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Doe v. Paychex Inc

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 6, 2019

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
PAYCHEX, INC., USI INSURANCE SERVICES OF CONNECTICUT, INC., & USI INSURANCE SERVICES, LLC., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTIONS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         From January 2, 2015 to August 1, 2015, Jane Doe (“Plaintiff”), pro se, allegedly worked for Paychex, Inc. (“Paychex”) as a sales agent. Complaint (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1 ¶ 7a. Ms. Doe allegedly suffered discrimination, a hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; and discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. Compl. ¶ 4; Am. Compl., ECF No. 12, ¶ 6.

         Ms. Doe also alleges violations of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; unlawful termination in violation of Connecticut's protected speech law, Connecticut General Statute 31-51q; libel and slander in violation of Connecticut General Statute 52-597; failure to pay out remaining sick time leave or retaliation for the use of sick time in violation of Connecticut General Statute 31-57v; termination of a sales contract and failure to pay commissions in violation of Connecticut General Statute 42-482; failure to produce an employee handbook in violation of Connecticut General Statute 31-71f; invasion of privacy in violation of Connecticut General Statute 42-471; and tortious interference. Am. Compl. ¶ 9.

         In her Amended Complaint, Ms. Doe names USI Insurance Services of Connecticut, Inc. and USI Insurance Services, LLC (“USI Defendants”) as Defendants. Am. Compl., ECF No. 12, ¶ 9zzz.

         In her Second and Third Amended Complaints, Ms. Doe proposes further theories of liability (e.g., violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1111 et seq.; Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq.; Fair Credit Reporting Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.; and federal procurement laws, Second. Am. Compl., ECF No. 35, ¶ 6.).

         Eight motions are pending before the Court: (1) Ms. Doe's motion to seal the case, Mot. to Seal, ECF No. 2; (2) Paychex's motion to dismiss the Complaint, Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 16; (3) Ms. Doe's motion to disqualify attorney Marc L. Zaken and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Steward, P.C., Mot. to Recuse, ECF No. 19; (4) Defendants' motion to unseal the case, Mot. to Unseal, ECF No. 23; (5) Ms. Doe's motion to amend or correct the Amended Complaint, Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 46; (6) Paychex's motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, Paychex Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 47; (7) USI Defendants' motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, USI Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 48; and (8) Ms. Doe's motion for a new hearing, Mot. for New Hearing on the Mots., ECF, No. 65.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court now GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motions to dismiss, and dismisses all claims against the USI Defendants, ECF No. 48; and Ms. Doe's claims against Paychex for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act, National Labor Relations Act, state and federal laws regarding data privacy, employee handbooks, libel and slander, protected speech, sales representative commissions, sick leave violations, protected speech, and tortious interference, leaving only her claims for sex discrimination, a hostile workplace, and retaliation under Title VII in this case, ECF Nos. 16, 47; DENIES Ms. Doe's motion to amend, ECF No. 46; DENIES Ms. Doe's motion to seal the case, ECF No. 2, GRANTS Defendants' motion to unseal the case, ECF No. 23; DENIES Ms. Doe's motion to recuse, ECF No. 19, and DENIES Ms. Doe's motion to supplement and for a new hearing, ECF, No. 65.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Ms. Doe allegedly suffers from anxiety, PTSD caused by a “previous employer's reckless disregard of her rights, ” and a right shoulder injury. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9xx-zz.

         For the first seven months of 2015, Ms. Doe allegedly worked as an outside sales agent in Paychex's health and benefits division. Compl. ¶ 7a. She allegedly managed all of the Connecticut accounts for corporate customers employing more than 50 employees. Id. ¶ 7f. Six months into Ms. Doe's employment, Paychex allegedly redistributed regional sales assignments. Id. As a result of that redistribution, Ms. Doe allegedly lost larger accounts to two male sales agents. Id.

         During her employment, Ms. Doe allegedly alerted managers to the unethical activities of a male sales agent. Id. ¶¶ 7g, k, q. That sales agent ultimately filed an internal complaint against Ms. Doe. Id. ¶¶ 7s-t.

