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WILLIAMS v. PORT AUTH. OF NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY

March 31, 1995

KENNETH WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, against THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOANNA SEYBERT

 SEYBERT, District Judge:

 This action was tried before the Court on April 5, 15, and 18, 1994. The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(4). Venue for this action lies within the Eastern District of New York as the alleged events in question transpired principally at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFKIA), located in Queens County, New York.

 In this action, plaintiff Kenneth Williams alleges that his employer, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (hereinafter, the "Port Authority"), inter alia, discriminated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He asserts five distinct claims; the first three claims arise under Title VII, the fourth is asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, while the last seeks redress under New York State law. First, plaintiff contends that he was wrongfully denied a promotion because of his race. Second, plaintiff claims that his workplace was racially hostile. Third, plaintiff maintains that the Port Authority and its employees retaliated against him for speaking out against alleged racially-motivated employment practices, and for filing three separate complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Fourth, plaintiff asserts a cause of action against his employer under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 alleging contractual discrimination relative to the Port Authority's refusal to promote him to a new position of employment. Finally, plaintiff asserts a pendent state-law claim of assault, that also interweaves the theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress. *fn1" As his remedy, plaintiff seeks $ 1,000,000 in damages and equitable relief.

 Having considered the evidence presented by the parties, the Court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. *fn2"

 1. Plaintiff Kenneth Williams, a black male, commenced employment with the Port Authority in 1971 as a baggage handler in the International Arrivals Building at JFKIA. Tr. 73 (4/5/94); Def. Ex. U. In October 1988--after this action was commenced--plaintiff moved laterally to the position of Bus Terminal Agent, *fn3" the position in which he is presently employed. Tr. 87-88 (4/5/94).

 2. Defendant Port Authority is a bi-state agency that was created by the states of New York and New Jersey with the consent of Congress. Def.'s Am. Ver. Answer. Defendant's principal offices are located at One World Trade Center in Manhattan. Id. Defendant's primary business objective is to promote and facilitate commerce within the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Id.

 Procedural Background and EEOC Charges

 3. In 1987, plaintiff filed three charges of discrimination against the defendant with the EEOC. Def. Ex. U-1, U-2, & U-4. First, on January 12, 1987, plaintiff filed EEOC charge 160-87-0590, claiming that he was subjected to racially derogatory remarks and intimidation by Duty Supervisor John Mitchell and Ground Supervisor Larry Coyle, both white males. Plaintiff further asserted that the Port Authority manifested a racially hostile work environment, beginning on or about December 1985, and continuing through the date of this EEOC claim. Id. Plaintiff contends that this conduct was in response to plaintiff's participation "in a protest meeting objecting to [the Port Authority's] unfair employment policies and practices . . . ." Def. Ex. U-4.

 4. Second, on February 5, 1987, plaintiff filed EEOC charge 160-87-0832 alleging that he was subjected to further harassment, intimidation, and racial slurs as a result of his attendance and participation in a race-relations meeting held on December 6, 1985. Def. Ex. U-1. Plaintiff further asserted that the Port Authority, in December 1986, wrongfully denied him a promotion to the position of Terminal Services Agent because of his race. Id. Shortly thereafter, on March 25, 1987, plaintiff filed his third EEOC claim, charge 160-87-0959, wherein he alleged that the defendant retaliated against him for filing the February 5, 1987 EEOC charge. Def. Ex. U-2.

 5. On April 30, 1987, after conducting an investigation of the allegations set forth in plaintiff's first EEOC charge, the EEOC issued a decision finding no reasonable cause to believe that any of plaintiff's allegations were true. Def. Ex. U-5.

 6. On December 18, 1987, the EEOC issued a determination with respect to plaintiff's second and third EEOC charges. The Commission concluded that the Port Authority did not violate Title VII by harassing the plaintiff or refusing to promote him because of his race. Def. Ex. U-3.

 7. Upon the EEOC's issuance of a right-to-sue letter, plaintiff timely commenced the instant Title VII action asserting the following three claims: (1) that, as late as December 1986, he was wrongfully denied opportunities for promotion because of his race; (2) that from December 1985 through his commencement of the instant action on August 11, 1987, he was repeatedly subjected to public racial harassment; and (3) that during this same time period, he was threatened with retaliation and bodily harm as a result of his employer's hostile work environment. See Pl. Compl.; Def. Ex. U-5.

 8. On March 8, 1988, plaintiff filed an amended complaint asserting the following claims: (1) failure to be promoted in violation of Title VII; (2) a pendent claim for defamation; and (3) a pendent claim that interweaves the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault. See Pl. Am. Compl. The second claim, for defamation, was dismissed by Judge Spatt on October 3, 1991. See Docket sheet entry #43.

