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Santiago v. Action for Boston Community Development, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 31, 2018




         Plaintiff Jose Manuel Santiago alleges that Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (“ABCD”)[1] and Henryce Jackson-Gumes (together “Defendants”) harassed, failed to hire, and defamed him, and interfered with his potential employment relationships. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Santiago filed this lawsuit pro se on November 14, 2017 [ECF No. 1], and later supplemented his complaint through an April 4, 2018 letter to Judge Gorton and a more definite statement filed on July 12, 2018 [ECF Nos. 8, 21].[2] This factual summary presumes the accuracy of Plaintiff's allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.

         Mr. Santiago was previously employed as a Bilingual Care Manager / Case Manager at Boston Senior Home Care (“BSHC”), an organization that specializes in linking older adults and individuals living with disabilities with social services. [ECF Nos. 1-3, 21 ¶ 6].[3] At some point in or around 2012, concerns related to sexual harassment, race discrimination, sabotage of work, and theft emerged, and Mr. Santiago left BSHC. [ECF No. 1-3].[4] Mr. Santiago and BSHC agreed that he resigned, that BSHC would provide him a letter of recommendation, and that BSHC would not interfere with future employment opportunities. Id.

         In 2015, Mr. Santiago arranged a July 27 interview with ABCD for a social work position, expecting that he would be interviewed for a Monday-Friday, 40 hour-per-week job. [ECF No. 21 ¶¶ 1, 39]. Although Mr. Santiago was enthusiastic and arrived early for his interview, it did not go as he had hoped. Id. ¶¶ 2, 5. ABCD Supervisor Henryce Jackson-Gumes interviewed Mr. Santiago and asked about his prior work experience at BSHC. [ECF No. 8 ¶ 3, No. 21 ¶¶ 6, 7]. After Mr. Santiago initially responded that he “resigned, ” Ms. Jackson-Gumes continued questioning Mr. Santiago about his experience at BSHC, causing him to feel that he was the victim of “NSA/gestapo”-style questioning. [ECF No. 21 ¶ 5]. Ms. Jackson-Gumes asked Mr. Santiago what his supervisor or Mr. Pina, a BSHC human resources employee, would say about him. Id. ¶¶ 13, 25. Mr. Santiago replied that his supervisor would say nothing about him, and that it would be a violation of BSHC's protocols and procedures for Mr. Pina, whom he did not know, to provide information about him beyond that he had worked there for three and a half years and then resigned. Id. ¶¶ 14, 27-29.

         During the interview, Ms. Jackson-Gumes explained that the available full-time positions had been filled, but that she had a position working weekends from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. that she could offer Mr. Santiago. Id. ¶¶ 32, 33. Mr. Santiago replied that the weekend position had not been announced and was not the position he wanted to interview for. Id. ¶ 34. He asked why he had been invited to interview if there were not full-time vacancies. Id. Ms. Jackson-Gumes stated that she was interested in hiring Mr. Santiago because he was bilingual and the majority of ABCD's clients were Spanish speaking. Id. ¶ 36. Mr. Santiago said that he was willing to cover weekends, so long as his total hours would be 35 to 40 per-week and not interfere with his Church attendance. Id. ¶ 37. Ms. Jackson-Gumes again stated that the full-time positions had already been given to other applicants, but Mr. Santiago claims that she was untruthful because as of August 10, 2015, the full-time position for which Mr. Santiago had applied continued to be advertised. Id. ¶¶ 40, 41.

         Mr. Santiago complains that instead of asking about his prior work experience and what his prior supervisors would say about him, Ms. Jackson-Gumes should have explored what he liked about social work, delved into how he has interacted with clients, or asked how he likes to unwind at the end of a workday-all questions that he would have happily answered. Id. ¶¶ 16- 21.


         To evaluate a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, 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. United States ex rel. Hutcheson v. Blackstone Med., Inc., 647 F.3d 377, 383 (1st Cir. 2011). 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). A “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” is not enough. Id. 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).

         The First Circuit has noted that “[t]he plausibility standard invites a two-step pavane.” Id. “At the first step, the court ‘must separate the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).'” Id. (quoting Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012)). “At the second step, the court must determine whether the remaining factual content allows a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted). “The make-or-break standard . . . is that the combined allegations, taken as true, must state a plausible, not a merely conceivable, case for relief.” Sepulveda-Villarini v. Dep't of Educ. of P.R., 628 F.3d 25, 29 (1st Cir. 2010). “Although evaluating the plausibility of a legal claim requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense, the court may not disregard properly pled factual allegations, even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.” Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         The Court is “solicitous of the obstacles that pro se litigants face, and while such litigants are not exempt from procedural rules, [it] hold[s] pro se pleadings to less demanding standards than those drafted by lawyers and endeavors, within reasonable limits, to guard against the loss of pro se claims due to technical defects.” Dutil v. Murphy, 550 F.3d 154, 158 (1st Cir. 2008); see also FDIC v. Anchor Properties, 13 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 1994). The Court is also required to generously construe arguments that a pro se Plaintiff makes in his or her briefing. Tyree v. Foxx, 835 F.3d 35, 46 (1st Cir. 2016), cert. denied sub nom. Tyree v. Chao, 137 S.Ct. 1242 (2017).


         A. ...

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