Lee v. Dep't of Children & Families

Decision Date15 April 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 3:11cv1910(AWT).
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesLinda A. LEE, Plaintiff, v. DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, and Joette Katz in her official capacity, Defendants.


Francis H. Morrison, III, Nicholas Andrew Geiger, Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP, Hartford, CT, Lauren S. Albert, Aaron J. Feigenbaum, Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider, LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

Peter M. Haberlandt, Office of the Attorney General, Hartford, CT, for Defendants.


ALVIN W. THOMPSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Linda Lee (Lee) asserts claims against the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Joette Katz (Katz) in her official capacity as Commissioner of DCF, for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”); the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq.; the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen.Stat. § 46a–60 (“CFEPA”); and the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Retaliation Act, Conn. Gen.Stat. § 31–290a (“CWCRA”). The defendants have moved to dismiss most of the claims set forth in the Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 40) (the “Complaint”) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Their motion is being granted in part and denied in part.


“The complaint, which [the court] must accept as true for purposes of testing its sufficiency, alleges the following circumstances.” Monsky v. Moraghan, 127 F.3d 243, 244 (2d Cir.1997).

Around December 1992, Lee began working for DCF, where she was originally responsible for working with victims of child abuse. Approximately six years later, she was promoted to the position of Pupil Services Specialist. Around 2001, Lee—along most of her department—was transferred to the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (“CJTS”) in Middletown, Connecticut.

Shortly after the transfer to CJTS, Lee “began to develop medical problems including, but not limited to, respiratory problems, reoccurring bronchitis, short-term memory loss, cognitive and neurological impairments, and skin rashes, for which she sought medical treatment.” (Compl. ¶ 13.) She was diagnosed as having a number of medical issues, including allergic rhinitis, chronic sinusitis and asthma, which affects several major life activities including breathing. Lee “was told by her doctor that her disabilities were attributed to mold which was present at her workplace.” (Compl. ¶ 14.) Around January 20, 2004, Lee took a medical leave of absence from work due to the worsening of her medical condition. Around April 14, 2004, Lee filed a Worker's Compensation claim based on her medical condition.

“Prior to 2004, [Lee] had positive performance reviews and yearly raises. She did not receive reviews or raises once she went on medical leave.” (Compl. ¶ 32.)

When Lee returned to DCF in or around October 2004 for a 90–day temporary assignment, she was assigned “solely paperwork rather than the face-to-face social work she had done previously.” (Compl. ¶ 19.) Riverview Hospital, where Lee was placed for this temporary assignment, had a history of mold and the defendants knowingly placed her in an environment that exacerbated her medical condition. After a few days working at Riverview Hospital, Lee had an allergic reaction that required a visit to the emergency room. Due to the allergic reaction, Lee missed approximately 15 days of the 90–day assignment.

The plaintiff was then out of work until after April 2008. In or around April 2008, the defendants offered Lee employment at DCF's office at 55 W. Main Street in Meriden, Connecticut (“55 W. Main). Lee informed the defendants “that 55 W. Main did not accommodate her disability because an investigation conducted in or about 2006 revealed that it contained levels of mold which her doctor opined would not make it a medically safe working environment for someone of her sensitivity. [Lee] then requested [the defendants] to accommodate her by offering her a position at a location which was medically safe. [The defendants] refused this request for accommodation.” (Compl. ¶ 24.) On or about May 5, 2008, Lee began work at 55 W. Main. Within two days, she suffered an allergic reaction that required medical attention. “Pursuant to her doctor's recommendation, [Lee] went back on medical leave on or about May 7, 2008.” (Compl. ¶ 25.) Around November 12, 2008, Lee attempted to return to work at 55 W. Main, but again experienced an allergic reaction that prompted her to seek medical treatment and again follow her doctor's recommendation to take medical leave.

Lee kept the defendants “aware of her medical condition and provided up-to-date medical documentation, including doctor's notes.” (Compl. ¶ 27.)

