The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORRIS E. LASKER
Vincent Moodie brings this action against his former employer, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for discrimination based on race, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and New York State Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 290 et seq. (Amendments contained in the 1991 Civil Rights Act do not apply here as this case was not pending at the time of its enactment.) The Federal Reserve Bank moves for summary judgment.
Moodie is a black male of Jamaican descent who worked as a unit head in the computer operations division of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York ("the Bank"). The Bank is a corporation chartered under the laws of the United States with its principal place of business in New York City. On October 4, 1989, Moodie became involved at the Bank in an altercation with a Caucasian co-worker, Tony Riolo. After the incident, the Bank conducted an internal investigation and, on October 13, 1989, discharged him.
Subsequent to his discharge, Moodie filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, claiming unlawful employment discrimination based on his age and race. That complaint was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The State Division concluded that the Federal Reserve Bank is a corporate instrumentality of the United States and, as such, is not subject to the New York State Human Rights Law. Moodie also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On September 27, 1991, the EEOC determined that the evidence did not establish a violation and issued a "right to sue" letter. Moodie then commenced this action.
Discovery in the case has been completed and the record includes the deposition testimony of several witnesses to the altercation as well as the testimony of supervisors and other Bank employees involved in the internal investigation. In the course of discovery, it has been learned that Moodie's resume to the Bank contained an inaccurate statement -- that he was laid off rather than fired -- with regard to the reason for his departure from a previous employer, Paramount Pictures.
As to the cause of action brought under Title VII, the Bank in its motion for summary judgment advances a twofold argument: first, that the record shows indisputably that Moodie was dismissed based on the Bank's conclusion that he had assaulted another employee and the Bank's policy of automatic discharge in such cases; and second, that even if the Bank's decision to terminate Moodie is found to be discriminatory, Moodie's inaccurate resume statement constitutes fraud -- giving the Bank a legitimate and sufficient justification for terminating him. The Bank's second argument relies on Mount Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 97 S. Ct. 568, 50 L. Ed. 2d 471 (1977) and Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268, 109 S. Ct. 1775 (1989). In Price Waterhouse, the Supreme Court held that even when a plaintiff in a Title VII case proves that discrimination played a part in an employer's discharge, the employer may avoid liability by proving that "it would have made the same decision" even if it had not taken the discriminatory biases into account. Id. at 237. (That defense would not be available for suits brought after the passage of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which states in § 107 that "an unlawful employment practice is established when the complaining party demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice.")
As to the cause of action brought under New York law, the Bank argues that state law does not apply because its charter provides that employees are dismissible "at pleasure," 12 U.S.C. § 341 (Fifth), and it is therefore exempt from state employment laws to the contrary.
Moodie opposes the motion on the ground that genuine issues of material fact exist as to the circumstances of the altercation, as well as to the fairness of the Bank's internal investigation and the consistency of its application of the automatic discharge rule. Moodie also cross moves for summary judgment to strike the Bank's "resume fraud" defense.
The Bank's motion for summary judgment on the Title VII cause of action is denied because there remain genuine issues of material fact that go to the heart of the controversy and as to all the propositions enunciated by Moodie: the circumstances of the altercation, whether the internal investigation was conducted in discriminatory fashion, whether the automatic discharge rule was discriminatorily applied in this case, and whether the inaccurate statement contained in Moodie's resume constitutes fraud. Moodie's cross motion for summary judgment to strike the resume fraud defense is denied for the same reason.
The Bank's motion for summary judgment on the state law cause of action is denied because the "at pleasure" language of 12 U.S.C. § 341 alone does not exempt the Federal Reserve Bank from the New York State Human Rights Law, which is not inconsistent with federal employment discrimination law.