events and reported them to Clarke and other
city officials. Id. ¶¶ 90, 93.
City of Hartford hired an outside firm to investigate
Plaintiff's allegations regarding the events of January
12, 2017, and sexual assault on February 3, 2017.
Id. ¶¶ 61, 97-99. Sent to Clarke, the
final report stated there was insufficient evidence to
substantiate Plaintiff's claims regarding the January 12,
2017, parking lot incident, found Plaintiff's claims
regarding the January 12, 2017, meeting and sexual assault on
February 3, 2017, to have merit, and recommended remedial
and/or disciplinary measures against both Plaintiff and
Kirkley-Bey but that the action against Kirkley-Bey ought to
be more severe than any such action against Plaintiff. Doc.
1-1 at 17-18, 22.
received a vague letter of reprimand from the interim
director of the city's Department of Public Works on or
about June 23, 2017. Compl. ¶ 113; Doc. 1-2 at 7.
Plaintiff believes the letter was in retaliation for exposing
Kirkley-Bey's behavior. Compl. ¶ 116.
allegations became public in early December 2017, causing
work to become "extremely hostile and uncomfortable for
Plaintiff." Id. ¶¶ 117, 119-120. He
also became anxious and depressed and went to the emergency
room for vertigo and lightheadedness. Id.
¶¶ 121, 122. Winch, in particular, publicly
attacked Plaintiff to discredit him. In a YouTube video
discussing the incidents, Winch made allegedly false
statements about Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶
125-133. She also made two Facebook posts asserting that the
outside firm's report, see supra, made no
termination recommendations. Id. ¶¶
remains a city employee. Id. ¶ 151. Plaintiff,
however, has been denied employment opportunities in
retaliation for reporting and effectively barred from working
inside City Hall. Id. ¶¶ 154-155.
Plaintiff accuses Kirkley-Bey and Winch of harassment, Winch
and Clarke for aiding and abetting Kirkley-Bey's behavior
by not terminating her, and the City of Hartford for turning
a blind eye to the harassment. Id. ¶¶
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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 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)).
Defendant Kirkley-Bey's "Motion to
Kirkley-Bey filed a "Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8." Doc. 12. However,
the supporting memorandum is titled, "Memorandum i[n]
Support of Motion for a More Definit[e] Statement." Doc.
12-1 ("K-B Mem."). At the end of the memorandum,
Kirkley-Bey asks that Plaintiff's Complaint "be
dismissed without prejudice to Plaintiff leaving another
opportunity to submit a more coherent pleading."
Id. at 3. The Court thus construes Kirkley-Bey's