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STREETER v. JOINT IND. BD. OF ELEC.

June 21, 1991

ANNETTE STREETER AND IVETTE ELLIS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOINT INDUSTRY BOARD OF THE ELECTRICAL INDUSTRY; LOCAL UNION NO. 3 OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS; NEW YORK ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION INC.; AND ASSOCIATION OF ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION

Defendants move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint, and for other relief. For the reasons stated below, the court grants the motions in part and denies them in part.

Background*fn1

Plaintiffs Annette Streeter and Ivette Ellis*fn2 are women who were terminated in early 1988 from an electrician's apprenticeship program (the "Apprenticeship Program"). Defendant Local Union No. 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("Local 3") is a labor union representing electricians in the New York metropolitan area. Defendants New York Electrical Contractors Association, Inc. ("NYECA") and Association of Electrical Contractors, Inc. ("AEC") are both associations of electrical contractors doing business in the New York metropolitan area, organized for the purpose of representing these contractors in their collective bargaining agreements with labor unions. Defendant Joint Industry Board of the Electrical Industry ("JIB") is an entity established pursuant to collective bargaining agreements among defendants Local 3, NYECA and AEC for the purpose of supervising the Apprenticeship Program. Fifteen of JIB's thirty-one members are appointed by and are members of Local 3, seven are appointed by and are members of NYECA, and two are appointed by and are members of AEC. JIB appoints a Joint Apprenticeship Committee that is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the Apprenticeship Program.

The Apprenticeship Program is a four year training program that apprentice electricians must successfully complete in order to become full, journey-level members of Local 3. The Apprenticeship Program consists of both classroom instruction and placements at job sites with electrical contractors.

Plaintiffs allege that at several of their work site placements, they were subject to verbal and physical sexual harassment and other discriminatory treatment, including failure to provide separate changing facilities. Plaintiffs allege that they were discriminatorily terminated by the electrical contractors on several of these work sites, and then discriminatorily terminated from the Apprenticeship Program.

On or about July 27, 1988, Streeter filed pro se an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), naming JIB as a respondent. On April 21, 1989, Streeter received a Notice of Right to Sue, dated March 28, 1989. On December 23, 1988 Ellis filed pro se an administrative complaint with the New York Department of Human Rights ("NYDHR"), naming Local 3 as a responsible. On July 27, 1989, Ellis received a corrected Notice of Right to Sue, dated July 27, 1989.

On July 18, 1989 plaintiffs filed their original complaint in this action; on August 4, 1989, plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint asserting claims of discriminatory discharge and sexual harassment pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y.Exec.Law § 290 et seq.

I. Defendants' 12(b)(1) Motions

Defendants raise two issues of subject matter jurisdiction in their motions to dismiss: (1) can a plaintiff who named only one respondent in her administrative complaint sue another respondent under Title VII, and (2) can plaintiffs sue defendants who were named by neither plaintiff in her administrative complaint, but who are allegedly related to respondents named in that complaint. NYECA and AEC argue that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Title VII claims because they were not named as respondents in either plaintiff's administrative complaint. JIB makes the same argument with respect to Ellis's Title VII claim, while Local 3 makes the argument with respect to Streeter's claim.

