Burgos-Diaz v. Hospital HIMA San Pablo-Bayamon et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re 18 MOTION to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Jorge Garib Signed by Judge William G Young on 11/28/2017.(EES)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO
Dr. JORGE GARIB,
November 29, 2017
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Limary Burgos-Diaz (“Burgos-Diaz”) filed a complaint
seeking judgment and monetary relief against Hospital HIMA San
Pablo-Bayamon (the “Hospital”) and Dr. Jorge Garib (“Dr. Garib”)
alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and
retaliation under Title VII federal law and Puerto Rico Law 17
and Law 100.
Burgos-Diaz alleges that during her employment as
an Administrative Assistant at the Hospital from 2011 until
February 2016, Dr. Garib continuously made unwelcome comments
that amounted to sexual harassment and discrimination.
Moreover, Burgos-Diaz alleges that the Hospital not only failed
Of the District of Massachusetts, sitting by designation.
appropriately to handle the situation after Burgos-Diaz
complained, but also took action that amounted to unlawful
Burgos-Diaz claims that as a result, she had no
other option than to resign from the Hospital.
In a prior hearing on these claims, the Court denied the
Hospital’s motion to dismiss.
The Court granted in part and
denied in part Dr. Garib’s motion to dismiss.
an amended complaint, which again set forth three claims of
sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation
against Dr. Garib.
Dr. Garib now moves to dismiss the amended complaint in its
entirety for failure to state a claim on which relief can be
The threshold issue before the Court is whether the
applicable statute of limitations bars the Puerto Rico law
claims asserted against him.
In the amended complaint, Burgos-
Diaz alleges conduct that plausibly took place within one year
prior to filing the original complaint, so her claims are not
barred by the statute of limitations.
In addition to this
procedural challenge, Dr. Garib argues that the factual
allegations set forth in the amended complaint do not state a
sufficient claim for relief because (1) they are not overtly
sexual and (2) they are speculative or inferential.
A. Procedural History
On January 19, 2017, Burgos-Diaz filed a complaint
asserting three claims against the Hospital and Dr. Garib
seeking judgment and monetary relief.
Compl., ECF No. 1.
April 17, 2017, after the Court granted numerous continuances,
the Hospital moved to dismiss the entire complaint for failure
to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
Compl., ECF No. 11.
The Court granted the Hospital’s motion to
dismiss on May 9, 2017.
Order Granting Mot. Dismiss, ECF No.
On May 10, 2017, Dr. Garib moved to dismiss the complaint
against him, Co-Def. Dr. Jorge Garib Bazain’s Mot. Dismiss, ECF
No. 18, and Burgos-Diaz moved to reconsider the Court’s order
granting the Hospital’s motion to dismiss.
Granting Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 19.
Mot. Recons. Order
The Court allowed Burgos-
Diaz’s motion for reconsideration on May 17, 2017.
Granting Mot. Recons., ECF No. 22; see also Resp. Opp’n Co-Def.
Dr. Jorge Garib Bazain’s Mot. Dismiss (“Pl.’s Second Opp’n”),
ECF No. 25.
After a hearing on July 14, 2017, the Court denied the
Hospital’s motion to dismiss.
Order Mot. Dismiss Failure State
Cl. (“Order Mot. Dismiss”), ECF No. 34.
The Court granted in
part and denied in part Dr. Garib’s motion to dismiss.
Court dismissed Burgos-Diaz’s Title VII claims against Dr.
Garib, but granted Burgos-Diaz leave to file an amended
On August 14, 2017, Burgos-Diaz filed an
amended complaint asserting the same three claims against the
Hospital and Dr. Garib.
Mot. Leave File First Am. Compl., Ex.
1, First Am. Compl. (“Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 36-1.2
again moved to dismiss, the parties have briefed the motion,
Resp. Opp’n Leave Am. Compl. (“Dr. Garib’s Second Mot.
Dismiss”), ECF No. 37; Resp. Opp’n Co-Def. Dr. Jorge Garib
Bazain’s Mot. Dismiss (“Pl.’s Third Opp’n”), ECF No. 40, and Dr.
