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Brandt v. Fitzpatrick

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 5, 2016



          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

         Before me are the Defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF Nos. 9, 10) and the Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his Complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a). (ECF No. 15). For the reasons stated below, the Defendants' motions to dismiss are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and the Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is GRANTED.


         The Proposed Amended Complaint (“PAC”) (ECF No. 15-1) alleges the following facts which are accepted as true for purposes of this motion. Plaintiff Christopher Brandt is an African-American veteran who was employed by the Maine Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) as a correctional officer for approximately two years. PAC ¶¶ 4, 7. Brandt applied for seven open positions in the probation department and “was referred by MDOC's Human Resources for an interview each time.” PAC ¶¶ 8, 10. Each job announcement encouraged minorities, preference eligible veterans, and other MDOC employees to apply. PAC ¶ 9. Defendant Scott Landry supervised Brandt's interviews in Augusta, and Defendant Lisa Nash was in charge of Brandt's interviews in Portland. PAC ¶ 10.

         The interviews did not go well. Landry interviewed Brandt twice; both ended shortly after they began with Brandt being “escorted out of the office without any explanation.” PAC ¶ 11. Nash interviewed Brandt multiple times. PAC ¶¶ 10-11. During one interview, Nash “was extremely offensive and argued with [Brandt] when he began sharing his background and qualifications.” PAC ¶ 13. Although he has a master's degree, Brandt later received letters explaining that “he did not meet the minimum qualifications.” PAC ¶ 10; MHRC Invest. Report 2 (ECF No. 1-1).[1]

         Landry and Nash are both white. PAC ¶ 10. At each interview, the other applicants waiting to be interviewed in the waiting area were all younger white men and women. PAC ¶ 14. Brandt was the only African-American around the age of 40 waiting to be interviewed. PAC ¶ 14. Younger white applicants who were not current MDOC employees were eventually hired for the positions. PAC ¶ 1. Other African-American MDOC employees told Brandt that they were made to feel inferior and unqualified because of their race when they interviewed with Landry and Nash. PAC ¶ 15. One African-American MDOC officer informed Brandt “that he had personally interviewed with Scott Landry and Lisa Nash ten times and was never offered a position.” PAC ¶ 15. Another co-worker told Brandt that the MDOC “sought to hire younger employees and recent college graduates because they would be more likely to stay on the job longer.” MHRC Invest. Report 2.

         Because of his treatment at these interviews, Brandt wrote a letter to former-MDOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte. PAC ¶ 12. The letter specifically mentioned Landry. PAC ¶ 12. Ponte informed Brandt that he would look into the matter. PAC ¶ 12. Brandt also filed a complaint against the MDOC with the Maine Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”). PAC ¶ 12.

         Later on, Landry became the Warden of the Maine Correctional Center. PAC ¶ 16. “Fearing further hostility, [Brandt] resigned from his position at the Maine Correctional Center to pursue a position with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” PAC ¶ 16. But two weeks after his resignation, Brandt reapplied for several positions at the Maine Correctional Center. PAC ¶ 16. He subsequently received a letter from Landry stating that “you will not be considered further for the correctional officer position because you lied on your employment application.” PAC ¶ 16. Brandt claims that he did not lie on his employment application. See PAC ¶ 18. He also later learned that he was the only applicant who was subjected to a background investigation for that job. PAC ¶ 17.


         On November 16, 2015, Brandt filed a four-count federal Complaint. Compl. (ECF No. 1). The named Defendants are Landry, Nash, and MDOC Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick.[2] Compl. ¶¶ 5-6. In Count One, Brandt alleges racial discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 21-22. Count Two alleges age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 623. Compl. ¶¶ 23-24. Count Three alleges retaliation claims under Title VII and the ADEA. Compl. ¶¶ 25-26. And in Count Four, Brandt alleges violations of the Veteran Employment Opportunity Act (“VEOA”), 5 U.S.C. 3330a, et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 27-28. The Complaint and the Plaintiff's briefing also reference disability discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. See Compl. ¶ 1.; Pl.'s Opp'n to MDOC's Mot. to Dismiss 9 (ECF No. 17). The Plaintiff does not make clear which counts pertain to which Defendants.

         The Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. Nash's Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 9); Me. Dept. Of Corrections & Landry's Mot. to Dismiss (“MDOC's Mot. to Dismiss”) (ECF No. 10). After filing oppositions to the Defendants' motions to dismiss, Brandt moved for leave to amend his Complaint. (ECF No. 15). The PAC added a Fifth Count for “[r]acial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983” against all of the Defendants. PAC ¶¶ 29-30. The remaining claims and factual allegations in the PAC are identical[3] to the allegations in the original Complaint.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a plaintiff seeking to amend his complaint more than “21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b)” must obtain the written consent of the opposing party or leave of court.[4] Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).

         However, leave to amend should not be granted if, inter alia, the “amendment would be futile.”Steir v. Girl Scouts of the USA, 383 F.3d 7, 12 (1st Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). “ ‘Futility' means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.” Glassman v. Computervision Corp., 90 F.3d 617, 623 (1st Cir. 1996). “In assessing futility, the district court must apply the standard which applies to motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Morgan v. Town of Lexington, 823 F.3d 737, 742 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the “complaint ‘must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The plausibility inquiry consists of two steps:

First, the court must sift through the averments in the complaint, separating conclusory legal allegations (which may be disregarded) from allegations of fact (which must be credited). Second, the court must consider whether the winnowed residue of factual allegations gives rise to a plausible claim to relief.

Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 53 (1st Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Ultimately, the court “must ‘determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support ‘the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable.' ” Cardigan Mountain Sch. v. N.H. Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013)).

         Brandt is proceeding pro se, which weighs “in favor of a liberal reading” of his Complaint. Rodi v. S. New England Sch. Of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 2004). Accordingly, I interpret his pleadings in light of his supplemental submissions in order “to understand the nature and basis of his claims against these defendants.” Wall v. Dion, 257 F.Supp.2d 316, 318 (D. Me. 2003).


         Nash and Landry contend that the claims in the PAC are futile and must be dismissed because they fail to state plausible claims for relief. The MDOC does not oppose Counts One and Three of the PAC, but contends that the remaining claims fail.

         I. Title VII, ADEA & Disability Discrimination-Counts One to Three

         A. ...

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