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Rodriguez v. Batista

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Feb 11, 2020
19-cv-9206-GHW (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2020)

Opinion

19-cv-9206-GHW

02-11-2020

JOSE A. RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, v. ANABEL BATISTA; IESHA GRAHAM; KAREN GUARENTE, Defendants.


ORDER TO AMEND :

Plaintiff brings this pro se action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") asserting that the defendants discriminated against him because of his sex, national origin, and age. Because Plaintiff seems to also assert that the defendants discriminated against him because of his race, the Court construes the complaint as asserting additional claims under Title VII as well as claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The Court further construes the complaint as asserting claims under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

By order dated January 9, 2020, the Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within sixty days of the date of this order.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Court must dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998). The Court must also dismiss a complaint when the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

While the law mandates dismissal on any of these grounds, the Court is obliged to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the "strongest [claims] that they suggest," Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted, emphasis in original). But the "special solicitude" in pro se cases, id. at 475 (citation omitted), has its limits - to state a claim, pro se pleadings still must comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a complaint to make a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.

The United States Supreme Court has held that under Rule 8, a complaint must include enough facts to state a claim for relief "that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads enough factual detail to allow the Court to draw the inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. In reviewing the complaint, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But it does not have to accept as true "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action," which are essentially just legal conclusions. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). After separating legal conclusions from well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court must determine whether those facts make it plausible - not merely possible - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 678-79.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff makes the following allegations: From December 3, 2017, until June 13, 2019, Care Design New York employed him as a Care Manager. Defendants Batista, Graham, and Guarente, who also worked at Care Design New York, "harassed [him] and created a hostile and abusive work environment." (ECF 2, at 4.) Plaintiff is Hispanic and was born in 1954.

On June 13, 2019, Batista, Plaintiff's supervisor, fired Plaintiff after informing him that other employees had made accusations against him. "The accusations . . . were false, fabricated, and insinuated poor performance." (Id. at 9.) Batista fired Plaintiff "without warning or allowing [him] to defend [himself] against the false accusations." (Id.) The defendants also provided Plaintiff with terms and conditions of employment different from those of similar employees.

Plaintiff has attached to his complaint a copy of a letter that he wrote in July 2019 to Steven Morgenstern, an Assistant Vice President in charge of Human Resources. While some of the letter is difficult to read because the text is faded, Plaintiff seems to state in the letter that he was fired in part because of a disagreement about what services to give to a client. (ECF 2, at 11-16.)

DISCUSSION

A. Proper defendants

Plaintiff's complaint does not name all of the proper defendants for his claims. Individuals and other entities can be held liable for the employment discrimination that is prohibited by 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See Patterson v. Cnty. of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 226, 229 (2d Cir. 2004). But unlike in § 1981 claims, in Title VII and ADEA claims, individuals cannot be held liable. See, e.g., Lore v. City of Syracuse, 670 F.3d 127, 169 (2d Cir. 2012) (Title VII); Scalercio-Isenberg v. Morgan Stanley Servs. Grp, Inc., No. 19-CV-6034, 2019 WL 6916099, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2019) (ADEA). "[T]he only proper defendant in a Title VII claim is the plaintiff's employer . . . ." Mira v. Kingston, 218 F. Supp. 3d 229, 235 (S.D.N.Y. 2016), aff'd, 715 F. App'x 28 (2d Cir. 2017) (summary order), cert. denied, 139 S. Ct. 126 (2018). Courts have held that the same is true with respect to ADEA claims. See, e.g., Glasgow v. CNYRTA/CENTRO, Inc., 5:18-CV-0721, 2018 WL 5660407, at *6 (N.D.N.Y. July 12, 2018) (citing Querra v. Jones, 421 F. App'x 15, 17 (2d Cir. 2011) (summary order)), report & recommendation adopted, 2018 WL 4347797 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 12, 2018).

Section 1981 prohibits discrimination "on account of [a person's] race, ancestry, or ethnic characteristics." Zemsky v. City of New York, 821 F.2d 148, 150 (2d Cir. 1987).

Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of the employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. See 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a). "The ADEA prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of age against persons aged 40 or older." D'Cunha v. Genovese/Eckerd Corp., 479 F. 3d 193, 194 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing 29 U.S.C. §§ 623(a)(1), 631(a)).

Plaintiff has named only individuals as defendants. In light of Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file amended complaint in which he names all of the proper defendants for his claims. If Plaintiff asserts Title VII or ADEA claims in his amended complaint, he must name his former employer as a defendant.

B. Pleading standard

To state a claim of employment discrimination under Title VII or § 1981, "a plaintiff must plausibly allege that (1) the [defendants] took adverse employment action against him, and (2) [a protected characteristic] was a motivating factor in the employment decision." Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, 86 (2d Cir. 2015); e.g., Khanna v. MUFG Union Bank, N.A., 785 F. App'x 15, 15-16 (2d Cir. 2019) (summary order) (applying Vega pleading standard to § 1981 employment-discrimination claims); Johnson v. Wendys Corp., No. 1:19-CV-8157, 2019 WL 6311790, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 22, 2019) (same). For an ADEA claim, however, a plaintiff must allege that his age was the but-for cause of the employer's adverse employment action. See Vega, 801 F.3d at 86. A plaintiff states an employment-discrimination claim under these statutes "by alleging facts that directly show discrimination or facts that indirectly show discrimination by giving rise to a plausible inference of discrimination." Vega, 801 F. 3d at 87.

Plaintiff fails to allege facts that suggest that the individual defendants or his employer took an adverse employment action against him because of his race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, ethnic characteristics, national origin, or age. Because of the "special solicitude" granted to pro se litigants, see Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2006), the Court grants Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim of discrimination under Title VII, the ADEA, or § 1981.

C. Leave to amend

Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint to detail his claims. In his amended complaint's statement of claim, Plaintiff must provide a short and plain statement of the relevant facts supporting each claim against each defendant. Plaintiff is also directed to provide the addresses for any named defendants. To the greatest extent possible, Plaintiff's amended complaint must:

a) give the names and titles of all relevant persons;

b) describe all relevant events, stating the facts that support Plaintiff's case, including what each defendant did or failed to do;

c) give the dates and times of each relevant event or, if not known, the approximate date and time of each relevant event;

d) give the location where each relevant event occurred;

e) describe how each defendant's acts or omissions violated Plaintiff's rights and describe the injuries Plaintiff suffered; and

f) state what relief Plaintiff seeks from the Court, such as money damages, injunctive relief, or declaratory relief.

Essentially, the body of Plaintiff's amended complaint must tell the Court: who violated his federally protected rights; what facts show that his federally protected rights were violated; when such violation occurred; where such violation occurred; and why Plaintiff is entitled to relief. Because Plaintiff's amended complaint will completely replace, not supplement, the original complaint, any facts or claims that Plaintiff wishes to maintain must be included in the amended complaint.

CONCLUSION

The Court directs the Clerk of Court to mail a copy of this order to Plaintiff and note service on the docket.

The Court grants Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint that complies with the standards set forth above. Plaintiff must submit the amended complaint to this Court's Pro Se Intake Unit within sixty days of the date of this order, caption the document as an "Amended Complaint," and label the document with docket number 19-CV-9206 (GHW). An Amended Complaint for Employment Discrimination form is attached to this order. No summons will issue at this time. If Plaintiff fails to comply within the time allowed, and he cannot show good cause to excuse such failure, the Court will dismiss this action for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

The Court certifies under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from this order would not be taken in good faith, and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for the purpose of an appeal. Cf. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962) (holding that an appellant demonstrates good faith when he seeks review of a nonfrivolous issue). SO ORDERED. Dated: February 11, 2020

New York, New York

/s/_________

GREGORY H. WOODS

United States District Judge __________ Write the full name of each plaintiff. -against- __________ Write the full name of each defendant. The names listed above must be identical to those contained in Section I. ___CV__________
(Include case number if one has been assigned) Do you want a jury trial? [ ] Yes [ ] No

EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT

NOTICE

The public can access electronic court files. For privacy and security reasons, papers filed with the court should therefore not contain: an individual's full social security number or full birth date; the full name of a person known to be a minor; or a complete financial account number. A filing may include only: the last four digits of a social security number; the year of an individual's birth; a minor's initials; and the last four digits of a financial account number. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2.