Around February 19, 2009, the defendants gave Lee “notice that her employment would be terminated due to alleged neglect of duty and attendance effective on or about March 5, 2009.” (Compl. ¶ 28.) Although the defendants had a policy that all employees would be placed on a 90–day probationary period prior to termination, they did not follow that policy with Lee. In 21 years as an employee of the State of Connecticut, Lee had never been disciplined for neglect of duty or attendance.

On or about June 12, 2009, Lee filed charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and she timely filed suit upon receipt of a right to sue letter.


[T]he standards for reviewing dismissals granted under 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) are identical.” Moore v. PaineWebber Inc., 189 F.3d 165, 169 n. 3 (2d Cir.1999). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and must draw inferences in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s] devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (citations omitted). However, the plaintiff must plead “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “The function of a motion to dismiss is ‘merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof.’ Mytych v. May Dept. Stores Co., 34 F.Supp.2d 130, 131 (D.Conn.1999) (quoting Ryder Energy Distribution v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir.1984)). “The issue on a motion to dismiss is not whether the plaintiff will prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support his claims.” United States v. Yale New Haven Hosp., 727 F.Supp. 784, 786 (D.Conn.1990) (citing Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683).

III. DISCUSSIONA. Eleventh Amendment Immunity and ADA Title I Claims (Counts I and II)

The defendants move under Rule 12(b)(1) to dismiss the plaintiff's ADA Title I claims in Counts I and II, except to the extent the plaintiff seeks prospective injunctive relief against Katz, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The defendants contend that sovereign immunity bars such claims against them.

The Eleventh Amendment provides that [t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. “The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal courts lack jurisdiction not only over suits against a state brought by citizens of other states, as the literal language of the Amendment provides, but also over suits against such states brought by their own citizens.” Dwyer v. Regan, 777 F.2d 825, 835 (2d Cir.1985) (citations omitted).

The Eleventh Amendment does not bar a claim where the state has consented to be sued or Congress has abrogated the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 73, 120 S.Ct. 631, 145 L.Ed.2d 522 (2000) (noting that “the Constitution does not provide for federal jurisdiction over suits against nonconsenting States” and that Congress may abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity by unequivocally expressing an intent to abrogate that immunity pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority). Connecticut has not waived its immunity from suit under Title I of the ADA. Furthermore, Congress did not validly abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit under Title I. See Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 360, 121 S.Ct. 955, 148 L.Ed.2d 866 (2001) ( We decide here whether employees of the State of Alabama may recover money damages by reason of the State's failure to comply with the provisions of Title I of the [ADA]. We hold that such suits are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.”); id at 368–74 (examining whether Congress abrogated states' Eleventh Amendment immunity under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment when enacting...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 cases
  • Gerald v. Univ. of S. Miss.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • January 15, 2014
    ...of a disabled employee's request for accommodation starts the clock running on the day it occurs."); Lee v. Dep't of Children & Families, 939 F. Supp. 2d 160, 170 (D. Conn. 2013) (providing that denials of requests for accommodation constitute discrete acts not subject to the continuing vio......
  • Kanciper v. Lato
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • November 7, 2013
    ...official capacities, the applicability of the Eleventh Amendment bar depends on the form of relief sought.” Lee v. Dep't of Children & Families, 939 F.Supp.2d 160 (D.Conn.2013). Money damages cannot be recovered from state officers sued in their official capacities. See e.g., Will v. Michig......
  • Riley v. Cuomo
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • April 16, 2018
    ...bar [to suits against individuals in their official capacities] depends on the form of relief sought." Lee v. Dep't of Children & Families, 939 F.Supp.2d 160, 165-66 (D. Conn. 2013). Money damages cannot be recovered from state officers sued in their official capacities. See e.g., Will, 491......
  • Jte Enters., Inc. v. Cuomo
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • February 15, 2014
    ...bar [to suits against individuals in their official capacities] depends on the form of relief sought.” Lee v. Dep't of Children & Families, 939 F.Supp.2d 160, 165–66 (D.Conn.2013). Money damages cannot be recovered from state officers sued in their official capacities. See e.g., Will, 491 U......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT