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MCINTOSH v. IRVING TRUST CO.

January 25, 1995

DOUGLAS MCINTOSH, Plaintiff, against IRVING TRUST COMPANY, Defendant.

JOHN G. KOELTL, United States District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN G. KOELTL

JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge:

 The plaintiff, Douglas McIntosh, brought this action against his former employer, Irving Trust Company ("the Bank") on September 4, 1987. The plaintiff, who is African American, alleged that the Bank had intentionally discriminated against him because of his race by failing to promote him from the position of Customer Relations Assistant ("CRA") to that of Assistant Secretary and by terminating him. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant intentionally retaliated against him by continuing to deny him a promotion, by disciplining him and by terminating him after he complained of discrimination. The plaintiff brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 *fn1" , Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 *fn2" and the New York Human Rights Law. *fn3"

 The parties have made several applications to the Court in connection with the judgment to be entered. The issues related to the judgment include: first, whether to adopt the jury's verdict in entering the Court's findings under Title VII; second, whether to award reinstatement to the plaintiff as additional relief under Title VII; third, whether to purge the defendant's personnel files pertaining to the plaintiff's employment as additional relief under Title VII; and fourth, whether to award prejudgment interest on any portion of the plaintiff's damages and, if so, what the appropriate interest rate and method of computation are.

 I.

 Following his graduation from Pace University where he had earned an M.B.A. in corporate finance, the plaintiff was hired in October, 1984 as a lending officer trainee in the Bank's Professional Banking Officer Development Group Training Program. The plaintiff was one of two African Americans in his training class of twenty-five people. The training program lasted for approximately one year, after which time those members who graduated became CRAs. CRAs were placed in various areas of the Bank. The next step up the ladder for a CRA was to become an Assistant Secretary. Assistant Secretary was an officer position at the Bank; Assistant Secretaries had authority to bind the Bank to financial commitments.

 In December, 1985, following completion of the training program, McIntosh became a CRA and he was placed in Area III of the Commercial Banking Division. His duties, like the duties of the other CRAs, included preparing credit analyses, investigating and analyzing the requirements of current customers, servicing the daily needs of customers, soliciting new business and preparing various internal credit, marketing and profit reports.

 On October 1, 1986, two white CRAs who had completed the training program in the training class after the plaintiff's were promoted to Assistant Secretary; the plaintiff had not, as of that date, been promoted. McIntosh subsequently spoke with his supervisor and asked her why he had not yet been promoted to Assistant Secretary while trainees in both his and the subsequent training class had been promoted. While there was no set time within which a CRA was assured a promotion to Assistant Secretary, and promotions depended both on the performance of the CRA and the needs of the various areas of the Bank, the plaintiff believed, based on his performance and the feedback that he had received, that he should have been promoted by that time and that he was not promoted because of his race.

 At trial, McIntosh testified about the discriminatory atmosphere he perceived at the Bank and about incidents that led him to believe that he was treated differently on account of his race. He testified that as of December of 1986, all of the members of his training class had been promoted to Assistant Secretary with the exception of the other African American trainee in his class and himself. He also testified to the various complaints of discrimination he made. On December 2, 1986, he complained to the Irving Trust Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, Anne Williams, that he had not been promoted because of his race and that African American trainees, in general, were promoted to officer positions more slowly than white trainees were. On December 9, 1986, he filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") making the same allegations. And, on January 20, 1987, he wrote a letter to the chairman of the Bank complaining of discriminatory treatment.

 On March 2, 1987, McIntosh met with his supervisor; she gave him a written reprimand, a negative performance evaluation and a warning to improve his performance. The reprimand listed twenty-two "corrective action tasks" that the plaintiff was instructed to complete. The plaintiff also received additional warnings.

 The plaintiff amended his EEOC charge to include a claim of retaliation on March 10, 1987. On April 8, after several incidents involving missed deadlines and other problems with various projects and assignments, the plaintiff's supervisor gave him a final warning. The plaintiff, in turn, amended his EEOC charge to allege additional instances of retaliation. On April 29, 1987, the Bank terminated McIntosh's employment. McIntosh again amended his EEOC retaliation charge on May 14, 1987 to include his termination.

 At trial, the witnesses testified to radically different versions of what happened, between October, 1986, and April, 1987. The plaintiff testified, at great length, that until he asked about his promotion, he enjoyed a good working relationship with his supervisor. He further testified that until that time, he had not received any criticism of his work and that all of the feedback he had received had been positive. He testified that after he asked his supervisor about his promotion, her attitude towards him began to change, worsening dramatically after he filed his complaints of discrimination. He testified that she was extremely abrupt with him, made unreasonable demands of him and embarrassed him in front of his colleagues. He testified that the list of corrective action tasks in the reprimand were impossible to complete within the time allotted and that they were, in effect, a set-up for his termination.

 The supervisor testified, also at great length, to a much different version of events. She testified that the plaintiff's work often fell below the Bank's expectations; specifically, she testified that the plaintiff missed crucial deadlines, made serious errors in his credit analyses and exhibited a negative attitude. She further testified that, rather than mistreat the plaintiff, she had tried to help him improve his performance. McIntosh's supervisor explained that she, along with the plaintiff's team leader, had tried to work closely with the plaintiff in order to save his career, and not to destroy it. She testified that the tasks detailed in the reprimand were meant to enable the plaintiff to reestablish himself and move forward. She further testified that despite her encouragement, the plaintiff's poor attitude and quality of work resulted in her ultimate recommendation that he be terminated.

 While the plaintiff's supervisor denied having humiliated the plaintiff in front of other members of the department, another former employee of the Bank, who had no motive to testify falsely and whose testimony was credible, confirmed the plaintiff's account of such an incident. Additionally, that former employee supported McIntosh's testimony that the list of corrective action tasks could not be accomplished in the time allotted to him. This testimony was strongly supportive of McIntosh's position that his supervisor -- after he had complained about discrimination and filed a charge with the EEOC -- was creating a paper trail to support a pretextual reason for his termination.

 The plaintiff's supervisor testified that when she became aware of the plaintiff's complaint to the EEOC, she was simply "sad" and "surprised" rather than angry. The jury was entitled to disbelieve that testimony, which strained credulity, and conclude, based upon all of the evidence, that the plaintiff had proved that his termination was in retaliation for his complaints about discrimination against him.

 Based on the evidence presented at trial, and having been instructed on the law and the appropriate burdens of proof *fn5" , the jury assessed the credibility of the witnesses and found that the Bank did not discriminate on the basis of the plaintiff's race either in deciding not to promote the plaintiff to the position of Assistant Secretary or in deciding to discharge him. The jury did conclude, however, that the Bank retaliated against the plaintiff for having complained of discrimination. It awarded the plaintiff $ 310,000.00 in back pay and $ 219,428.00 in compensatory damages.

 The parties have agreed that the Court should adopt the jury's findings under the New York Human Rights Law in entering judgment under Title VII. The parties also have agreed that no further findings of fact and conclusions of law are necessary because the Court, sitting in equity to determine the plaintiff's Title VII claims, is bound by the jury's factual findings on the plaintiff's Section 1981 and Human Rights Law claims. See Song v. Ives Labs., Inc., 957 F.2d 1041, 1048 (2d Cir. 1992) (court must make findings on Title VII claims in accordance with the jury's determination on Human Rights Law claims).

 In Wade v. Orange County Sheriff's Office, 844 F.2d 951 (2d Cir. 1988), the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit explained:

 
When an action involves both legal and equitable claims that have common issues of fact, and a jury trial has been properly demanded with respect to the legal claims, the parties have a right under the Seventh Amendment to have the legal claims tried to a jury. . . . To safeguard this right, the general rule is that the jury must decide the legal claims prior to the court's determination of the equitable claims.

 Id. at 954 (citations omitted). The court went on to explain that when the jury has decided a factual issue under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the court is precluded from reaching a contrary decision on that issue under Title VII. Id. ; see also In re Lewis, 845 F.2d 624, 629 (6th Cir. 1987) ("One important reason that a judge is not to make findings that contravene a jury's verdict is that the verdict is res judicata with respect to the factual issues which would have necessitated jury resolution.").

 In making its findings under Title VII, the Court, therefore, adopts the jury's finding that the Bank retaliated against the plaintiff for having complained of discrimination and will enter judgment accordingly in the amount of damages specified by the jury. *fn6" Moreover, the Court will dismiss the plaintiff's remaining claims of discrimination under Title VII, consistent with the jury's findings that the defendant did not unlawfully discriminate against the plaintiff because of his race either in deciding not to promote ...


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