Garib’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint is now before
B. Facts Alleged
Burgos-Diaz worked as an Administrative Assistant at the
Hospital from 2011 until her “forced resignation” in February
Am. Compl. 2-3.
Burgos-Diaz alleges that during and
throughout her employment, Dr. Garib -- the “Infectiology Doctor
of the Hospital”4 –- “frequently visited” her working area “in an
Page numbers are referenced in this memorandum instead of
paragraph numbers because Burgos-Diaz resets her paragraph
numbers halfway through the complaint and the amended complaint.
3 The Hospital denies that Burgos-Diaz worked as an
Administrative Assistant, describing her position as a “ward
clerk of the Nursing Department.” Hospital’s Answer Compl.
(“Hospital’s Answer”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 35. The Hospital also denies
that Burgos-Diaz left her position in February 2016, stating
that the effective date of her “voluntary resignation” was March
11, 2016. Id. ¶ 5.
4 The Hospital denies this characterization of Dr. Garib’s
position. Hospital’s Answer ¶ 3. The Hospital alleges that Dr.
open, constant and humiliating way.”
that Dr. Garib made the following comments to her:
(1) you are working here because you want to because
if you would work for me I would pay you thousands of
dollars; (2) [a]t this right moment you would work for
me I could pay you thousands of [d]ollars; (3) [i]f
you would be with me I would no[t] let you have this
grey hair you have because I would pay for your
hairdressing; (4) your husband is not taking good care
of you, if you would be with me I would take really
good care of you; (5) I want to marry you and put my
millions in your hands.
In her amended complaint, Burgos-Diaz clarifies that Dr.
Garib made these and other comments “[d]uring her employment and
until her last days of work on [sic] February 2016 at [the
Am. Compl. 3.
Burgos-Diaz contends that she always rejected these
comments and further, that they created a “pervasive and hostile
and sexually charged working environment.”
also alleges that her supervisors, Ms. Centeno and Ms. Gines, as
well as “other doctors,” heard these comments and that “no one
Accordingly, Burgos-Diaz asserts that she
felt she had “no protection at her workplace from Dr. Garib’s
unwanted sexual approaches.”
Garib was not an “employee” of the Hospital, but rather
“provided professional services to [the Hospital] as the Subdirector of Quality and Compliance and as the Interim Head of
Internal Medicine.” Id.
The situation “escalated” when Burgos-Diaz’s direct
supervisor, Ms. Gines, and “other workers” made comments “each
and every time” Dr. Garib came to Burgos-Diaz’s work station,
such as: “(1) here comes your boyfriend; (2) what are you going
to do with him?”
Burgos-Diaz asserts that she “feared for
her safety at work and from retaliation.”
Id. at 4.
Diaz also contends that as a result of the alleged harassment,
“some physicians filed a complaint against Dr. Garib.”
On or around October 2015, “Ms. Torres, Ms. Mulero, and Ms.
Santiago, all from the Hospital’s nurse department,” interviewed
During the meeting, Burgos-Diaz told her
interviewers about Dr. Garib’s conduct and further, that Ms.
Gines had “complete knowledge” about the harassment and took
part in it.
Ms. Mulero requested that Burgos-Diaz submit a
written complaint, and after Burgos-Diaz did so, Ms. Begoña, the
Hospital’s Human Resources manager, summoned Burgos-Diaz to a
Ms. Begoña’s “only suggestion to deal with the
situation was to offer [Burgos-Diaz] to have a meeting with Dr.
Garib . . . .”
Burgos-Diaz told Ms. Begoña that this was
“not the proper manner” to deal with the situation.
Burgos-Diaz alleges that after the meeting, Dr. Garib’s and
Ms. Gines’s conduct “continued unfettered until [Burgos-Diaz’s]
last days of work.”
Id. at 5.
Between January and February
2016, Burgos-Diaz contends that on several occasions Dr. Garib
“ask[ed] her to go out with him while loosening his bow tie.”
Burgos-Diaz also alleges that Dr. Garib made comments to
her about his time in federal prison to intimidate her.
