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Davis v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 20, 2018



          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on a motion by defendant, Megan J. Brennan, to dismiss plaintiffs amended complaint. (Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 22). Plaintiffs Amended Complaint alleges hostile work environment (Count I), race discrimination (Count II), retaliation (Count III), and sex discrimination (Count IV) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. For the reasons discussed herein, defendant's motion is granted in part.


         Plaintiff is an African American woman, who was a Group Leader at the United States Postal Service's Processing and Distribution Center in Trenton, New Jersey. (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 16, at ¶ 7-9). As a Group Leader, Plaintiff was responsible for supervising other custodians. (Id. at ¶ 65). Beginning in November 2007, Plaintiff alleges that Bernie Gallagher, Manager of Maintenance, and Michael Shickler, Supervisor of Maintenance Operations, engaged in various discriminatory acts giving rise to her present Title VII Complaint.

         Plaintiff has filed five prior EEO complaints: October 16, 1998; August 28, 2000; October 5, 2006; August 3, 2007; and September 14, 2007. (Id. at¶17). Two of those complaints proceeded in a federal civil action, Davis v. Potter, No. 3:05-cv-02201(MLC)(TJB), and status conferences in that action were held on October 19, 2007; November 14, 2007; December 5, 2007; and February 5, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 22). That case settled on February 27, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 23, 24).

         Plaintiff alleges that during a private meeting between plaintiff and her manager, Bernie Gallagher, he "defiantly" told her that he knew about her prior EEO complaints. (Id. at ¶ 31). Additionally, she alleges that EEO counselors and investigators told defendant about the complaints and that it was common knowledge in the workplace that she had filed complaints. (Id. At ¶ 32).

         Beginning in or around December 2007, Gallagher followed plaintiff three to four times each day and confronted her, falsely accusing her of not doing her work "in an aggressive, loud, and disrespectful manner in front of other coworkers." (Id. at ¶ 37-38). On two separate occasions, on December 12 and 17, 2007, Gallagher expressed that he expected her to clean the north side of the Center "or he would hold her responsible." (Id. at ¶ 48-49). He later told plaintiff, "it does not look like you do anything." (Id. at ¶ 51). She alleges his behavior "interfered with [her] ability to perform her duties as a Group Leader." (Id. at ¶ 39).

         During January 2 and 4, 2008 meetings with Gallagher, he refused to recognize that Plaintiff had a medically documented need for a modified work schedule, accused her of lying about it to change her starting time, and cancelled her existing medical accommodation, which had been in place for about one year. (Id. at ¶ 52-55). Plaintiff identifies two white females and two white males from whom Gallagher accepted work schedule modifications. (Id. at ¶ 59-60).

         On January 4, 2008, Gallagher told Plaintiff that he no longer needed her to serve as Group Leader and, moving forward, Plaintiff would work as a custodian. (Id. at ¶ 61). That same day, plaintiff went on "stress leave," which she alleges was attributable to her mistreatment, and upon her return on January 22, Schickler, a supervisor, re-assigned her to custodian duties. (Id. at ¶ 62-64). Meanwhile, male custodians - she identifies and names five - continued their group leader duties. (Id. at ¶ 66-67, 80). Plaintiff retained her title as group leader; but was required to perform more custodial duties than other group leaders. (Id. at ¶ 81-82). Plaintiff estimates that from on or about January 2008 until March 2008, she was assigned custodian duties between 60 and 90 percent of the time. (Id. at ¶ 68).

         Like Gallagher, Schickler followed Plaintiff around work, yelled at her in front of coworkers, criticized her "in a non-constructive manner," and incorrectly accused her of not doing her work. (Id. at ¶¶ 75-78). Schickler "told the Plaintiffs crew that [she] had been demoted from [g]roup [l]eader to [c]ustodian" (a lie) and told Plaintiffs coworkers "that he intentionally refused to let the Plaintiff work as a [g]roup [l]eader." (Id. at ¶ 83-87). Plaintiff also alleges Schickler bragged that he "had violated the Plaintiffs rights at work" by assigning her custodial duties. (Id. at ¶ 90). In March 2008, he "falsely and aggressively" blamed Plaintiff for failing to complete an assigned task but did not address two male custodians who had also been assigned to perform that task. (Id. at ¶ 92-93).

         Finally, plaintiff claims that in January 2008, Schickler directed another employee to remove plaintiffs cubicle, where she had sat for approximately five years. (Id. at ¶ 94-95). Although the Amended Complaint does not state whether other group leaders or custodians were assigned desks or cubicles, plaintiff does allege that no other employee's cubicle was taken apart and put away. (Id. at ¶ 97).

         On July 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint, commencing this action. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted on April 19, 2018 because Plaintiff did not allege pervasive conduct or that the purported misconduct interfered with her work performance and thus did not set forth a cause of action in support of her hostile and pervasive work environment claims, and also held that plaintiffs retaliation claims failed because the Court was "unable to infer a causal nexus between Plaintiffs alleged EEO and Civil complaints and the adverse employment actions." (April 19, 2018 Memorandum and Order, ECF No. 15, at 5-6).

         On May 19, 2018, plaintiff filed a four-count amended complaint, alleging hostile work environment, race discrimination, retaliation, and sex discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On August 2, 2018, after time to file a motion to dismiss was extended by order, defendant filed a motion to dismiss.

         Plaintiff contends the mistreatment interfered with her ability to perform her duties as group leader. She also claims she suffered stress from the discrimination, ...

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