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Semmami v. UG2 LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 24, 2019




         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Chama Semmami (“Semmami”) has filed this lawsuit against Defendants UG2 LLC (“UG2”) and Agostinho Correia (“Correia”) (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (“Title VII”) (Counts I-IV) and Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B (Counts V-X) and negligence (Count XI). D. 1. Defendants have moved to dismiss. D. 6. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES IN PART and ALLOWS IN PART Defendants' motion.

         II. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must determine if the facts alleged “plausibly narrate a claim for relief.” Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Reading the complaint “as a whole, ” the Court must conduct a two-step, context-specific inquiry. García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013). First, the Court must perform a close reading of the claim to distinguish the factual allegations from the conclusory legal allegations contained therein. Id. Factual allegations must be accepted as true, while conclusory legal conclusions are not credited. Id. Second, the Court must determine whether the factual allegations present a “reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). In sum, the complaint must provide sufficient factual allegations for the Court to find the claim “plausible on its face.” García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103 (citation omitted).

         III. Factual Background

         The following facts are taken from Semmami's complaint and the Court accepts them as true for the purposes of resolving this motion.

         UG2 is a Boston-based facility services company that hired Semmami in 2017 to provide cleaning services for its client Athenahealth. D. 1 ¶ 16. Semmami worked as a corporate cleaner. D. 1 ¶ 2. Semmami identifies her race as Moroccan-Arab and her national origin as Moroccan, and she is Muslim. D. 1 ¶ 3.

         Prior to working for UG2, Semmami worked for UNICCO for approximately seven years as a cleaning person. D. 1 ¶ 15. In or about March 2014, Janitronics, Inc. (“Janitronics”) took over the contract of UNICCO, for whom Semmami had worked, and hired her. Id. While working for Janitronics, Defendant Correia was Semmami's manager. D. 1 ¶ 18. Alexi Ventura (“Ventura”), a non-party in this case, was Semmami's supervisor. Id. On or about September 1, 2017, UG2 took the contract over from Janitronics and hired Semmami. D. 1 ¶ 15. Correia continued as Semmami's manager and Ventura continued as her supervisor. D. 1 ¶ 20. Correia provided Semmami with her work assignments, evaluated her work and managed her schedule. D. 1 ¶ 22. Correia also supervised Ventura. D. 1 ¶ 24.

         Semmami alleges that during her employment with UG2, she was subjected to “crude and offensive sexual conduct on a weekly basis.” D. 1 ¶ 36. This conduct included Correia subjecting Semmami to “inappropriate sexual innuendo[s], questions, advances, touching, jokes, gossip, conduct, comments, and leering.” D. 1 ¶ 36. Throughout Semmami's employment, Correia would tell her that she “looked and smelled good while leering at her and moving close to her to inhale.” D. 1 ¶ 37. Correia would “often cradle or hold his genitals over his pants while talking to [Semmami] and/or silently staring directly at her.” D. 1 ¶ 38. Correia would also watch Semmami from dark rooms and surprise her when she entered the room. D. 1 ¶ 40. Semmami alleges that Correia's advances and harassment occurred “nearly every day.” D. 1 ¶ 42. Semmami was afraid to be alone with either Correia or Ventura. D. 1 ¶ 45. Semmami alleges that other employees “tolerated and/or encouraged” Correia's advances. D. 1 ¶ 41. Correia “would frequently spend time in a locked bathroom with other female co-workers, ” which Semmami perceived as “sexual behavior, ” and Correia allegedly would later give these co-workers preferential treatment. D. 1 ¶ 41. Semmami “was often not provided with necessary cleaning supplies to perform her cleaning duties.” D. 1 ¶ 35. She also “frequently requested additional and/or full-time hours.” D. 1 ¶ 29.