Burgos-Diaz further claims that Ms. Gines “began to take
retaliatory actions” by “altering [Burgos-Diaz’s] time
attendance registrations, work shifts and work schedules,
assigning to [her] the most difficult tasks, assigning [her] to
work [sic] during the weekends without any sort of justification
and by not following the normal procedure” for shift assignments
Id. at 5.
Consequently, Burgos-Diaz alleges that she “felt depressed
and without any protection at work,” “would arrive at work
crying and each working day was more difficult to conclude,” and
“had no other option than to resign from her employment at the
Hospital [in] February 2016.”
Id. at 6.
After leaving the
Hospital, Burgos-Diaz claims that she filed an Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Complaint on June 21, 2016 and
received a Notice of Right-to-Sue from the Civil Rights Division
of the federal Department of Justice on December 19, 2016.
Burgos-Diaz alleges, therefore, that “all applicable
administrative procedures have been exhausted.”
Dr. Garib moves to dismiss the amended complaint in its
entirety for failure to state a claim on which relief can be
Dr. Garib’s Second Mot. Dismiss ¶ 43.
motion presents three arguments.
First, he claims that Burgos-
Diaz failed to show in her amended complaint that the applicable
statute of limitations does not bar her Puerto Rico law claims.
Id. ¶¶ 6-8.
Second, he alleges that Burgos-Diaz’s factual
allegations are not “overtly sexual in nature” and therefore do
not “rise to the level of a sexual harassment claim.”
Id. ¶ 39.
Third, he argues that Burgos-Diaz failed to plead sufficient
factual allegations to “cure the pleading deficiency” and state
a claim for relief under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of
Id. ¶ 13.
To survive Dr. Garib’s motion to dismiss, Burgos-Diaz’s
amended complaint must contain factual allegations of unlawful
conduct that (a) occurred after January 19, 2016, and (b)
entitles Burgos-Diaz to relief under Puerto Rico’s sexual
harassment statute, 29 P.R. Laws Ann. §§ 155 et seq. (“Law 17”),
and its gender discrimination statute, 29 P.R. Laws Ann. §§ 146
et seq. (“Law 100”).
While this is a close case, Burgos-Diaz’s
amended complaint sets forth sufficient factual allegations to
cure the pleading deficiency in her original complaint.
Standard of Review
Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
Burgos-Diaz’s amended complaint must contain a “short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
Specifically, the amended complaint must include
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
The “plausibility” requirement calls for “enough fact
to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence of the illegal [conduct].”
Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 17 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks omitted).
When the defendant’s motion to dismiss raises a statute of
limitations challenge, dismissal is appropriate if “the
pleader's allegations leave no doubt that an asserted claim is
LaChapelle v. Berkshire Life Ins. Co., 142 F.3d
507, 509 (1st Cir. 1998) (emphasis added).
When the complaint
appears to comply with the statute of limitations, then the
Court should permit discovery and allow the moving party to
raise this argument later in a motion for summary judgment.
Rodi v. Southern New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 17 (1st Cir.
2004) (holding that dismissal is appropriate only when the
complaint and other documents show “beyond doubt” that the
limitations period has run).
In this, and other determinations
related to the moving party’s motion to dismiss, the Court may
rely on its “judicial experience and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
Puerto Rico Law 17 and Law 100
Law 17, Puerto Rico’s sexual harassment statute, prohibits
sexual harassment in the workplace and mirrors the Title VII
sexual harassment law.
29 P.R. Laws Ann. § 155b; Hernandez-
Loring v. Universidad Metropolitana, 233 F.3d 49, 52 (1st Cir.
2000) (citing Rodriguez-Hernandez v. Miranda-Velez, 132 F.3d
848, 854 (1st Cir. 1998)).
Unlike Title VII sexual harassment,
however, Law 17 provides for individual liability.
Fuller Brush Co. of Puerto Rico, Inc., 336 F. Supp. 2d 134, 14243 (D.P.R. 2004).
In the amended complaint, Burgos-Diaz states
two claims under Law 17.
First, she alleges that Dr. Garib’s
conduct, which she characterizes as sexual harassment, created a
hostile work environment (“Count I”).
Am. Compl. 7.
alleges that Dr. Garib’s “retaliatory conduct” violated her
employment rights (“Count III”).
Id. at 9.
