United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Patricia Keigney-Rodriguez initiated this action against the
President and Fellows of Harvard College, doing business as
Harvard University Health and Human Services, alleging
discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 (“ADA”). [ECF No. 1]
following allegations, as set forth in the complaint, are
taken as true for the purposes of the motion to dismiss.
U.S. ex rel. Hutcheson v. Blackstone Med., Inc., 647
F.3d 377, 383 (1st Cir. 2011).
was employed as an allergy nurse at Harvard University Health
Services (“HUHS”) from August 24, 2009 to March
15, 2016. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 38. In December 2012,
Plaintiff advised HUHS that she needed to take time off from
work due to her Adult Deficit Disorder, which had worsened
around that time and affected her ability to concentrate at
home and work due to debilitating panic attacks. Id.
¶¶ 10-11, 13-14. HUHS approved Plaintiff's
request, and Plaintiff took three leaves of absence in total.
Id. ¶¶ 16-17. After returning from
approved leave, Plaintiff claims that her supervisors
targeted her with multiple disciplinary actions, that her
performance evaluation was “negatively impacted,
” and that her supervisors issued an unjust verbal
warning against her. Id. ¶¶ 19-20, 23.
Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that her supervisors crafted
new practices and procedures that changed her employment
conditions to make satisfactory completion of duties
virtually impossible. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. After
she completed the HUHS reasonable accommodation form,
Plaintiff says she was treated differently because she
availed herself of accommodations made available to disabled
individuals. Id. ¶¶ 24, 30.
alleges that she attempted to use HUHS's dispute
resolution process during her employment at HUHS, but that it
seemed designed to only protect HUHS. Id.
¶¶ 31-32. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that she
met with HUHS's Omnibus person, Lydia Cummings, on
numerous occasions to discuss the ongoing issues with her
supervisors. Id. ¶¶ 34-35. Ms. Cummings
shared a book on workplace bullying with Plaintiff, and,
according to Plaintiff, Ms. Cummings stated, “This is
what is happening to you.” Id. ¶¶
eventually signed a separation agreement on February 25,
2016, and her employment with HUHS ended on March 15, 2016.
Id. ¶ 38; [ECF No. 11 Ex. A ¶ 5]
(“S.A.”). The separation agreement, in relevant
part, afforded Plaintiff “special benefits, ”
such as a lump sum payment, outplacement services, and a
letter of reference, and encouraged Plaintiff to seek the
advice of an attorney before signing. S.A. ¶¶ 4,
6-7. In “exchange for the special benefits”
Plaintiff “discharge[d] Harvard . . . from any and all
claims . . . arising under . . . the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990.” Id. ¶ 8.
Plaintiff contends that she had no options available when
Defendant presented the separation agreement to her and that
the separation agreement attempted to circumvent
Defendant's obligation under the ADA to provide a
reasonable accommodation. Compl. ¶¶ 39-41.
Plaintiff does not allege that she did not receive the
benefits of the agreement but instead contends that HUHS has
never sufficiently addressed her ADA requests for
accommodation and relief from retaliation. Id.
claims she has exhausted the administrative remedies
available to her. Id. ¶ 50. On March 24, 2017,
Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action. Id.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all
well-pleaded facts, analyze those facts in the light most
hospitable to the plaintiff's theory, and draw all
reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the
plaintiff. Hutcheson, 647 F.3d at 383. Although
detailed factual allegations are not required, a pleading
must set forth “more than labels and
conclusions.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To avoid dismissal, a complaint must
set forth “factual allegations, either direct or
inferential, respecting each material element necessary to
sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.”
Gagliardi v. Sullivan, 513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir.
2008) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Further,
the facts alleged, when taken together, must be sufficient to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” A.G. ex rel. Maddox v. Elsevier, Inc.,
732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). “[T]he court must determine whether
the . . . factual content allows a reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted).
argues that the Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) because (1) Plaintiff released her claims
against Defendant, including all claims pled in the
Complaint, when she executed the separation agreement and
release, and (2) Plaintiff ratified the separation agreement
and release by accepting the benefits provided thereunder.
[ECF No. 11]. Plaintiff contends that the separation
agreement should be excluded from the Rule 12(b)(6) review
because it is not central or integral to Plaintiff's
claims of ADA violations and retaliation. [ECF No. 13]. The
key question is whether this Court can properly consider the
separation agreement and release in its determination on
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and, if so, whether
Plaintiff's claims are barred by the separation
Consideration of the Separation Agreement and
general, “[i]f, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . .
matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not
excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for
summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).
The courts, however, “have made narrow exceptions for
documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the
parties; for official public records; for documents central
to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently
referred to in the complaint.” Hogan v. E.
Enters./Bos. Gas, 165 F.Supp.2d 55, 58 (D. Mass. 2001);
see also Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, 772 F.3d 63, 74
(1st Cir. 2014). “[W]hen ‘a complaint's
factual allegations are expressly linked to-and admittedly
dependent upon-a document (the authenticity of which is not
challenged), ' then the court can review it upon a motion
to dismiss.” Alt. Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire
& Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 34 (1st Cir. 2001)
(quoting Beddall v. State St. Bank & Trust Co.,
137 F.3d 12, 17 (1st Cir. 1998)). “Although
‘there is no requirement that the pleader attach a copy
of the writing on which his action or defense is based[, ] .
. . when plaintiff fails to ...