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Gresham v. State of De Dept. of Health And Social Services

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 18, 2018


          Elisha L. Gresham - Pro Se Plaintiff

          Wilson B. Davis, Deputy Attorney General, State of Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE - attorneys for Defendant



         Plaintiff Elisha L. Gresham ("Plaintiff or "Ms. Gresham"), who proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed this action on December 27, 2016 alleging employment discrimination against the Delaware Department of Health and Human Social Services ("DHSS"). (D.I. 2). The Court previously dismissed Plaintiffs ADA claims with prejudice but granted her leave to amend with respect to potential Title VII claims. (D.I. 15). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on July 23, 2018 ("Amended Complaint"). (D.I. 23). In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserted causes of action for: (1) disability discrimination in violation of the ADA under Title I; (2) retaliation relating to her disability discrimination complaint under Title V; and (3) race or gender discrimination under Title VII. Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint. (D.I. 25). Ms. Gresham opposes the motion. (D.I. 27).[1] For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the motion-in-part and deny the motion-in-part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 1, 2010, Ms. Gresham was hired by DHSS as an "Administrative II." (D.I. 23 at ¶9). In November of 2013, she interviewed for the position of "Purchasing Services Coordinator II." (D.I. 23 at ¶ 10). She alleges that unnamed "[i]mmediate management did not want plaintiff to have [the new] position" and "began to retaliate against [her] by "directly stating to the plaintiff, they . . . preferred a White woman, a White man or a Middle Eastern Woman in the position" and "didn't want to be around when the' shit hits the fan' for having too many Black people" in the unit. (Id.). In December of 2013, Ms. Gresham was "hired into the new position of a Purchasing Services Coordinator II and immediate management began aggressively attacking the plaintiff via racial taunts, insults with the use of profanity" and "refused any procedural training" that was required. (D.I. 23 at ¶ 11).

         She alleges that "immediate management" forced her to do her previous job as well as the new one "in an attempt to overwork and create exhaustion, frustration, high pressure, stress and very hostile work environment" and force her to quit. (D.I. 23 at ¶ 11). She alleges that in January 2014, she suffered a stroke at her desk "and as a result, developed new disabilities such as, panic and anxiety attacks and the probability of now suffering another stroke." (D.I. 23 at ¶ 13). She returned to work that month with "restrictions from her doctors and special accommodations" but alleges that management confined her to her office and that she was mistreated because of her disabilities. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-16).

         In February of 2015, Plaintiff lodged "a formal written complaint against her management with the department's Division of Labor Relations Unit (LRU)." (D.I. 23 at ¶ 16). The complaint included a detailed summary of her allegations. (D.I. 23-4 at 3-9). In it she denied that her purported stroke was work-related and made no mention of race or gender discrimination. (Id.). The State LRU investigator concluded that one of Plaintiff s supervisors had inappropriately called Plaintiff a "dumb ass." (D.I. 23-4 at 10). The investigator recommended that the supervisor be given a verbal reprimand and be required to attend additional training classes. (Id. at 10-11).

         In May 2015, Plaintiff took a medical leave. (D.I. 23 at ¶ 19). She did not return to work. On February 9, 2016, DHSS terminated her employment "effective November 18, 2015" (D.I. 23- 5) and sought to collect on the overpayment of wages between November of 2015 and February of 2016. (D.I. 23-5, 23-7). Plaintiff applied for unemployment benefits with the Delaware Department of Labor. (D.I. 23-6).

         In January 2016, Plaintiff filed a EEOC complaint asserting for race, gender, and disability discrimination, as well as retaliation. (D.I. 23-3). The United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") did not file suit based on Plaintiffs EEOC complaint within 180 days of its filing with the EEOC, and, at Plaintiffs request, the DOJ issued a "right to sue" letter on November 1, 2016. Plaintiff then filed her initial complaint in this matter on December 27, 2016, and her Amended Complaint on July 25, 2018.


         In reviewing a motion filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Because Ms. Gresham proceeds pro se, her pleading is liberally construed and her complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. A court may consider the pleadings, public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint, and documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion may be granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the complainant, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         "Though 'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The court is "not required to credit bald assertions or legal conclusions improperly alleged in the complaint." In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props. Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 216 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint may not be dismissed, however, "for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." Johnson v. City of Shelby, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014).

         A complainant must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has "substantive plausibility." Id. at 347. That plausibility must be found on the face of the complaint. Ashcroftv. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the [complainant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [accused] is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context specific ...

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