Law 100, one of Puerto Rico’s employment discrimination
statutes, prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender and
is analogous to the Title VII discrimination law.
29 P.R. Laws
Ann. § 146; Garayalde-Rijos v. Municipality of Carolina, 747
F.3d 15, 20 (1st Cir. 2014).
The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico
has “expressly considered the question of supervisor liability
under Law 100.”
Miro Martinez v. Blanco Velez Store, Inc., 393
F. Supp. 2d 108, 113-14 (D.P.R. 2005) (citing Rosario Toledo v.
Distribuidora Kikuet, Inc., 2000 TSPR 107 (P.R. June 29, 2000));
see also Pacheco Bonilla v. Tooling & Stamping, Inc., 281 F.
Supp. 2d 336, 339 (D.P.R. 2003).
In Rosario Toledo, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico held
that individual liability under Law 100 does in fact “include
not only the actual employer, or the owner and the president of
the corporation, but also any other person responsible for the
illegal conduct, without any distinction.”
Pacheco Bonilla, 281
F. Supp. 2d at 339 (citing Rosario Toledo, 2000 TSPR 193).
her amended complaint, Burgos-Diaz contends that Dr. Garib
unlawfully discriminated against her in violation of Law 100
Am. Compl. 8.
Law 17 claims must be brought within one year of “the last
act of sexual harassment.”
Valentín-Almeyda v. Municipality Of
Aguadilla, 447 F.3d 85, 101 (1st Cir. 2006); Matos Ortiz v.
Puerto Rico, 103 F. Supp. 2d 59, 63 (D.P.R. 2000) (collecting
cases); see also 29 P.R. Laws Ann. § 155m.
applies to Law 100 “by analogy.”
This time limitation
Matos Ortiz, 103 F. Supp. 2d
at 63 (citing P.R. Laws Ann. §§ 146 et seq.).
The First Circuit
recently observed that the “limitations period begins to run one
day after the date of accrual.”
Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc.
v. Feliciano de Melecio, 406 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2005).
“a claim ordinarily accrues ‘when the plaintiff knows, or has
reason to know, of the injury on which the action is based,’”
id. (quoting Rivera-Muriente v. Agosto-Alicea, 959 F.2d 349, 353
(1st Cir. 1992)), if the plaintiff “can also show that at least
one act in the series occurred within the limitations period,
the suit may be considered timely as to all the acts,” id.
In the amended complaint, Burgos-Diaz alleges that “[o]n
several instances between January and February of 2016 . . .
[Dr. Garib] approached her and ask[ed] her to go out with him
while loosening his bow tie so that [Burgos-Diaz] could see his
white gold neck chain.”
Am. Compl. 5.
contends that “[d]uring these months of January and February,”
Dr. Garib spoke to her about his personal contacts in federal
prison, which she “perceived as intimidation.”
Id. at 5-6.
Garib claims that these allegations cannot “cure the pleading
deficiency,” see Dr. Garib’s Second Mot. Dismiss ¶ 13, because
(1) they do not specifically identify which, if any, actions
occurred after January 19, 2016, id. ¶ 36; (2) the actions they
describe are not “overtly sexual in nature,” id. ¶ 39; and (3)
they constitute “speculative or inferential” claims which are
not actionable as a matter of law, id. ¶ 32.
Courts in the First Circuit have consistently recognized
that Law 17 and Law 100 “serve virtually identical purposes and
outlaw virtually identical behaviors.”
Miro Martinez, 393 F.
Supp. 2d at 114; see also Valentín-Almeyda, 447 F.3d at 96.
deference to this principle of statutory interpretation, the
merits of Dr. Garib’s motion to dismiss will be analyzed with
respect to all three claims against him.
Am. Compl. 6-9.
Statute of Limitations
Dr. Garib first argues that Burgos-Diaz’s claims under Law
17 and Law 100 should be dismissed because Burgos-Diaz failed to
“pinpoint conduct within the applicable statute of limitations .
. . after January 19th, 2016” in her amended complaint.
Garib’s Second Mot. Dismiss ¶ 31.
On July 14, 2017, the Court
instructed Burgos-Diaz to set forth specific allegations of
conduct that took place after January 19, 2016.