         On July 20, 2015, Ms. Doe's supervisor, Mr. Ellsworth, allegedly told her about the sales agent's complaint against her. Id. ¶ 7dd. Ms. Doe asked Mr. Ellsworth to call Human Resources so that they could connect her to the complaining agent to discuss his complaint. Id. ¶ 7dd. Mr. Ellsworth refused to call Human Resources, so Ms. Doe asked to be terminated. Id. Another manager allegedly told Ms. Doe that she would not be terminated. Id.

         On July 21, 2015, Ms. Doe allegedly contacted Paychex's Human Resources department and filed an internal discrimination complaint against Mr. Ellsworth for “inappropriate actions” such as warning her not to respond to his emails with corrections or admonishments that he “do [his] job”, id. ¶ 7j, m; writing her up because she used allegedly improper “best interest” language with her coworkers, id. ¶ 7aa; failing to research accounts that Ms. Doe felt were being mishandled, id. ¶ 7k; and falsifying or refusing to pay commissions, id. ¶ 7l. Ms. Doe allegedly asked to be relocated due to the hostile work environment created by Mr. Ellsworth. Id. ¶ 7ee.

         On July 22, 2015, a Human Resources employee told Ms. Doe to begin transferring her accounts to Mr. Ellsworth. Id. ¶ 7ff. Ms. Doe proposed, alternatively, that the company relocate her. Id. ¶ 7ff.

         On July 23, 2015, Paychex's Human Resources allegedly notified Ms. Doe that she was to report to its Rocky Hill location at 8:30am on July 25, 2015. Id. ¶ 7gg. Ms. Doe allegedly responded that she could not come to the Rocky Hill office then and that they could charge her paid time off or accrued vacation time if needed. Id. ¶ 7hh-ii.

         On July 25, 2015, Human Resources allegedly contacted Ms. Doe and told her that if she could not attend a 2:00pm meeting with Mr. Ellsworth, she would be terminated. id. ¶ 7jj. Ms. Doe allegedly agreed to attend the meeting so long as a neutral third party or her attorney was in attendance. Id. ¶ 7jj. Ms. Doe did not attend the meeting. Id. ¶ 7nn.

         On July 27, 2015 Ms. Doe contacted Human Resources and learned that she had been terminated. Id. ¶ 7mm.

         After Ms. Doe was terminated, Paychex allegedly failed to continued her insurance and refused to authorize her unemployment compensation. Am. Comp. ¶ 9eee-fff.

         On January 19, 2016, Ms. Doe filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. CHRO Compl., ECF No. 16-1.

         On February 22, 2016, Ms. Doe allegedly filed a Wage and Labor dispute with the Department of Labor for outstanding commissions owed to her under her contract with Paychex. Id. ¶ 9oo.

         The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities allegedly issued Ms. Doe a “Notice of Right to Sue” letter. Am. Compl. ¶ 10.

         B. Procedural Background

         On December 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint, Compl., and a motion to seal the case. Mot. to Seal.

         On March 12, 2018, before the Defendants had responded to the initial Complaint, Plaintiff filed an amended Complaint. Am. Compl.

         On March 26, 2018, Defendants moved to unseal the case, Mot. to Unseal.

         On April 27, 2018, Paychex moved to dismiss the Complaint, Mot. to Dismiss.

         On May 7, 2018, Plaintiff moved to recuse attorney Marc L. Zaken and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Steward, P.C., Mot. to Recuse, and responded to Defendants' motion to unseal the case, Response re: Mot. to Unseal, ECF No. 20.

         On May 18, 2018, Defendants filed a reply in support of unsealing the case. Reply to Resp. to Mot. to Unseal Case, ECF No. 24.

         On May 24, 2018, Defendants opposed the motion to recuse attorney Zaken and his law firm. Mem. in Opp. to Recusal, ECF No. 22.

         On August 14 and 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed further briefs in support of her motion to recuse. ECF Nos. 31-32.

         On September 6, 2018, Plaintiff opposed Paychex's motion to dismiss. Pl. Mem. of Law in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 34.

         On October 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed her second amended complaint. Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 35.

         On November 8, 2018, Plaintiff moved for default entry and default judgment against the USI Defendants. Mot. for Default Entry ECF No. 36; Mot. for Judgment, ECF No. 37.

