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Cannell v. Corizon, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 11, 2015

SHANA E. CANNELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON, LLC, et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS OF DEFENDANTS STATE OF MAINE, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND LEDIA DARDIS

Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

The State of Maine, Department of Corrections and Leida Dardis move to dismiss the Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 16). For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

This matter arises out of an employment dispute between the Plaintiff Shana E. Cannell (“Cannell”) and the Defendants, inter alia, the State of Maine, Department of Corrections (the “DOC”) and Leida Dardis (“Dardis, ” collectively referred to as the “Defendants”). The following facts, accepted as true for the purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, come from the Amended Complaint. Cannell began working for Corizon LLC (“Corizon”), another Defendant in this matter, on February 9, 2010 as a Licensed Practical Nurse at the Maine State Prison in Warren, Maine. Am. Compl. ¶ 13 (ECF No. 9). As of February 2010, Corizon had contracted with the DOC to provide healthcare services for all of the DOC’s correctional facilities. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Cannell was hired by Tammy Hatch, Corizon’s Health Service Administrator, and her immediate supervisor was Corizon’s Director of Nursing, Brian Castonguay. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. In May of 2010, some of the staff, including DOC employees, made offensive comments to Cannell daily because they came to suspect that she was dating a white male corrections officer. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20-22. One DOC employee struck her in the arm.[1] Am. Compl. ¶¶ 21.

In response to this harassment, Cannell filed numerous reports about the harassment to both Castonguay and Hatch in early June of 2010. Am. Compl. ¶ 23. The reports prompted “acts of discriminatory and retaliatory harassment” towards Cannell, which included: being ordered to clean up a bio-hazard; not being protected from a dangerous inmate who threatened her; the ransacking of her car without any corrective action; being disciplined for missing work even though she had prior approval to miss work; being denied paid time off while it was granted for others; and being reprimanded for breaks while other staffers were permitted to take longer breaks. Am. Compl. ¶ 24.

On July 25, 2010, Cannell sustained an injury that lingered into September of 2010. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27. In early September, Cannell met with Hatch to explain that she would need to lay down at work at times because of her injury. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-29. Hatch told Cannell to do what she needed to do. Am. Compl. ¶ 30. Cannell also informed Hatch at this meeting about new offensive comments that had been directed at her by a DOC sergeant.[2] Am. Compl. ¶ 31. When Cannell asked about the status of her earlier complaints, Hatch told Cannel that they were still being investigated and instructed her to “deal with it.” Am. Compl. ¶ 33. Cannell said that she should not have to deal with any harassment and left Hatch’s office. Am. Compl. ¶ 34. Soon after, Hatch came looking for Cannell to apologize and told her that they needed to set up a meeting with Dardis, a Deputy Warden at the Maine State Prison. Am. Compl. ¶ 36.

In early October of 2010, Cannell ran into Dardis by chance and reported her concerns regarding racial discrimination and harassment. Am. Compl. ¶ 38. Dardis did not take any “follow-up action in response to” her conversation with Cannell. Am. Compl. ¶ 38. On October 13, 2010, Castonguay called Cannell to his office and showed her still pictures of Cannell putting her head down on a desk at work on September 26, 2010. Am. Compl. ¶ 39. Castonguay asked Cannell if she had been sleeping, and Cannell explained that she was not sleeping, but rather laying down in order to alleviate back pain as previously authorized by Hatch. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 40-42. Thereafter, Cannell completed a written report stating that she had not been asleep on September 26, 2010, and a security officer who was present on that day also filled out a report confirming that Cannell had not been asleep. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 43-44.

The next day, a sergeant told Cannell that she should “request that Castonguay show her the videotape of the September 26th incident because it prove[d] that she was not asleep.” Am. Compl. ¶ 45. When Cannell asked Castonguay to let her view the video, he told Cannell that he had viewed it and knew that she was not asleep, but that he was still considering it “an incident of lack of situational awareness.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 46-47. Castonguay also brought up Cannell’s reports of harassment, and he told her that she should have reported that her car had been ransacked sooner. Am. Compl. ¶ 50.

On October 14, 2010, Dardis emailed the Warden of the prison at 4:56 p.m. In the email, Dardis stated that Cannell had reported racist comments to Castonguay on October 13th. Am. Compl. ¶ 51. Later that night, Castonguay called Cannell and told her that Corizon had terminated her due to her lack of situational awareness. Am. Compl. ¶ 55. Cannell later received a letter from Corizon stating that she had been terminated because she was asleep on duty while a maximum security prisoner was nearby. Am. Compl. ¶ 62.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 5, 2011, Cannell filed a timely complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Cannell received a right-to-sue letter on December 18, 2014. Cannell filed an initial Complaint (ECF No. 1) against Corizon, Castonguay, Hatch, and Corizon nurse Larry Brayhall on October 14, 2014 and an Amended Complaint on March 18, 2015 to include additional claims against the original Defendants and to add the DOC and Dardis as parties. In lieu of filing an Answer, the DOC and Dardis moved to dismiss all of the claims against them, arguing that Cannel did not state any claim entitling her to relief. Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 16).

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In order to state a claim, a plaintiff must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)’s limited notice pleading standard that requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although this rule does not require the complaint to set forth “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “it must nonetheless ‘contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” S.E.C. v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 442 (1st Cir. 2010) (en banc) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

In determining whether the complaint is plausible, “the court must separate the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012). If the factual allegations permit “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” the complaint survives. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. If, however, “the factual allegations in the complaint are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of mere conjecture, the complaint is open to dismissal.” Morales-Cruz, 676 F.3d at 224 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

In employment discrimination cases, “plaintiffs need not plead facts in the complaint that establish a prima facie case . . . nor must they ‘allege every fact necessary to win at trial.’ ” Garayalde-Rijos v. Municipality of Carolina, 747 F.3d 15, 24 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Rodríguez-Vives v. P.R. Firefighters Corps of P.R., 743 F.3d 278 (1st Cir. 2014)). Instead, taken as a whole, “the allegations of the complaint [must] make the claim . . . at least plausible.” Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 14-15 (1st Cir. 2011).

DISCUSSION

Cannell claims that the DOC violated both federal and state law. Specifically, in Count II of her Amended Complaint, Cannell claims that the DOC discriminated against her with respect to the terms of her employment, subjected her to a hostile work environment, and terminated her employment because of her race, color, and sex. Am. Compl. ¶ 76. Cannell further alleges that the DOC engaged in unlawful retaliation under the Maine Human Rights Act “(“MHRA”), 5 M.R.S.A. § 4551 et seq., and the Maine Whistleblowers Protection Act (“MWPA”), 26 M.R.S.A. § 831 et seq. Am. Compl. ¶ 77. Moreover, Cannell claims that the DOC participated in unlawful discrimination against Plaintiff by aiding and abetting Corizon’s unlawful discrimination against her in violation of 5 M.R.S. § 4553(10)(D). Am. Compl. ¶ 78. Cannell also claims that the DOC is liable because Corizon was acting as its agent when it discriminated against Cannell under 5 M.R.S. § 4553(10)(E), and because the DOC interfered with Cannell’s exercise and enjoyment of the rights protected under the MHRA in violation of 5 M.R.S. § 4633(2). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 79-80.

Count III alleges that Dardis, while acting under color of state law, violated Cannell’s constitutional rights to be free of discrimination based on race and sex and her First Amendment right to report unlawful discrimination without retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 84-86. Cannell asks the Court to declare that her constitutional rights were ...


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