The amended complaint provides more specific examples
of Dr. Garib’s alleged harassment, see Am. Compl. 3-5, but it
does not provide specific dates to demonstrate, beyond all
doubt, that the alleged conduct falls within the statute of
Burgos-Diaz, however, is not required under Rodi, 389 F.3d
at 17, to prove beyond all doubt that her claims are within the
statute of limitations to survive dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).
In Centro Medico, the First Circuit held that dismissal is only
appropriate “if it is transparently clear that the complaint, in
light of the facts alleged . . . ‘leave[s] no doubt that an
asserted claim is time-barred.’”
LaChapelle, 142 F.3d at 509).
406 F.3d at 6 (quoting
Applying this test to the amended
complaint, Burgos-Diaz’s allegation that Dr. Garib “ask[ed] her
to go out with him while loosening his bow tie” on “several
instances between January and February of 2016,” Am. Compl. 5,
does not, on its face, leave “no doubt” that Burgos-Diaz’s
claims are time-barred.
See LaChapelle, 142 F.3d at 509.
Although Burgos-Diaz failed to identify any specific dates
in connection with her claims, a plain reading of the phrase
“several instances between January and February” suggests that
at least one instance of the alleged conduct occurred in
This inference is consistent with Burgos-Diaz’s
repeated assertion that Dr. Garib’s “sexual approaches”
continued “until her last days of work [in] February 2016.”
“[A]ccept[ing] as true all well-pleaded facts alleged
in the complaint and draw[ing] all reasonable inferences
therefrom in the pleader’s favor,” Santiago v. Puerto Rico, 655
F.3d 61, 72 (1st Cir. 2011), it is “plausible” that discovery
will reveal more evidence that at least some of the conduct
described in the amended complaint took place in February 2016.
Accordingly, the Court rejects Dr. Garib’s challenge and holds
that Burgos-Diaz’s claims are not barred by the statute of
Burgos-Diaz’s EEOC Complaint
Burgos-Diaz alleges that she filed an EEOC complaint on
June 21, 2016.
Pl.’s Second Opp’n 9.
At the motion hearing on
July 14, 2017, the Court stated that Burgos-Diaz must develop
this argument in order to allege that her EEOC complaint tolled
the statute of limitations.
Order Mot. Dismiss.
complaint merely states that Burgos-Diaz filed an EEOC
complaint, but Burgos-Diaz later claims that “any argument
related to the tolling effect by EEOC charge number 515-501600384 . . . regarding Dr. Garib is moot.”
Pl.’s Third Opp’n 10.
Under Puerto Rico law, the statute of limitations is tolled
by the filing of an extrajudicial administrative complaint.
Valentín-Almeyda, 447 F.3d at 101 (citing 31 P.R. Laws Ann. §
5303); see also Gerald v. University of Puerto Rico, 707 F.3d 7,
27 (1st Cir. 2013) (“In Puerto Rico the filing of an EEOC
complaint alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII
tolls the statute of limitations on equivalent state law claims
. . . .”) (citing Huertas–Gonzalez v. University of Puerto Rico,
520 F. Supp. 2d 304, 316–17 (D.P.R. 2007)).
In Huertas-Gonzalez, however, the district court dismissed
a Law 17 claim against one of the co-defendants because the
plaintiff did not notify him of the EEOC charge.
2d at 317.
520 F. Supp.
There, the court held that “the filing of an
administrative complaint before the EEOC will not toll the
statute of limitations for federal causes of action . . . , for
example claims under Law 17 . . . unless the Defendants have
been notified of the filing of said EEOC claim.”
Similarly, the First Circuit held in Gerald that the record must
contain “critical information,” such as “who was named, what was
alleged, or even the exact date the EEOC complaint was filed,”
before a court may determine whether the statute of limitations
should be tolled.
707 F.3d at 27-28.
Here, Burgos-Diaz has failed to provide any more “critical
information” in her amended complaint.
The Court gave Burgos-
Diaz the opportunity to clarify her pre-hearing claim that Dr.
Garib was “well aware” of the EEOC complaint against him, see
Pl.’s Second Opp’n 9, but she has declined to provide any more
details in her amended complaint and subsequent response to Dr.
