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Mason v. State

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 17, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE (J.P. COURT), et al., Defendants.

          Stefanie D. Mason, Newark, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Joseph Clement Handlon, Deputy Attorney General, and Adria Benner Martinelli, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.




         Plaintiff Stefanie D. Mason ("Plaintiff) filed this action alleging employment discrimination by reason of a disability. (D.I. 2) She proceeds pro se. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint following dismissal of the original Complaint and the Amended Complaint. (D.I. 29, 30, 32) Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss and Plaintiffs opposition. (D.I. 35, 38)


         The Second Amended Complaint contains the following allegations. (D.I. 32) Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant State of Delaware Justice of the Peace Court ("JP Court") in May 2004 as a judicial case processor I. A member of the United States Army Reserve, Plaintiff was deployed in September 2004, March 2007, and October 2009. In each instance she returned to her employment with the JP Court. During her last deployment, Plaintiff was seriously injured and hospitalized from April 2010 until February 2013. Upon her discharge from the hospital, Plaintiff was medically retired from the military.

         In May 2013, Plaintiff sought to return to work and requested information from Defendant HR Manager Debbie Manelski ("Manelski") about an ADA accommodation. Plaintiff met with Manelski in June 2013 to fill out paperwork; she then returned to work in June, was transferred to the voluntary assessment center, and promoted to judicial case processor II. She was given the tasks of opening mail and adding payments into the system, tasks she performed from June 2013 to February 6, 2015.

         Between July 2013 and December 2014, Plaintiff contacted Defendant supervisor Jeannie Kruiser ("Kruiser") "to have additional work as the other employees." (D.I. 32 at ¶ 15) Plaintiff filed an EEOC complaint on December 18, 2014 and alleges that she informed Manelski and Defendant Michael Oliver ("Oliver") about the complaint on December 19, 2014.

         Plaintiff alleges that she was forced to have weekly ADA meetings from March 2015 until July 1, 2015, and during the ADA meetings she received verbal and written reprimands. Plaintiff alleges that when she met with Oliver, Manelski, and Defendant Mark Hitch ("Hitch") on April 17, 2015, she told them she found the meeting offensive. On June 26, 2015, Plaintiff told Hitch and Defendant Supervisor Staci Dutton ("Dutton") that she wanted to stop the meeting because she found the ADA meetings offensive.

         Plaintiff alleges that during the July 1, 2015 ADA meeting, Hitch pinned her between the door and doorframe. Exhibits submitted by Plaintiff include a transcript of the July 1, 2015 meeting between Plaintiff and Hitch when Hitch counselled Plaintiff on failing to follow directions of her supervisor and Plaintiffs ADA accommodation was discussed. (D.I. 33 at Ex. 28 at 1-5) Plaintiff threatened to "jump out this ¶¶ building and kill myself, because I deserve to die." (Id. at 8) On the same day, Defendant HR assistant Patty Moore ("Moore") told Plaintiff to go to the Employee Assistant Program for evaluation by a social worker before returning to work. That day she was placed on paid leave, pending a fitness for duty evaluation. (D.I. 36 at Ex. 68)

         Plaintiff alleges that from July 2015 to March 2016, [1] Moore "kept on forcing" Plaintiff take short term disability, but Hartford (the insurer) kept denying the claim. In October 2015, Plaintiff engaged in unsuccessful EEOC mediation. On November 4, 2015, Plaintiff was advised that if Moore did not receive Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") paperwork or disability approval, she would be placed on unpaid status effective November 10, 2015. (D.I. 36 at Ex. 68) Plaintiff alleges that on December 9, 2015, she filed a request for review before the Delaware Merit Board. Plaintiff filed for workers' compensation in December 2015. She alleges that Moore never submitted the paperwork for Plaintiff to receive workers' compensation.

         On January 29, 2016, Moore advised Plaintiff that she was considered to have abandoned her job because the JP Court had not received FMLA paperwork and disability had not been approved; the JP Court was recommending Plaintiffs dismissal from employment. (D.I. 36 at Ex. 68) Plaintiff was advised that she was entitled to a pre-decision meeting. (Id.) A pre-decision meeting was scheduled for February 22, 2016, upon Plaintiffs request. (Id. at Ex. 70) Plaintiff did not attend the meeting but sent a letter for review. (Id.) A March 4, 2016 letter advised Plaintiff of her dismissal, effective March 5, 2016. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the JP Court would not allow her to take workers' compensation and, as a result, her employment was terminated in March 2016 on the grounds that she had abandoned her job.

         Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination on December 18, 2014, alleging discrimination by reason of disability, No. 17C-2014-00762, and then filed a charge of discrimination alleging retaliation after her employer the State of Delaware Justice of the Peace Court received notification of the charge in February 2015, Charge No. 530-2015-03643. Charge No. 530-2015-03643 is not dated, but it appears to have been filed sometime after July 2, 2015. (See D.I. 35 at 9-10) Plaintiff commenced this action on December 22, 2015. (D.I. 2) On August 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed two right to sue letters, both dated July 27, 2017, for EEOC Charge Nos. 17C-2014-00762 and 530-2015-03643. (D.I. 27)

         The Second Amended Complaint asserts: (1) employment discrimination under Tide VII ("Tide VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe et seq.; (2) employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of Tides I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.; (3) violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ("USERRA"), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-4335; and (4) Delaware Merit Rules claims. (See D.I. 32) Plaintiff alleges that the discriminatory acts occurred from June 2013 through March 2016, when her employment was terminated. (See id.) Counts One, Three, Five, and Six are raised against Kruiser, Manelski, Oliver, Hitch, Dutton, Moore, and the JP Court and allege unfair treatment, retaliation, denial of employment benefits, and the termination of "Plaintiffs employment was the result of disability discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, [] and Delaware Merit Rules." Count Two is raised against an unnamed assistant personnel director and employee benefits representative and alleges Plaintiffs loss of pension "was the result of military service discrimination in violation of USERRA, 38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq., 20 C.F.R. Part 102, and Delaware Merit Rules. Count Four is raised against Hitch and Moore and alleges offensive touching in violation of Title 11[2] and Delaware Merit Rules.[3]Plaintiff seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.

         Defendants move for dismissal on the following grounds: (1) the Second Amended Complaint is devoid of a single allegation implicating discrimination based upon a category protected by Title VII; (2) the ADA claims should be dismissed as a matter of law; and (3) the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the USERRA claim against the state, the USERRA claims against the ...

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