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Innocent v. Harborone Bank

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 31, 2018





         Emmanuel Innocent (“Innocent” or “Plaintiff”) has filed a Complaint (Docket No. 1) against HarborOne Bank (“HarborOne”), James Blake, president and chief executive officer of HarborOne, Leo Donahue (“Donahue”), senior vice president of HarborOne, Patricia Williams, senior vice president (human resources) of HarborOne, and Carrie O'Halloran (“O'Halloran”), vice president of HarborOne alleging a claim for retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq.

         This Memorandum of Decision and Order addresses Defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket No. 13). For the reasons set forth below, that motion is granted.


         Innocent was hired as an assistant vice president/branch manager by HarborOne in June 2013. HarborOne requested that he start by June 27, 2013, so that he would be eligible for an employee bonus in February 2014. During his tenure, Innocent's branch became a top performer for HarborOne after previously performing near the bottom. At the beginning of 2014, Innocent presented his yearly business plan to his direct supervisor. His plan included a request for an increased cash limit for his branch, which he felt was warranted based on the increased customer base during his tenure. Sometime in 2014, Innocent reminded O'Halloran of the promised bonus. She got upset and referred Innocent to the Human Resources Department. Innocent was told there would be no bonus without any explanation other than that he was not entitled to it. Innocent continued to work six days a week for about four months. Donahue felt he needed to work more and requested he research and write a paper about money laundering as it relates to a client that was recently acquired through his business efforts. He was also asked to be an ambassador to the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. Innocent felt that he was being overworked and told O'Halloran that he may have a heart attack if issues such as the cash limit for his branch weren't solved. O'Halloran just laughed. O'Halloran would get irritated when he shared his and his teams' concern about opening accounts for minors without confirming the identification of the accompanying adult.

         Innocent alleges that the Defendants retaliated against him by: (1) creating a stressful work environment; (2) putting his and his families' lives in danger by secretly submitting damaging and unnecessary reports to government agencies; (3) pressuring him to sign a “mutual agreement”; and (4) denying him access to his personal belongings. He also alleges that due to Defendants' retaliatory conduct, he has been unable to find employment since November 2014.

         Standard of Review[2]

         On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Dismissal is appropriate if plaintiff's well-pleaded facts do not “possess enough heft to show that plaintiff is entitled to relief.” Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 84 (1st Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and original alterations omitted). “The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from the facts alleged in the complaint.” Ocasio-Hernàndez v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2011).


         Whether the Action should be dismissed for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         Defendants assert that Innocent's lone claim must be dismissed because he does not allege he has filed, nor has he ever filed, an administrative charge with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination based on ‘race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,' 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), and its antiretaliation [sic.] provision forbids ‘discriminat[ion] against' an employee or job applicant who, inter alia, has ‘made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in' a Title VII proceeding or investigation, § 2000e-3(a).” Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 53, 126 S.Ct. 2405, 2406 (2006).[3] Title VII requires that an employee alleging a claim for discrimination (including a retaliation claim) file a charge with the EEOC within one hundred and eighty (180) days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, or within three hundred (300) days if the aggrieved employee first filed charges with a State or local agency with authority to grant or seek relief from such practice. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). In this case, Innocent, who left his employment with HarborOne on November 21, 2014[4], had to file his discrimination charge with the EEOC by May 20, 2015 (or by September 17, 2015 if he first filed a discrimination charge with the MCAD). Innocent does not assert in his Complaint that he filed a charge with the EEOC or MCAD. Moreover, in his opposition, Innocent does not state that he filed an administrative complaint, rather he essentially argues that he can pursue his Title VII retaliation claim without having done so. He is incorrect. Simply put, his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies bars his Title VII claim and his Complaint must be dismissed. See Jorge v. Rumsfeld, 404 F.3d 556, 564 (1st Cir.2005).

         Whether the Complaint should be Dismissed because Innocent Released Defendants From All Claims

         Defendants argue that Innocent's Complaint must be dismissed because he is barred from bringing claims relating to his employment, including those brought under Title VII, against HarborOne and its officers and employees by the General Release he signed as part of the Separation Agreement “executed between the parties.” Since I have found that Plaintiff's claims ...

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