Collins v. Colgate Palmolive et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: Collins's request to proceed in forma pauperis (" IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is granted. For the reasons stated below, Collins's claims against defendant Frank Niglia are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). With respect to defendant Colgate Palmolive ("Colgate"), Collins is granted leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days of the date of this Memorandum and Order. No summons shall issue at this time and all further proceedings shall be stayed for thirty (30) days oruntil further order of the Court. Failure to timely comply with this Order will result in dismissal of this action without prejudice. The Court certifies pursuant to 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 purpose of an appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962). The Clerk o f Court is respectfully directed to mail a copy of this Memorandum and Order and a form complaint for employment discrimination to plaintiff Charline Collins, prose, and note the mailing on the docket. Ordered by Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf on 3/8/2017. (Taronji, Robert)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
16-CV-3366 (RRM) (LB)
-againstCOLGATE PALMOLIVE; and FRAN K NIGLIA,
ROSL YNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Charline Co llins brings this prose action and asserts federal claims under Title
VII of the Civ il Rights Act of I 964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e el seq. ("Title VII") and the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 62 I el seq. (the "ADEA''). She also asserts
unspecified state-law claims. Collins's request to proceed in.forma pauperis (" IFP") pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § I9 I 5 is granted. For the reasons stated below, Coll ins's clai ms against defendant
Frank Niglia are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). With respect to defendant Colgate
Palmolive ("Co lgate"), Collins is granted leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30)
days of the date of this Memorandum and Order.
Col lins utilizes an employment discrimination fo rm supplied by the Court in order to
submit her complaint. She alleges claims of race, sex, religious, and age discrim ination.
Although unclear, it appears that Co llins was employed by Colgate for seven years, and her
employment was terminated on May 19, 2016. (Campi. (Doc. No. I)
complaint alleges no facts in support of her claim of di scrimination. Colli ns a1mexes her rebutta l
The following facts are drawn exclusively from the complaint, and are assumed to be true for purposes of this
Memorandum and Order.
to Colgate 's position statement that she submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC"). The rebutta l likewise fa il s to allege sufficient facts in support of her
claim of discrimination. (See id. at 8-12.)2 The rebuttal lists the following as Colgate's reasons
for not promoting her: ( 1) her attitude, (2) her " [u]n-professional communications w ith [her]
manager and [c]o-workers," and (3) her " [p] oor quality of written communications." (Comp!. at
9.) Collins maintains that those enumerated reasons are discrim inatory. (See id. at 9-12.)
On May I I, 20 16, the EEOC issued Collins a D ismissal and Noti ce of Rights, stating
"[b ]ased upon its investigatio n, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information o btained
established violations of the statutes." (See id. at 14.) Collins seeks reinstatement to her job and
retroactive salary in the amount of $26,500. (Id. at 6.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 28 U.S.C. § 19 15(e)(2)(B), a distri ct court shall dism iss an informa pauperis
action w here it is satisfied that the action "(i) is frivolous or malicious; (i i) fails to state a claim
on w hich relief may be granted; o r (iii) seeks mo netary re lief against a de fendant who is immune
from such relie f. " An action is "frivo lous" when either: ( 1) " the 'factual contentions are clearly
baseless,' such as when allegations are the product of delusion or fantasy"; or (2) " the claim is
' based on an indi sputably merit less legal theory. "' Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141
F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal citation omitted).
The Court must be mindful that a prose plaintiffs pleadings should be held "to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (per c uriam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104- 05 ( 1976)); see also Harris
All citations to pages of the complaint refer to the Electronic Case Filing System ("ECF") pagination.
v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (noting that even after Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007), the court "remain[s] obligated to construe a prose complaint liberally").
At the pleadings stage of the proceeding, the Court must assume the truth of "all wellpleaded, nonconclusory factual allegations" in the complaint. Kiobe! v. Royal Dutch Petroleum
Co., 62 1 F.3d 111 , 124 (2d Cir. 2010), aff'd, 133 S. Ct. 1659 (20 13) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678- 78 (2009)). A complaint must plead sufficient facts to "state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when
the plain ti ff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable fo r the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted).