         On November 14 and 15, 2018, the Court denied default entry and default judgment. Orders, ECF No. 39 and 40.

         On November 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed a memorandum in support of default entry. Mem. of Points in Supp. of Default Entry, ECF No. 43.

         On November 30, 2018, Plaintiff moved for default judgment against Defendants. ECF No. 44. The Court denied the motion on December 3, 2018. Order, ECF No. 45.

         On January 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend, Mot. to Amend, and attached a fourth version of the Complaint to the motion, ECF No. 46-1.

         On January 24, 2019, Paychex moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Paychex Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl. That day, USI Defendants also moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. USI Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl.

         On February 5, 2019, Ms. Doe objected to the motions to dismiss. Obj. to Mot. to Dismiss Second Am. Compl. ECF No. 50.

         On February 14, 2019, the USI Defendants opposed the motion to amend the second amended complaint. Mot. in Opp. to Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 52.

         On February 26, 2019, Paychex and the USI Defendants each filed a reply in support of the motion to dismiss. ECF Nos. 54-55.

         On March 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment against the Defendants, Mot. Default J., ECF No. 56, and a motion for default judgment and injunction against the Defendants, Mot. for Default J. and Injunction, ECF No. 57.

         On March 11, 2019, Defendants objected to the motion to amend the second amended complaint. Obj. to Amend. Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 57.

         On March 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed a memorandum in support of her motions for default judgment. ECF No. 60.

         On April 9, 2019, the Court held a hearing on all pending motions. Minute Entry, ECF No. 62.

         On April 26, 2019, Ms. Doe submitted a supplement filing to the Court and requested a new hearing to allow her to clarify her arguments. Mot. for New Hearing on the Mots.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Any claim that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” will be dismissed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), a court applies a “plausibility standard” guided by “two working principles.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         First, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (“[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of [his or her] ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” (internal citations omitted)). Second, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus, the complaint must contain “factual amplification . . . to render a claim plausible.” Arista Records LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120 (2d Cir. 2010), quoting Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009).

         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) (internal quotation marks omitted) (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 the “special solicitude” courts afford pro se litigants).

         On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider “documents either in plaintiffs' possession or of which plaintiffs had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit.” Brass v. Am. Film Techs., Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993); Patrowicz v. Transamerica HomeFirst, Inc., 359 F.Supp.2d 140, 144 (D. Conn. 2005). This is particularly true if the documents are “‘integral' to the complaint.” Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Blue Tree Hotels Inv. (Canada), Ltd. v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 369 F.3d 212, 222 (2d Cir. 2004) (rejecting allegations that were “belied by the letters attached” to the complaint); L-7 Designs, Inc. v. Old Navy, LLC, 647 F.3d 419, 422 (2d Cir. 2011) (when reviewing a judgment on the pleadings, courts assume facts alleged are true “unless contradicted by more specific allegations or documentary evidence.”).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Administrative Exhaustion

         Both Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act require plaintiffs to exhaust administrative remedies before filing in federal court. Littlejohn v. City of New York, 795 F.3d 297, 322 (2d Cir. 2015) (“Before bringing a Title VII suit in federal court, an individual must first present ‘the claims forming the basis of such a suit . . . in a complaint to the EEOC or the equivalent state agency.') (quoting Williams v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 458 F.3d 67, 69 (2d Cir.2006) (per curiam)); Kelly v. N. Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Sys., 166 F.Supp.3d 274, 288 (E.D.N.Y. 2016) (“The ADA requires that a plaintiff exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing an employment discrimination action.”).

         Federal courts will consider allegations that reasonably relate to the discrimination claims submitted to the administrative agency. Jute v. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., 420 F.3d 166, 177 (2d Cir. 2005) (“Thus, [w]e have recognized . . . that claims that were not asserted before the EEOC may be pursued in a subsequent federal court action if they are reasonably related to those that were filed with the agency.”) (quotingLegnani v. Alitalia Linee Aeree Italiane, S.P.A.,274 F.3d 683, 686 (2d Cir.2001) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted)). “Reasonably related conduct is that which ‘would fall within ...


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