I. PARTIES

A. Plaintiff Information

Provide the following information for each plaintiff named in the complaint. Attach additional pages if needed. __________
First Name __________
Middle Initial __________
Last Name __________
Street Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code __________
Telephone Number

__________

Email Address (if available)

B. Defendant Information

To the best of your ability, provide addresses where each defendant may be served. If the correct information is not provided, it could delay or prevent service of the complaint on the defendant. Make sure that the defendants listed below are the same as those listed in the caption. (Proper defendants under employment discrimination statutes are usually employers, labor organizations, or employment agencies.) Attach additional pages if needed. Defendant 1:

__________

Name

__________

Address where defendant may be served

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 2:

__________

Name

__________

Address where defendant may be served

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 3:

__________

Name

__________

Address where defendant may be served

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code

II. PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT

The address at which I was employed or sought employment by the defendant(s) is: __________
Name __________
Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code

III. CAUSE OF ACTION

A. Federal Claims

This employment discrimination lawsuit is brought under (check only the options below that apply in your case):

[ ] Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, for employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin

The defendant discriminated against me because of my (check only those that apply and explain):

[ ] race: __________

[ ] color: __________

[ ] religion: __________

[ ] sex: __________

[ ] national origin: __________
[ ] 42 U.S.C. § 1981, for intentional employment discrimination on the basis of race

My race is: __________

[ ] Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 to 634, for employment discrimination on the basis of age (40 or older)

I was born in the year: __________

[ ] Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 to 796, for employment discrimination on the basis of a disability by an employer that constitutes a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance

My disability or perceived disability is: __________

[ ] Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 to 12213, for employment discrimination on the basis of a disability

My disability or perceived disability is: __________

[ ] Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 to 2654, for employment discrimination on the basis of leave for qualified medical or family reasons

B. Other Claims

In addition to my federal claims listed above, I assert claims under:

[ ] New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 to 297, for employment discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status

[ ] New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 to 131, for employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation, alienage, citizenship status

[ ] Other (may include other relevant federal, state, city, or county law):

__________

IV. STATEMENT OF CLAIM

A. Adverse Employment Action

The defendant or defendants in this case took the following adverse employment actions against me (check only those that apply):

[ ] did not hire me

[ ] terminated my employment

[ ] did not promote me

[ ] did not accommodate my disability

[ ] provided me with terms and conditions of employment different from those of similar employees

[ ] retaliated against me

[ ] harassed me or created a hostile work environment

[ ] other (specify): __________

B. Facts

State here the facts that support your claim. Attach additional pages if needed. You should explain what actions defendants took (or failed to take) because of your protected characteristic, such as your race, disability, age, or religion. Include times and locations, if possible. State whether defendants are continuing to commit these acts against you. __________ As additional support for your claim, you may attach any charge of discrimination that you filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, or any other government agency.

V. ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES

For most claims under the federal employment discrimination statutes, before filing a lawsuit, you must first file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and receive a Notice of Right to Sue. Did you file a charge of discrimination against the defendant(s) with the EEOC or any other government agency?

[ ] Yes (Please attach a copy of the charge to this complaint.)

When did you file your charge? __________

[ ] No
Have you received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC?
[ ] Yes (Please attach a copy of the Notice of Right to Sue.)

What is the date on the Notice? __________

When did you receive the Notice? __________

[ ] No

VI. RELIEF

The relief I want the court to order is (check only those that apply):

[ ] direct the defendant to hire me

[ ] direct the defendant to re-employ me

[ ] direct the defendant to promote me

[ ] direct the defendant to reasonably accommodate my religion

[ ] direct the defendant to reasonably accommodate my disability

[ ] direct the defendant to (specify) (if you believe you are entitled to money damages, explain that here)

__________

VII. PLAINTIFF'S CERTIFICATION

By signing below, I certify to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief that: (1) the complaint is not being presented for an improper purpose (such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation); (2) the claims are supported by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument to change existing law; (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and (4) the complaint otherwise complies with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. I agree to notify the Clerk's Office in writing of any changes to my mailing address. I understand that my failure to keep a current address on file with the Clerk's Office may result in the dismissal of my case. Each Plaintiff must sign and date the complaint. Attach additional pages if necessary. If seeking to proceed without prepayment of fees, each plaintiff must also submit an IFP application. __________
Dated

__________

Plaintiff's Signature __________
First Name __________
Middle Initial __________
Last Name __________
Street Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code __________
Telephone Number

__________

Email Address (if available) I have read the attached Pro Se (Nonprisoner) Consent to Receive Documents Electronically: [ ] Yes [ ] No

If you do consent to receive documents electronically, submit the completed form with your complaint. If you do not consent, please do not attach the form.

Pro Se (Nonprisoner) Consent to Receive Documents Electronically

Parties who are not represented by an attorney and are not currently incarcerated may choose to receive documents in their cases electronically (by e-mail) instead of by regular mail. Receiving documents by regular mail is still an option, but if you would rather receive them only electronically, you must do the following:

1. Sign up for a PACER login and password by contacting PACER at www.pacer.uscourts.gov or 1-800-676-6856;

2. Complete and sign this form.
If you consent to receive documents electronically, you will receive a Notice of Electronic Filing by e-mail each time a document is filed in your case. After receiving the notice, you are permitted one "free look" at the document by clicking on the hyperlinked document number in the e-mail. Once you click the hyperlink and access the document, you may not be able to access the document for free again. After 15 days, the hyperlink will no longer provide free access. Any time that the hyperlink is accessed after the first "free look" or the 15 days, you will be asked for a PACER login and may be charged to view the document. For this reason, you should print or save the document during the "free look" to avoid future charges.

Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) (www.pacer.uscourts.gov) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts, and the PACER Case Locator over the internet.

You must review the Court's actual order, decree, or judgment and not rely on the description in the email notice alone. See ECF Rule 4.3

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Under Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Local Civil Rule 5.2, and the Court's Electronic Case Filing Rules & Instructions, documents may be served by electronic means. If you register for electronic service:

1. You will no longer receive documents in the mail;

2. If you do not view and download your documents during your "free look" and within 15 days of when the court sends the e-mail notice, you will be charged for looking at the documents;

3. This service does not allow you to electronically file your documents;

4. It will be your duty to regularly review the docket sheet of the case.

The docket sheet is the official record of all filings in a case. You can view the docket sheet, including images of electronically filed documents, using PACER or you can use one of the public access computers available in the Clerk's Office at the Court. --------

CONSENT TO ELECTRONIC SERVICE

I hereby consent to receive electronic service of notices and documents in my case(s) listed below. I affirm that:

1. I have regular access to my e-mail account and to the internet and will check regularly for Notices of Electronic Filing;

2. I have established a PACER account;

3. I understand that electronic service is service under Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 5.2 of the Local Civil Rules, and that I will no longer receive paper copies of case filings, including motions, decisions, orders, and other documents;

4. I will promptly notify the Court if there is any change in my personal data, such as name, address, or e-mail address, or if I wish to cancel this consent to electronic service;

5. I understand that I must regularly review the docket sheet of my case so that I do not miss a filing; and

6. I understand that this consent applies only to the cases listed below and that if I file additional cases in which I would like to receive electronic service of notices of documents, I must file consent forms for those cases.

Civil case(s) filed in the Southern District of New York:

Note: This consent will apply to all cases that you have filed in this court, so please list all of your pending and terminated cases. For each case, include the case name and docket number (for example, John Doe v. New City, 10-CV-01234).

__________
__________
Name (Last, First, MI) __________
Address __________
City __________
State __________
Zip Code __________
Telephone Number __________
E-mail Address __________
Date __________
Signature

Return completed form to:

Pro Se Intake Unit (Room 200) 500 Pearl Street New York, NY 10007


Summaries of

Rodriguez v. Batista

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Feb 11, 2020
19-cv-9206-GHW (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2020)
Case details for

Rodriguez v. Batista

Case Details

Full title:JOSE A. RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, v. ANABEL BATISTA; IESHA GRAHAM; KAREN…

Court:UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Date published: Feb 11, 2020

Citations

19-cv-9206-GHW (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2020)