         Semmami also alleges that she was “subjected to harassment, discrimination and retaliation because of her race, national origin[] and/or religion” and that her “employer's treatment of her was in marked contrast to the treatment of her non-Moroccan-Arab, non-Moroccan, non-Muslim co-workers.” D. 1 ¶ 49. She alleges that because she is Moroccan-Arab and Muslim, she was “not held to the same standards as her co-workers to her detriment.” Id. Specifically, Correia “would make disparaging comments about [Semmami's] national origin [and] religion . . . .” D. 1 ¶ 50. Semmami further alleges that “[u]pon information and belief, Defendant Correia dislikes Arabs, and possibly even Muslims generally.” D. 1 ¶ 52. Semmami also alleges that in 2016, her Moroccan co-worker resigned from Janitronics because he was discriminated against and that his resignation was “at least partly due to [] Correia's treatment.” D. 1 ¶ 53.

         In August 2017, Semmami filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) against Janitronics alleging that Correia treated her worse than her Hispanic and Cape Verdean co-workers due to her Moroccan national origin and Moroccan Arab race. D. 7-2. The complaint did not list any other bases for discrimination. See id.

         Semmami alleges the unlawful behavior continued after she filed her MCAD complaint. On or about September 15, 2017 (after UG2 took the contract over from Janitronics), Ventura followed Semmami down a hallway, raised his voice at her and told her to “shush” when she tried to speak. D. 1 ¶ 25. An unidentified employee at Athenahealth complained to UG2's Human Resources Manager about “the mistreatment of Plaintiff.” D. 1 ¶ 26.

         On or about October 11, 2017, Semmami informed UG2 about Correia and Ventura's harassment of her, explaining that Correia had sexually harassed Semmami and created a hostile work environment. D. 1 ¶ 30. On or about October 23, 2017, Semmami met with two people in UG2's human resources department “about the harassment of Mr. Correia and Mr. Ventura.” D. 1 ¶ 59. After a co-worker followed Semmami and called her a “dog” in Spanish, on or about November 1, 2017, Semmami spoke with one of the same people from Human Resources to report the incident. D. 1 ¶ 60. In her meetings with Human Resources, Semmami requested that Correia no longer be her manager. D. 1 ¶ 61. Semmami was told that she would have to request a transfer and did so reluctantly.[1] Id. Semmami alleges that UG2 either did not investigate her reports or “conduct[ed] merely a sham investigation” into Correia's behavior. D. 1 ¶ 64. UG2 did not take any action against Correia and he continued as Semmami's supervisor. D. 1 ¶¶ 67-70.

         On or about December 13, 2017, an unnamed co-worker pushed Semmami as she was punching in for the day. D. 1 ¶ 72. Semmami also saw one of her co-workers leaving Correia's office and he said “something to the effect of ‘leave her to me.'” D. 1 ¶ 73. The next day, while Semmami was waiting to punch in, a co-worker told her to “watch [her] mouth” and waved his hands close to her face while Ventura laughed. D. 1 ¶ 74. The following day, a man named Bob called Semmami and told her she was suspended without pay. D. 1 ¶ 75. He did not say why and directed Semmami to Human Resources. Id.

         Semmami received a letter dated December 20, 2017 explaining that she was being suspended pending an investigation into complaints against her. D. 1 ¶ 76; see D. 7-4. The letter reflected UG2's concerns about complaints from multiple co-workers that Semmami had used “wildly inappropriate language in the workplace, ” thrown her identification and keys on the floor at the end of her shifts and called one of her co-workers a “faggot, son of a bitch.” D. 7-4.[2] UG2 wrote in the letter that the co-worker had interpreted the statement “as a hateful slur on his sexual orientation.” Id. UG2's Human Resources Department interviewed Semmami on January 2, 2018. D. 1 ¶ 81. Semmami briefly reiterated her complaints about harassment and retaliation and denied making discriminatory comments to her co-workers. Id. Semmami “believes these false rumors were spread in retaliation for her protected conduct.” D. 1 ¶ 78. Semmami remained on unpaid suspension until she was terminated on January 24, 2018. D. 1 ¶ 82.

         IV. ...

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