United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper, United States District Judge.
Nicole Stallworth brings suit against Defendants James
Skerrett, David Shulkin and Eric Sheehan based on events that
occurred during her employment with the United States
Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”). D. 4.
Stallworth's complaint includes a claim for sexual
harassment and sexual battery under Title VII against Shulkin
and Skerrett (Count 1), a claim for retaliation under Title
VII against Shulkin and Sheehan (Count 2), a claim for race
discrimination under Section 1981 against Shulkin and
Skerrett (Count 3), and claims under state law for
intentional infliction of emotional distress, false
imprisonment, and assault and battery against Skerrett (Count
5). D. 4 at 6-8. Shulkin and Sheehan move to dismiss Count
1, Count 2, and Count 3 against them. D. 27. For the
foregoing reasons, the Defendants' motion, D. 27, is
ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.
Standard of Review
evaluating a motion to dismiss, “non-conclusory factual
allegations in the complaint must  be treated as
true.” Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640
F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). The Court is required to
“view the facts of the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiffs, and to resolve any ambiguities
in their favor.” Id. at 17.
following allegations are taken from the complaint, D. 4,
and, for the purposes of considering the motion to dismiss,
the Court treats them as true. Stallworth began working for
the VA in its campus at Brockton, Massachusetts, in June
2012. D. 4 ¶ 8. Stallworth's direct supervisor was
Skerrett. D. 4 ¶ 11. During Stallworth's employment,
Stallworth and Skerrett were the only two black employees
working for the VA in Brockton. D. 4 ¶ 12. Stallworth
was 27 years old and Skerrett was 60 years old during
relevant period. D. 4 ¶¶ 6, 12.
November 2013, Skerrett made a sexually harassing comment to
Stallworth about cooking dinner for Stallworth. D. 4 ¶
15. Stallworth responded that the comment was inappropriate
from a married man and that Stallworth was not interested in
Skerrett. D. 4 ¶ 15. Skerrett continued to make sexually
harassing comments to Stallworth and Stallworth would
continue to reject his advances. D. 4 ¶ 18.
Skerrett's comments became more sexually explicit over
time. D. 4 ¶ 19.
January 2014, Skerrett restrained Stallworth inside a small
file room and attempted to kiss her without her consent. D. 4
¶ 20. This happened again on three other occasions
between January 2014 and March 2014. D. 4 ¶ 21. Other
female coworkers expressed to Stallworth that Skerrett was
“dangerous” and known to attempt to trap women
inside the file room. D. 4 ¶ 24. In February 2014,
Stallworth filed an application to transfer to a different
department, but her request to transfer was ignored. D. 4
about March 12, 2014, Skerrett grabbed Stallworth's
vagina as Stallworth was exiting the file room. D. 4 ¶
27. After this incident, Stallworth stopped attending work.
D. 4 ¶ 30. In April 2014, Stallworth reported the
incident to police from the VA. D. 4 ¶ 34. Detective Joy
from the VA police interviewed Stallworth regarding the
incident. D. 4 ¶ 35. During that interview, which was
also attended by a local union representative, Stallworth
asked Joy whether there was anywhere else that Stallworth
should report the incident. D. 4 ¶ 37. Both Joy and the
union representative said that Stallworth did not need to
report the incident anywhere else. D. 4 ¶ 37. Stallworth
also contacted Eric Sheehan, who was then the Chief Financial
Officer of the Brockton campus of the VA, D. 4 ¶¶
4, 39, and James Tavares, who was an officer at the Brockton
campus of the VA whose responsibilities included handling
cases of employee misconduct, to inform them that she would
not return to work because she did not feel safe around
Skerrett. D. 4 ¶ 39. Stallworth asked Tavares whether
there was anywhere else that she needed to report the assault
and Tavares responded that she could talk to the
“employee assistance program, ” without
mentioning the Office of Resolution Management
(“ORM”) at the VA. D. 4 ¶ 40. Sheehan also
did not mention the ORM in his communications with
Stallworth. D. 4 ¶ 41.
2014, Sheehan informed Stallworth that she would be
considered “absent without leave” if she did not
return to work. D. 4 ¶ 43. Stallworth attempted to
return to work, but experienced a panic attack and symptoms
of post-traumatic stress disorder when she was in the office.
D. 4 ¶ 44. Stallworth was terminated in September 2014.
D. 4 ¶ 45. Stallworth did not learn that she had the
option of contacting a counselor from the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) regarding her
experience until April 2016. D. 4 ¶ 47.
has been the United States Secretary for Veterans Affairs
since February 13, 2017. D. 4 ¶ 2. He was preceded by
Acting Secretary Robert Snyder. D. 4 ¶ 2.
filed a complaint on March 11, 2017. D. 1. She then filed an
amended complaint on June 13, 2017. D. 4. Defendants Shulkin
and Sheehan filed a motion to dismiss on September 14, 2017.
D. 27. The Court heard argument on the ...