Montalvo-Figueroa v. DNA Auto Corp.

Decision Date05 November 2019
Docket NumberCivil No. 19-1021 (FAB)
Citation414 F.Supp.3d 213
Parties Amarilys MONTALVO-FIGUEROA, Plaintiff, v. DNA AUTO CORP. d/b/a Kia De Rio Grande and/or Adriel Auto Kia and/or Adriel Nissan; Juan Del Valle-Martínez; John and Jane Roe; Insurance Co. ABC, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico

Efraim A. De Luna-Colon, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiff.

Victor Manuel Rivera-Rios, Rivera Colon, Rivera Torres, and Rios Berly, San Juan, PR, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

BESOSA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Amarilys Montalvo-Figueroa ("Montalvo") initiated this employment discrimination lawsuit. (Docket No. 1.) Defendants DNA Auto Corp. ("DNA Auto") and Juan Del Valle-Martínez ("Del Valle") (collectively, "defendants") moved to dismiss Montalvo's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (6). (Docket No. 19.) Defendants' motion to dismiss, id., is DENIED for the reasons set forth in the body of this opinion.

I. Background

The Court draws the following facts from the complaint. (Docket No. 1 at pp. 2–11.) The Court "take[s] as true the allegations of the complaint, as well as any inferences [the Court] can draw from it in the plaintiff's favor." Zenón v. Guzmán, 924 F.3d 611, 615 (1st Cir. 2019).1

The Court also draws facts from the materials appended to defendants' motion and Montalvo's response.2 (Docket No. 25, Exs. 2–5; Docket No. 19, Exs. 1–2.) These appended materials are "documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; ... official public records; ... documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or ... documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint." Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993) ; see Newman v. Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc., 901 F.3d 19, 25 (1st Cir. 2018) ; Brennan v. Zafgen, Inc., 853 F.3d 606, 609–10 (1st Cir. 2017). No party disputes the authenticity of any of the appended materials. There is ample precedential support for considering Montalvo's administrative charge of discrimination, (Docket No. 19, Ex. 1,) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")'s responsive authorization to sue, (Docket No. 19, Ex. 2,) as linked to her complaint, see, e.g., Jorge v. Rumsfeld, 404 F.3d 556, 559 (1st Cir. 2005) ; Barber v. Verizon New Eng., Inc., Civ. No. 05-390, 2005 WL 3479834, at *1 n.1 (D.R.I. Dec. 20, 2005) ; Maldonado-Cordero v. AT & T, 73 F. Supp. 2d 177, 185 (D.P.R. 1999) (Pieras, J.), overruled on other grounds by Rosario Toledo v. Distribuidora Kikuet, Inc., 151 D.P.R. 634 (2000), as recognized in Bonilla-Pérez v. Citibank NA, Inc., 892 F. Supp. 2d 361, 366 (D.P.R. 2012) (Casellas, J.). Courts have also confirmed the propriety of considering, in the context of a motion to dismiss, the correspondence between Montalvo's attorney and the EEOC. (Docket No. 25, Exs. 2–5); see, e.g., Jorge, 404 F.3d at 559 (holding that correspondence between an aggrieved person's attorney and EEOC may be considered in the context of a motion to dismiss). In any case, no party disputes that the Court may properly consider the appended materials. Fire & Police Pension Ass'n of Colo. v. Abiomed, Inc., 778 F.3d 228, 232 n.2 (1st Cir. 2015) (explaining, on review of a motion to dismiss, that the court would consider correspondence between a federal agency and regulated entity and that "[n]either party disputes that the court may properly consider these materials").

Montalvo was a sales manager at a car dealership owned or operated by DNA Auto or one of its affiliates. See Docket No. 1 at p. 3. She was the only female sales manager at the dealership. Id. at p. 10.

Del Valle is a DNA Auto employee. Id. at p. 3. Del Valle is male. Id. He is not a supervisor. See id.

On February 24, 2018, Montalvo was speaking with coworkers in the lunchroom at work. Id. at p. 3. Del Valle, with whom she was not speaking, slapped Montalvo on her butt. Id. at p. 4. Montalvo had not consented to the slapping. Id. The slap was forceful. Id. at pp. 3–4.

Montalvo exclaimed, "listen, you are being totally disrespectful! What lack of respect is that?" Id. at p. 4. Del Valle did not respond. Id. He proceeded to leave the lunchroom, telling Montalvo to "move because she was standing in his way." Id. Before leaving, Del Valle stared menacingly at Montalvo. Id. Montalvo took note of Del Valle's attitude. Id. She felt embarrassed and humiliated in front of her coworkers. Id.

Montalvo reported the incident to her general manager and to human resources. Id. at pp. 4–5. She later received a call from her general manager in which he referred to Montalvo as "my little one." Id. at p. 5. Additionally, the general manager stated that Del Valle "is innocent" and remarked that "look, even I would've." Id. Montalvo felt even more upset and humiliated, and ended the phone call without responding. Id.