The plausibi li ty standard does not impose an across-the-board, heightened fact-p leading
standard. Boykin v. KeyCorp, 52 1 F.3d 202, 2 13 (2d Cir. 2008). The plausibility standard does
not "require a complaint to include specific evidence [or] factual allegations in addition to
those required by Rule 8." Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 11 0, 11 9 (2d Cir. 20 10).
However, the plausibility standard does impose some burden to make factual allegations
supporting a claim for relief. As the Iqbal court explained, the plausibility standard "does not
require detai led factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 .
Sufficiency of th e Plea ding
a. Rule 8
Pursuant to Ru le 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Proced ure, a plaintiff must provide a
short, plain statement of claim against each defendant named so that they have adequate notice of
the claims against them. See id. A pleading that only "tenders naked assertions devoid of further
factual e nhancement" will not suffice. Id. (internal citations and alterations o mitted). A plaintiff
must provide facts sufficie nt to allow each defendant to have a fair understanding of what the
plaintiff is complai ning about and to know w hether there is a legal basi s for recovery. See
Twombly v. Bell, 425 F.3d 99, I 06 (2d Ci r. 2005) (defining " fair notice" as "' that w hich w ill
enable the adverse party to answer and prepare for trial, a llow the applicatio n of res judicata, and
identif the nature of the case so that it may be assigned the proper form of trial. " ') (quoting
Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83 , 86 (2d C ir. 1995)). A court may dismi ss a complaint that is "so
confused, ambiguous, vague or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well
disguised." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 86 1 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988).
Here, as previously noted, Co ll ins's complaint is devoid of any facts in suppo1t of her
discriminatio n claim. Moreover, even taking judicial notice of the rebuttal that Coll ins annexed
to her comp laint, the basis for Co llins's discriminatio n claim remains unclear.
b. Title VII and the ADEA
More specifically, Collins's complaint fails to al lege facts sufficient to state a cause of
action for employment discriminatio n under Title V II and the ADEA. T itle V II prohibits an
employer from discriminating against any individual with respect to "compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of emp loyment, because of such individual 's race, co lo r, reli gion, sex or
national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)( I). A plaintiff asserting a T itle VII d iscrimination
claim must all ege facts showing that "( I) the empl oyer took adverse acti on against him and (2)
his race, colo r, religion, sex, or natio nal orig in was a motivating factor in the employment
decision." Vega v. Hempstead Un ion Sch. Dist., 80 I F.3d 72, 86-87 (2d C ir. 20 15). Step two
can be shown " by alleging facts that directly show discrimination o r facts that indirectly show
discrimination by givi ng rise to a plausible inference of discrimination." Id.; Jones v. Target
Corp., No. 15-CV-4672 (MKB), 20 16 WL 50779, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 20 16). Here, the
factual basis of Collins's Title VII complaint is unclear. Collins states that Co lgate has
"discriminated against [her] over the course of years [sic] while working," (Comp!. at 8);
however, she fai ls to plead any facts in support of her claim that defendant discriminated against
her because of her race, color, religion, sex, or nati onal origin. Whi le her EEOC rebuttal li sts
such complai nts as "her attitude," poor writing, and unprofess ional conduct as the proffered
reasons for her termination, Collins does not allege any facts to tie these concerns to a
discriminatory animus, nor does she all ege facts suffi cient to suggest that they are a pretext fo r
discrimination. (See id. at 9.)
Moreover, the ADEA establishes that it is "unlawful for an employer .. . to discharge any
individual or otherwi se discriminate against any individual with respect to hi s compensation,
terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of such indi vidual' s age." 29 U.S.C.
§ 623(a)( I). In order to establish a prima facie case of age discri mination in violation of the
ADEA, a plaintiff must show: (1) that she was within the protected age group (more than fo rty
years old); (2) that she was qualified for the position; (3) that she experi enced adverse
employment action; and (4) that such action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an
inference of discrimination. See Gorzynski v. Jet Blue Airways Corp. , 596 F.3d 93 , I 07 (2d Cir.
