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Mattei v. Dunbar

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 4, 2015

BENJAMIN A. DUNBAR, MASSCORR Supervising Instructor; MICHAEL WALKER, MASSCORR Supervising Instructor; BRETT GREEN, MASSCORR Supervising Instructor; GARY RODEN, MASSCORR Supervising Instructor; and Lt. STEPHEN GATEWOOD, I.P.S. Unit Commander, Defendants.


F. DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, District Judge.

This action arises out of alleged retaliation by a prison employee against an inmate at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk ("MCI-Norfolk"). The complaint alleges that defendant Benjamin Dunbar, a supervisor in one of the industrial shops, refused to promote plaintiff Alexander Mattei, denied him good-time credit, terminated him from his position in the industrial shop, and recruited another inmate to harm him in retaliation for grievances that Mattei had filed about Dunbar. It further alleges that other prison employees-defendants Michael Walker, Brett Green, Gary Roden, and Stephen Gatewood-failed to investigate or prevent the retaliatory acts.

Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

Unless otherwise noted, the facts are presented as stated in the complaint.

In October 2011, Alexander Mattei, an inmate at MCI-Norfolk, began work as a janitor in the Metal 1 industrial shop. Initially, he was assigned to work under the supervision of Benjamin Dunbar, a supervising instructor. When another inmate left his position as the operator of a plasma cutter machine, Mattei asked Dunbar if he could be trained to fill that position. Dunbar refused and allegedly threatened Mattei with a disciplinary report for rejecting his job assignment.

The following day, Dunbar transferred Mattei to Metal 2, where he worked under a new supervisor. While working in Metal 2, Mattei received training in welding, metal fabrication, and grinding, although his pay remained at the rate of pay for a janitor.

In April 2012, Mattei was transferred back to Metal 1, and again placed under Dunbar's supervision. Two weeks later, an inmate left the shop, vacating a position. Mattei requested transfer to the position, which would include a raise in wages. Allegedly, Dunbar refused the request and instead hired an inmate with less seniority and "questionable training." (Compl. ¶ 19).

Mattei submitted an informal grievance against Dunbar, alleging a discriminatory hiring practice in selecting inmates for positions and "pay slots." The institutional grievance coordinator allegedly provided a copy of the informal grievance to Michael Walker, another supervising instructor at MCI, who in turn provided it to an officer of the Inner Perimeter Security Unit ("IPS"), who then showed the grievance to Dunbar.[1] After seeing the grievance, Dunbar allegedly called Mattei into his office and stated that he had not hired Mattei for the open position because he lacked experience and capability. Brett Green, another supervisor, was allegedly present for that conversation. Mattei was then assigned to work as an assistant to another inmate.

In May 2012, Mattei was transferred back to Metal 2. In September, he approached the supervising instructor and requested a permanent transfer to Metal 2. He then approached Dunbar with the same request. Both Dunbar and the supervising instructor of Metal 2 allegedly agreed to the transfer.

At the end of September 2012, Mattei received a "Deduction from Sentence Report" that documented his earned good time from July 2011 to July 2012. The report showed that he had not been granted earned good time in April 2012, the month that he had filed the informal grievance against Dunbar. He approached Dunbar about the matter but, according to the complaint, Dunbar reacted dismissively. Mattei then approached Walker, who allegedly responded that he would investigate the matter. Walker did not inform Mattei of the results of any investigation. Mattei also asked Gary Roden, Superintendent of MCI-Norfolk, about the reason for the lack of earned good time in April 2012.

The supervisor of Metal 2 told Mattei to "let the issue go." (Compl. ¶ 37). However, Mattei told him that he would file a formal grievance. He also asked the supervisor about a position with higher pay that would soon be available, and the supervisor told him that he was not eligible because he had not been permanently transferred to Metal 2. According to the complaint, Dunbar then approved the transfer to Metal 2 a second time, but the Metal 2 supervisor told him that the transfer would not occur and that he had been reassigned back to Metal 1.

On October 9, 2012, Mattei was told that he was to report to Metal 1 beginning the following Monday. Around the same time, Roden informed him that he had not received earned good time due to a report of unsatisfactory performance. On October 10, 2012, Mattei filed a formal grievance, alleging that Dunbar had withheld earned good time because Mattei had filed an informal grievance. (Compl., Ex. A at 1).

On October 15, 2012, Mattei was told not to go into work in the morning, and reported for the afternoon shift instead. Dunbar informed him that he was to be assigned to the Metal 1 paint crew. The following day, Mattei overheard ...

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