 Allegations Concerning Failure To promote Because Of Race

 10. Plaintiff failed both the written and oral portions of the 1986 Terminal Services Agent examination. Tr. 84, 86-87, 122 (4/5/94). On the oral portion of this examination, the plaintiff's score was 50.16%; a score of 65% was required to pass. See Def. Ex. P. The Court notes that the plaintiff has put forth no evidence to suggest that the Port Authority discriminated against him in connection with his failure to pass the written portion of the 1986 promotional examination. In connection with this matter, the Court specifically finds that the Port Authority did not change the minimum criterion for satisfactory completion of the 1986 Terminal Services Agent examination after the plaintiff took this examination. Plaintiff's results on the 1986 examination thus are to be contrasted with the 1983 examination, in which he passed the written portion, but failed the oral portion. Tr. 83 (4/5/94).

 11. The Port Authority administers the Terminal Services Agent examination to establish a list of workers eligible for promotion to this position. Id. at 125. A Port Authority employee taking this examination must pass both the oral and written portions thereof to be placed on this eligibility list. Id. at 83-84.

 12. With respect to the 1983 oral examination, plaintiff contends that Supervisor John Faldetta entered the room in which he was taking the oral examination and instructed one of the proctors to fail him. Id. at 83-84. The Court notes that this alleged incident predates the period of time complained about to the EEOC, and addressed within the amended complaint. In any event, in view of the absence of evidence to corroborate plaintiff's claim, and the Court's credibility and perception determinations with respect to plaintiff's allegation, the Court declines to find that Faldetta improperly instructed the proctor. *fn5"

 13. The Court further declines to credit plaintiff's uncorroborated assertion that he "believed" that certain white supervisors had arbitrarily designated him to fail the 1986 oral examination. Id. at 122-24.

 14. The Court expressly finds that the Port Authority did not conduct the oral portion of the 1986 Terminal Services Agent examination in a discriminatory manner that adversely affected one particular racial group relative to another. In this regard, the Court finds that in connection with the administration of the Terminal Services Agent examination on November 25, 1986 and December 11, 1986, 6 out of 9 white applicants (66 2/3%), and 9 of the 17 black applicants (52.9%), passed the oral portion of the examination. See Def. Ex. P. Based upon the record, the Court is unable to find that the disparity in pass rates between black applicants and white applicants resulted from a discriminatory administration of the written or oral portions of the examination.

 15. The Court further finds that the 1986 Terminal Services Agent oral examination was fairly comprised of relevant questions, in the form of hypotheticals, regarding typical problems that a Terminal Services Agent could expect to encounter during the course of his or her employment, and therefore constituted "a reasonable measure of job performance." Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 436, 91 S. Ct. 849, 856, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158 (1971). Representative questions asked the applicants how they would respond to such matters as (1) the receipt of complaints by patrons concerning poor service, or rude treatment, by the baggage handlers; (2) a medical emergency; (3) baggage handler misconduct; (4) security concerns; (5) conflicting complaints from airline representatives over the allocation of scarce baggage handler resources; (6) equipment shortages; (7) luggage-belt breakdowns; and (8) patron assistance. See Def. Ex. Q. Moreover, in view of the comprehensive weighted scoring system employed by the Port Authority in grading the candidates' answers, the Court finds that the Port Authority did not arbitrarily grade the oral portion of the Terminal Services Agent examination. See id. Specifically, the oral examination consisted of five separate sections, which were designed to test a candidate's aptitude in the following areas: (1) patron relations; (2) operations judgment with regard to service matters; (3) operations judgment with regard to potentially acrimonious incidents; (4) interpersonal relations; and (5) communication skills. See id.

 16. In addition, insofar as the plaintiff has failed to produce evidence to substantiate any medical expenses he incurred as a result of a stressful work environment, the Court declines to find that he incurred any substantial unreimbursed medical expenses. These alleged out-of-pocket expenses include the cost of psychiatric care, and the cost of medication to treat his high blood pressure and diabetes. Tr. 92-93 (4/5/95). This finding further applies to plaintiff's claim in his amended complaint that he incurred severe mental distress; the Court likewise finds that such was not incurred. Similarly, plaintiff has not corroborated his estimate that he ultimately sustained a loss of earnings of approximately $ 300,000. Id. at 93, 160-61.

 17. The Court expressly finds that the Port Authority did not discriminate against the plaintiff on the basis of his race in refusing to promote him to the position of Terminal Services Agent. The Court specifically finds that the Port Authority's insistence upon passage of both the written and oral portions of the Terminal Services Agent examination constituted a reasonable prerequisite for promotion to this position, and that this examination was fairly compiled and administered by the Port Authority in such manner as not to discriminate against minorities. The Court further finds that the plaintiff's failure to pass this examination rendered him "unqualified" for the position of Terminal Services Agent insofar as no evidence was introduced at trial to suggest that an individual employed as a baggage ...


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