Garib’s motion to dismiss.
Even after drawing all reasonable
inferences in the pleader’s favor, Santiago, 655 F.3d at 72,
Burgos-Diaz has not alleged in the amended complaint that Dr.
Garib was notified of the filing of the EEOC complaint.
Following Gerald and Huertas-Gonzalez, therefore, for BurgosDiaz to survive a statute of limitations challenge to Law 17,
she must show that the acts of sexual harassment continued
within the one-year statutory period.
Allegations of “Sexual” Misconduct
Dr. Garib next argues that the Court should dismiss the
Puerto Rico law claims because the factual allegations set forth
in the amended complaint are not “overtly sexual in nature.”
Dr. Garib’s Second Mot. Dismiss ¶ 39.
Dr. Garib cites Sprague
v. Thorn Americas, Inc., 129 F.3d 1355 (10th Cir. 1997), and
White v. Midwest Office Tech., Inc., 5 F. Supp. 2d 936 (D. Kan.
1998), in support of his argument, Dr. Garib’s Second Mot.
Dismiss ¶ 40, but these authorities from the Tenth Circuit are
distinguishable from the present case.
In Sprague, the plaintiff’s Title VII claims were based on
five separate incidents of “unpleasant and boorish conduct.”
129 F.3d at 1366.
Here, Burgos-Diaz describes at least seven
“sexually charged” comments that Dr. Garib allegedly made in
reference to, among other things, her physical appearance, Am.
Compl. 3 (“I would not let you have this grey hair you have
because I would pay for your hairdressing.”), her husband, id.
(“[Y]our husband is not taking good care of you, if you would be
with me I would take really good care of you.”), and her salary,
id. (“[I]f you work for me I could pay you thousands of
In contrast to Sprague, Burgos-Diaz contends that
all of Dr. Garib’s comments were made while she was at work.
Contra Sprague, 129 F.3d at 1366 (“The incident at Sprague's
wedding reception was the most serious, but it occurred at a
private club, not in the workplace.”).
Moreover, Dr. Garib’s
comments were allegedly accompanied by requests to “have a few
drinks,” Am. Compl. 3, “send him photos,” id. at 5, “go out with
him,” and “marry [him],” id.
The defendant in Sprague did not
make these kinds of requests, nor did the plaintiff claim that
the defendant actively desired a physical relationship with her.
The facts in White are similarly distinguishable from the
There, the plaintiff submitted evidence of three
“overtly sexual” incidents, but she did not allege that the
defendant made “any unwelcome sexual advances or inquiries into
her personal sexual preferences or practices.”
Supp. 2d at 948.
White, 5 F.
Here, Burgos-Diaz claims that Dr. Garib told
her “now that you are calling me at night I want you to know
that I am a night person and I like to do things at night.”
Dr. Garib allegedly made this remark, as well as
other “sexually charged comments,” to Burgos-Diaz despite
knowing that she was married and that she “always reject[ed]”
Id. at 3.
In Valentín-Almeyda, the First Circuit
held that a jury was entitled to find the defendant liable for,
among other things, sexual harassment after the plaintiff
“continued to rebuff” the defendant’s claims that he wanted to
“marry her” and that she was “his.”5
447 F.3d at 91.
Although Dr. Garib cites Sprague and White in support of
his motion to dismiss, in both cases the plaintiffs set forth
sufficient factual allegations of sexual harassment to survive
In addition to these verbal “approaches,” the First Circuit
concluded that the defendant’s “constant efforts at physical
proximity, his repeatedly cruising by [the plaintiff]’s house,”
and his threat to retaliate if the plaintiff “would not react
more affectionately to his unwanted advances” together
constituted sufficient evidence of sexual harassment under Law
17 and Title VII. Valentin-Almeyda, 447 F.3d at 96.
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).
Indeed, the First Circuit’s more
recent decision in Tang v. Citizens Bank, N.A., 821 F.3d 206,
212 (1st Cir. 2016) is controlling here, in that it mandated a
trial where similarly sexually charged, but arguably ambiguous,
conduct was supported by affidavit.
See generally Sandra F.