Title VII provides that a complainant who files a charge with the EEOC may bring a civil action against the respondent named in that charge within ninety days after the EEOC issues a Notice of Right to Sue. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). Thus, a plaintiff generally must name a defendant in her administrative charge in order to bring an action pursuant to Title VII. See, e.g., Berger v. Iron Workers Reinforced Rodmen Local 201, 843 F.2d 1395 (D.C.Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1105, 109 S.Ct. 3155, 104 L.Ed.2d 1018 (1989). The policy behind Title VII's administrative filing requirement is to allow the EEOC to investigate and mediate claims of discrimination without the need for court action, and thus encourage "cooperation and voluntary compliance . . . as the preferred means" for achieving the goal of equal employment opportunities. Great American Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366, 373, 99 S.Ct. 2345, 2349, 60 L.Ed.2d 957 (1979). This requirement is not absolute, however. The Supreme Court has instructed that Title VII must be interpreted liberally to effectuate its purpose of eradicating employment discrimination. See Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 397, 102 S.Ct. 1127, 1134, 71 L.Ed.2d 234 (1982). Fairness, and not excessive adherence to technicalities, must guide courts in their consideration of Title VII actions. Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522, 526-27, 92 S.Ct. 616, 618-19, 30 L.Ed.2d 679 (1972); Adames v. Mitsubishi Bank, Ltd., 751 F. Supp. 1565, 1570 (E.D.N Y 1990). In accordance with this policy, courts have carved out several exceptions to the Title VII filing requirements based on equitable principles. Zipes, 455 U.S. at 398, 102 S.Ct. at 1135; Dillman v. Combustion Engineering, 784 F.2d 57 (2d Cir. 1986). Plaintiffs seek to invoke one or more of these exceptions to defeat defendants' motions.

A. JIB and Local 3

JIB and Local 3 stand in similar procedural positions with respect to this motion. Both were named in one of the two plaintiffs' administrative charge. Streeter filed a charge naming JIB as respondent; Ellis's charge named Local 3. Plaintiffs' amended complaint now names both Local 3 and JIB as defendants. Plaintiffs argue that the administrative filing requirements as to JIB and Local 3 were satisfied pursuant to the single filing rule. The single filing rule, an exception to the general filing requirements, provides that where one of a group of plaintiffs properly filed an administrative charge against a defendant, "other non-filing plaintiffs may join in the action if their individual claims `aris[e] out of similar discriminatory treatment in the same time frame.'" Snell v. Suffolk County, 782 F.2d 1094, 1100 (2d Cir. 1986), (quoting Ezell v. Mobil Housing Board, 709 F.2d 1376, 1381 (11th Cir. 1983)).

JIB and Local 3 argue that plaintiffs' discrimination claims are too dissimilar to one another for the single filing rule to apply, because the incidents complained of occurred at several different work sites and involved several different employers. The claims of Streeter and Ellis do concern several incidents of sexual harassment occurring at various work sites between 1984 and late 1987. However, all these incidents involve discriminatory firings at these work sites under false pretenses of lateness or absenteeism, and subsequent discriminatory termination from the Apprenticeship Program in early 1988. First Amended Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 37-62, 82-102. In addition, both Streeter and Ellis allege that they were subject to verbal and physical sexual harassment by co-workers and supervisors, that they were denied separate changing facilities, and that they were repeatedly subjected to offensive, sexually explicit photographs of women at these job sites. Id. Although the individual acts alleged in the complaint may have taken place at different locations, the complaint outlines nearly identical patterns of sexual discrimination and harassment. The court thus finds that Streeter and Ellis have alleged a substantially similar pattern of sexual discrimination.*fn3

JIB also argues that Streeter's and Ellis's claims would have had different likelihoods of conciliation, because Streeter and Ellis had different employment histories and had different levels of success in pursuing appeals from their terminations from the Apprenticeship Program.*fn4 However, defendants do not point to any differences in plaintiffs' employment histories that are more substantial than must be expected whenever the single filing rule is applied, in other words, whenever two plaintiffs join in an action against a defendant. Ellis's successful appeal to the Joint Apprenticeship Committee regarding her first termination did not necessarily make it more likely that she would have settled her discrimination claim at the administrative level.

Accordingly, the court holds that plaintiffs' claims are sufficiently related so that the single filing rule applies; thus the administrative filing requirement is waived as to Streeter's claim against Local 3 and Ellis's claim against JIB. See, e.g., Blesedell v. Mobil Oil Co., 708 F. Supp. 1408, 1413 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (applying single filing rule; "[a]lthough naturally there are some factual differences between plaintiffs' claims, it is clear that their claims all allege a system of discrimination at Mobil").

B. NYECA and AEC

Plaintiffs argue that the administrative filing requirement should be deemed as to NYECA and AEC (together, the "Employer Associations") because they are closely related to the parties that were named in the ...


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