20 10) (citi ng Carlton v. Mystic Transp. Inc., 202 F.3d 129, 134 (2d Cir. 2000)).
In support of her ADEA age di scrimination clai m, Collins simpl y checks the box on the
employment d isc~·imination form which indicates that defendant di scri minated against her based
on her age, and she supplies her date of birth. At a minimum, an ADEA claimant must in fo rm
the Court and the defend ant why she believes age discrimination existed. See Dugan v. Martin
Marie fl a Aerospace, 760 F.2d 397, 399 (2d Cir. 1985) ("While a claim made under the ADEA
need not contain every supporti ng detail, it must at least inform the court and the defendant
generally of the reasons the plaintiff believes age d iscrimination has been practiced."); Gallop-
Laverpool v. ll 99 SEIU United Healthcare Workers E., No. 14-CV-2879 (JG), 2014 WL
3897588, at *2 (E.D .N. Y. Aug. 8, 20 14). Here, Collins simply asserts, w ithout further
elaboration, that she is more than forty years or age.
Although at the pleading stage a plaintiff is not required to establish discrimination, she
must plausibly allege a claim upon w hich relief can be granted. Vega, 80 I F.3d at 86-87. Even
under the most liberal construction of Coll ins's allegations, she provides no facts that cou ld
possibly connect any adverse emp loyment acti on to a protected status. See Littlejohn v. City of
New York, 795 F.3d 297, 310 (2d C ir. 2015) (fi nding an emp loyment discrimination comp lai nt
must contai n sufficie nt factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face);
Ruston v. Town Ed.for Town of Skaneateles, 6 10 F.3d 55, 59 (2d C ir. 20 10) (noting that " [u]nder
Iqbal, factual allegations must be sufficient to support necessary legal conclusions," and must
" plausibly suggest an entitlement to relieP').
c. Claims Against Frank Niglia
Collins names as a defendant Frank N iglia, a manager employed at Colgate. However,
there is no individual liability under the ADEA o r Title VII. See Cheny v. Toussaint, 50 Fed.
App'x. 476, 477 (2d C ir. 2002) (fi nding the ADEA precludes ind ividual li abi lity); McMahon v.
Napolitano, No. 13-CV-1 404 (KAM), 20 13 WL 1410382 , at * I (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 8, 20 13) (noting
that neither Title VII nor the ADEA provides for ind ividual liabi lity). T herefo re, Collins's
igli a are d ismissed fo r failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Col lins's claims agai nst Niglia are di smissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § l 9 l 5(e)(2)(B). In light of Collins's prose status, Collins is granted
thirty (30) days leave from the date of this Memorandum and Order to file an amended complaint
as to defendant Co lgate. Should Collins have a basis for a claim of employment discrimination,
she should provide facts in support of such claim. Collins is directed that her amended
complaint must comply with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civi l Procedure, and it must
"plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570; Lilllejohn, 795 F.3d at 310. If available, Co llins should include a copy of the charge of
discrimination that she filed with the EEOC. The amended complaint must be captioned
"Amended Complaint" and bear the same docket number as assigned to thi s Order. No
summons shall issue at thi s time and all further proceedings shall be stayed fo r thirty (30) days or
until further order of the Court.
Failure to timely comply with thi s Order will result in dismissal of thi s action without
The Court certifies pu rsuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (a)(3) that any appeal from thi s Order
would not be taken in good faith, and therefore, informa pauperis status is denied fo r purpose of
an appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 ( 1962).
The Clerk of Court is respectfull y directed to mail a copy of this Memorandum and Order
and a fo rm complaint for empl oyment di scrimination to plaintiff Charline Collins, prose, and
note the mailing on the docket.
s/Roslynn R. Mauskopf
ROSL YNN R. MAUSKOPF
United States District Judge
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
March 8, 20 17
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