Sperino & Suja A. Thomas, Unequal: How America’s Courts
Undermine Discrimination Law (2017) (concluding juries are best
able to resolve discrimination cases); Christina L. Boyd, Lee
Epstein & Andrew D. Martin, Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex
on Judging, 54 Am. J. Pol. Sci. 389 (2010); Hon. John McConnell,
Judging a Book: McConnell Reviews ‘Unequal’, Law 360 (Oct. 31,
2017, 1:31 PM), https://www.law360.com/articles/971233 (“Are
judges marginalizing the Seventh Amendment when they choose to
grant summary judgment?”).
Accordingly, after drawing all
reasonable inferences in Burgos-Diaz’s favor, Santiago, 655 F.3d
at 72, the Court rejects Dr. Garib’s claim that the allegations
contained in the amended complaint were not sufficiently “sexual
in nature” to state a plausible claim for relief under Law 17
and Law 100.
“Speculative or Inferential” Claims
Dr. Garib’s third challenge rests on the allegedly “bald”
and “conclusory” nature of the claims set forth in Burgos-Diaz’s
Dr. Garib’s Second Mot. Dismiss ¶¶ 31-34.
Dr. Garib cites several federal circuit cases, see Aulson v.
Blanchard, 83 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1996); Toone v. Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., 716 F.3d 516 (10th Cir. 2013); Bissessur v. Indiana Univ.
Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599 (7th Cir. 2009), in support of his
argument that “a repleader needs to explain how a subsequent
revision would cure the pleading deficiency.”
Second Mot. Dismiss ¶ 13.
the standard of review.
This argument, however, misconstrues
Under Cooperman v. Individual, Inc.,
171 F.3d 43, 46 (1st Cir. 1999), the Court must review BurgosDiaz’s amended complaint de novo and evaluate the sufficiency of
her claims under the same “plausibility” standard that the Court
applied to the original complaint.
See also Metropolitan Prop.
& Cas. Ins. Co. v. Savin Hill Family Chiropractic, Inc., No. 1512939-LTS, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113972, at *25 (D. Mass. July
21, 2017) (Dein, M.J.).
Dr. Garib cites Toone to emphasize that dismissal is
appropriate if the plaintiff’s complaint alleges “no facts from
which one could infer . . . misconduct.”
716 F.3d at 521.
standard is consistent with the First Circuit principle that an
order of dismissal may stand if the factual allegations “if
proven, will not justify recovery.”
Aulson, 83 F.3d at 3
Dr. Garib’s argument, however, fails here
because the factual allegations set forth in the amended
complaint, if proven, would justify recovery under Law 17 and
Burgos-Diaz claims that Dr. Garib “on several
instances . . . asked her to go out with him while loosening his
bow tie” and made other “sexual innuendos” directly to her while
she was working at the Hospital at night.
Am. Compl. 5.
further claims that these “sexual approaches . . . never
cease[d] while she continued working at the Hospital.”
alleges that this treatment caused her to feel “excruciating
mental anguish and depression,” and eventually led her to resign
from the Hospital.
Id. at 6.
These allegations, if proven, could constitute evidence of
a hostile work environment under Law 17 and Law 100.
v. Harbor Holdings & Operations, Inc., 674 F. Supp. 2d 351, 360
(D.P.R. 2009) (holding that a hostile work environment, which
could result from “sexual remarks, innuendoes, ridicule and
intimidation,” is a fact-specific inquiry for the jury (quoting
Marrero v. Goya of Puerto Rico, Inc., 304 F.3d 7, 19 (1st Cir.
Accordingly, Dr. Garib was wrong to characterize
Burgos-Diaz’s factual allegations as “speculative or
inferential” claims which are not actionable as matter of law.
Dr. Garib’s Second Mot. Dismiss ¶ 32.
The Court, therefore,
rejects Dr. Garib’s third challenge to the amended complaint.
For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Dr. Garib’s
motion to dismiss [ECF No. 18].
Burgos-Diaz’s amended complaint
contains sufficient factual allegations under Puerto Rico Law 17
and Law 100 to survive Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.
on their face, plausibly fall within the statute of limitations.
/s/ William G. Young
WILLIAM G. YOUNG
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