The phone call left Montalvo feeling angry, offended, and embarrassed. Id. at p. 6. Over the next days, Montalvo was sleepless, nervous, frustrated, fearful, and without appetite. Id.

A few days later, Del Valle parked his vehicle directly in front of Montalvo's office. Id. He again stared menacingly at her. Id. Montalvo was nervous and uncomfortable, and felt that DNA Auto had not taken precautions to keep Del Valle away from her. Id.

On March 1, Montalvo met with representatives of the human resources office. Id. at p. 7. The representatives informed Montalvo they were investigating the incident. See id. at pp. 7, 10. They also asked Montalvo how she would solve this matter and suggested prohibiting Del Valle from coming near Montalvo's work area. Id. at p. 7. Montalvo said DNA Auto should resolve the issue according to applicable laws, rules, and company regulations. Id.

After interviewing Montalvo, a human resources representative noticed she was affected emotionally and encouraged Montalvo to take some of her vacation days. Id. at p. 7. Although Montalvo demurred, one of the representatives told Montalvo that her vacation leave would commence that day and last until March 10. Id. at p. 8. When she went to her office to retrieve her belongings, she was told she could not be there. Id.

Montalvo took the forced vacation. See id. While on vacation, Montalvo's vacation days were depleted. Id. Del Valle was permitted to continue working. Id.

Over the ensuing days, Montalvo visited two medical professionals. Id. at p. 9. On March 6, she saw a psychologist. The psychologist suggested she visit the EEOC. Id. On March 8, she saw a doctor. Id. The doctor gave her a medical excuse for sick leave until March 12. Id.

On March 9, Montalvo filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. (Docket No. 19, Ex. 1 at p. 1.) The filing states that discrimination occurred between February 24 to March 9. Id. It notes the discrimination was based on sex. Id. The filing describes the particulars of the charge as follows:

On February 24, 2018 I was harassed by Juan (Gruero). I notified Human Resources. I was sent home while [DNA Auto] performs the investigation.
The same day my supervisor calls me (Omar) and tells me that "he is innocent, I would have done the same thing"
I understand that I was sexually harassed and that Human Resources has not taken the appropriate actions.
See Title VII, 1964

Id.

When Montalvo returned to work on March 13, a human resources representative met her in her office. (Docket No. 1 at p. 9.) The representative asked Montalvo, "My, do you still work here? I thought that [DNA Auto] had given you a few thousand dollars so you would not to return to work." Id.

That afternoon, Montalvo met with a psychologist. Id. Montalvo then took medical leave until March 18. Id.

Montalvo returned to work on March 19. Id. She discovered that all her managerial and administrative duties had been stripped. Id. She had no duties or tasks to perform. Id. Her supervisor, or someone else assigned by him, assumed all her duties. Id.

Over the next few days, Del Valle twice came near Montalvo's work area in an intimidating manner. Id. at p. 10. She felt violated, nervous, and frustrated. Id.

At some point thereafter, Montalvo's tenure as a DNA Auto employee ended. See id. at p. 9.

On July 31, the EEOC mailed a document entitled "Notice of Right to Sue." (Docket No. 19, Ex. 2 at p. 1.) The document states that "[l]ess than 180 days have passed since the filing of this charge, but I have determined that it is unlikely that the EEOC will be able to complete its administrative processing within 180 days from the filing of this charge" and "[t]he EEOC is terminating its processing of this charge." Id. The document also notes that it was issued on Montalvo's request and informs that a "lawsuit under Title VII ... must be filed in a federal or state court within 90 days of ... receipt of this notice; or your right to sue based on this charge will be lost." Id. (emphasis omitted).

The EEOC sent the July 31 letter to an incorrect address. See Docket No. 25, Ex. 3 at p. 5. It appears there were two errors leading to this situation—Montalvo provided the EEOC with her physical address rather than her mailing address, and the EEOC made a typographical error in addressing the letter to Montalvo's physical address. See id. at p. 1. Postal authorities marked the letter "insufficient address" and it was "return[ed] to sender" on August 7. Id. at pp. 1, 5.

On August 24, an attorney representing Montalvo emailed an EEOC official. (Docket No. 25, Ex. 4 at pp. 5–6.) The attorney noted that Montalvo had requested a right-to-sue letter on June 7th and had not yet received a response. Id. at p. 6. He requested an update and, to the extent necessary, renewed Montalvo's June 7 request. Id.

The next message in the record, dated August 27, suggests the EEOC emailed a copy of the July 31 letter to the attorney, or at least that the attorney had notice of the letter on that date. Id. at p. 4. This is because the attorney stated that the letter appears mailed on July 31, 2018, that Montalvo never received the letter, and that the letter is addressed to a...

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