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Handle v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 11, 2019

VICTORIA HANDLE, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN and UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendants.

          OPINION

          HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Megan J. Brennan and United States Postal Service (“Defendants”) seeking to dismiss Count Three of Plaintiff Victoria Handle's (“Plaintiff” or “Handle”) First Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 56.) Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 61.) On November 7, 2018, this Court heard oral argument on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Procedural and Factual Background

         A. Factual Background

         For the purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the Amended Complaint and draws all inferences in the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Handle asserts age and gender discrimination claims arising from her employment with USPS, where she has worked since April 14, 1984. (Compl. (ECF No. 1).) Handle worked as a supervisor of distribution operations at a USPS facility in Eatontown, New Jersey from 1984 until 2012. (Id. ¶ 3.) Some time in 2010 or 2011, Mary Ducey (“Ducey”) became Handle's supervisor and allegedly began discriminating against Handle due to her gender. (Id. ¶ 4.) For example, Handle claims USPS needed to reassign one of the five supervisors at the Eatontown facility to a facility in Trenton, and Ducey told Handle she would have to be transferred because she was the only female among the five supervisors, despite being the most senior of the supervisors. (Id. ¶ 5-6.) Handle was “upset” when she learned of the transfer and Ducey falsely reported to the Postal Police that Handle was suicidal and a threat to herself and others. (Id. ¶ 7.) Handle was required to leave work and spent several hours in the hospital due to Ducey's report. (Id.) Ducey told other USPS employees Handle had been hospitalized and had suffered a nervous breakdown, and disclosed Handle's confidential medical information to them. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         On September 26, 2012, Handle was transferred to the Trenton facility, where she claims she experienced pain and suffering as a result. (Id. ¶ 10.) Handle's vacation schedule was changed over her protests, and a less experienced male employee received the schedule she had requested. (Id.) Her new supervisor, Yvette Jackson, harassed her by issuing baseless reprimands and warning letters. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Handle contends Jackson harassed her because she is a woman, is over the age of forty, and had filed an EEO Complaint. (Id. ¶ 12.)

         B. Administrative Proceedings

         On August 21, 2012, Handle filed an Information for Pre-Complaint Counseling. (Decl. of David F. Corrigan, Esq. in Opp'n to Ds.' Mot. for J. on the Pleadings (“Corrigan Decl.”) (ECF Nos. 39-2 and 41-1), Ex. A.)[1] On November 6, 2012, USPS issued a Notice of Right to File, which informed Handle that she had the right to file a formal complaint. (Id., Ex. B.) On December 18, 2012, Handle filed her formal EEO Complaint of Discrimination, which she later amended three times. (Id., Exs. C, E, F, & G.) USPS accepted twelve issues for investigation. (Id., Exs. E, F, and G.) The twelve issues accepted for investigation were: (1) Handle's selection for transfer from the Eatontown facility; (2) Ducey's report of Handle to the police, which led to Handle's hospitalization, and disclosure of Handle's medical information to other employees; (3) Handle's placement on Emergency Placement status; (4) management's refusal to reinstate Handle when she was cleared to return to work; (5) management's public embarrassment of Handle on two separate instances; (6) denial of Handle's requests for leave on Mother's Day and Easter; (7) management subjecting Handle to four pre-disciplinary interviews; (8) Handle was not granted interviews for positions to which she applied; and (9)-(12) Handle was issued four separate warning letters for delays of mail. (Id., Ex. G.)

         On November 6, 2013, USPS issued a Final Agency Decision, which rejected all of Handle's claims of discrimination, retaliation, and disclosure of confidential medical information. (Id., Ex. K.) On November 15, 2013, Handle appealed the Final Agency Decision to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office of Federal Operations (“EEOC OFO”). (Id., Ex. L.) On June 10, 2015, the EEOC OFO issued a decision affirming the Final Agency Decision in part and reversing in part. (Id., Ex. M.) Specifically, the EEOC OFO reversed the Final Agency Decision on the second issue-the disclosure of Handle's medical information-and remanded the case to USPS. (Id.) On August 19, 2015, USPS issued a second Final Agency Decision in which it awarded Handle $1, 000.00 in non-pecuniary compensatory damages for the disclosure of her medical information. (Id., Ex. O.) On September 17, 2015, Handle appealed the second Final Agency Decision, and on March 10, 2016, the EEOC OFO dismissed her appeal. (Id., Exs. P & Q.)

         C. Proceedings in this Lawsuit

         On November 13, 2015, Handle filed her initial complaint, asserting: (1) a claim for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000E, et seq. (Count One); (2) a claim for age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (Count Two); (3) a claim for illegal disclosure of confidential medical information in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (Count Three); and (4) a claim for retaliation (Count Four). (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 15-28.)

         On April 21, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or in the alternative, seeking summary judgment. (ECF No. 21.) On June 5, 2017, Handle filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion. (ECF No. 39.) On April 30, 2018, this Court issued an Opinion and Order dismissing Counts One, Two, and Four with prejudice, and dismissing Count Three without prejudice. (ECF Nos. 53 & 54.) Specifically, this Court found that Handle failed to exhaust all remedies available to her, and alternatively failed to adequately plead that exhausting such remedies would be futile. (ECF No, 53 at 8-10.) This Court provided Handle thirty days in which to file an Amended Complaint with respect to Count Three. (ECF No. 54.)

         On May 30, 2018, Handle filed an Amended Complaint, specifically adding allegations in Paragraphs 26-35. (ECF No. 55.) On June 13, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Handle's Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 56.) On August 6, 2018, Handle filed an Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 61) and on August 13, 2018, Defendants filed a Reply Brief in response to Handle's Opposition. (ECF No. 62).

         II. ...


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