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Callahan v. Gateway Community College

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 5, 2019




         Plaintiff Tachica Callahan has filed a discrimination complaint against defendant Gateway Community College. I will grant Gateway's motion to dismiss on grounds that Callahan has failed to allege facts that give rise to plausible grounds for relief.


         On April 13, 2017, Callahan filed a pro se and in forma pauperis complaint against Gateway. Doc. #1. On November 7, 2017, I entered an order sua sponte dismissing the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Doc. #13. I described how the complaint “states almost no facts as distinct from legal conclusions that defendant violated the law.” Id. at 2. “Because the complaint is so bare of facts-as distinct from conclusory allegations of violations of the law- defendant could not possibly file a meaningful answer or response to plaintiff's claims.” Ibid. Accordingly, I dismissed the complaint without prejudice to Callahan's filing of an amended complaint that contained a proper amount of factual detail to give Gateway fair notice of the basis for her claims:

Plaintiff is advised that any amended complaint should allege specific facts and approximate dates of any alleged misconduct by defendant. It is not sufficient for plaintiff simply to allege that defendant has violated the law without alleging the specific acts of misconduct engaged in by defendant that amounts to a violation of a specific law. For example, if plaintiff believes that she was subject to retaliation or discrimination, then she should allege facts describing precisely who engaged in specific acts on specific or approximate dates that amounted to retaliation or discrimination and on what basis she believes she was subject to retaliation or discrimination (e.g., race, gender, etc.). Although plaintiff may refer to and attach documents to her complaint if she wishes, such attached documents are not a substitute for plaintiff alleging specific facts and legal claims that must be made stated in the body of the complaint itself.

Doc. #13 at 3.

         On December 7, 2017, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Doc. #15. The amended complaint purports to state the following four causes of action arising from Gateway's alleged mistreatment of plaintiff and termination of her employment: (1) a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, (2) a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (3) a violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1964, and (4) a violation of “the Connecticut State Human Rights Law.” Id. at 1. Gateway has now moved to dismiss.


         When evaluating a motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014). It is well-established that “pro 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)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         As with Callahan's initial complaint, the amended complaint contains very little factual detail. It alleges that Callahan worked for Gateway at its Department of Educational Technology for two years and seven months from September 2012 to May 2015. Doc. #15 at 2 (¶ 2), 7 (¶ 19), 8 (¶ 22). The amended complaint further alleges that Callahan “was discriminated against and terminated on or about 7/10/15 according to [the] official termination letter.” Id. at 8 (¶ 22).

         Scattered throughout the amended complaint are conclusory allegations that Callahan was the subject of discrimination or retaliation by Gateway:

• That Gateway “repeatedly subjected Plaintiff to unlawful discrimination because of her race/color, and sex, as well as to unlawful retaliation” (id. at 2 (¶ 2));
• That Gateway “overlooked the Plaintiff's application for promotion through the college's mandated competitive application process, ” instead using “Nepotism and Cronyism” leading to preferences for “Caucasian male counterparts, Asian female counterparts, and Hispanic female counterparts, ...

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