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RYAN v. NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTH.

June 28, 1995

CHARLENE E. RYAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTHORITY and ROBERT STOCK, Defendants.


Rosemary S. Pooler, District Court Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: POOLER

INTRODUCTION

 Defendants New York State Thruway Authority ("Thruway Authority") and Robert Stock *fn1" move for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff Charlene E. Ryan's complaint. The complaint contains claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and New York's Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq.. Defendants urge that Ryan did not file a timely administrative complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("DHR") and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and therefore cannot maintain either her Title VII claim or her Human Rights Law claim. Alternatively, the Thruway Authority and Stock seek an order which (1) strikes Ryan's demand for a jury trial; (2) strikes her claim for compensatory damages and her claim for punitive damages; and (3) limits her equitable claims for back pay to the period before August 25, 1989. I agree that Ryan's Title VII claim is time barred and thus dismiss it. However, Ryan's Human Rights Law claim is not barred by the statute of limitations, and balancing the factors relevant to a determination of whether to retain jurisdiction indicates that the court should decline to dismiss this state law claim. Ryan is entitled to a jury trial, can claim compensatory damages but not punitive damages, and has a right to a jury determination on the issue of the cut-off date for back pay.

 I. Procedural Background For This Motion

 Ryan filed the complaint initiating this action on September 11, 1991. Her complaint alleges that Stock sexually harassed Ryan beginning in May 1986 and that the Thruway Authority permitted and condoned the harassment, thus compelling Ryan to take an extended medical leave and ultimately disability retirement. The parties have completed discovery and this matter is ready for trial. Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on December 12, 1994 and I heard oral argument on January 23, 1995.

 II. Administrative Complaint

 On October 10, 1989, Ryan filed an administrative complaint with DHR against the Thruway Authority and the Office of the New York State Comptroller. Ryan also authorized DHR to accept her complaint on behalf of EEOC. Ryan's administrative complaint alleged sex based discrimination against her by the Thruway Authority during the period from May 1986 to September 30, 1988, in that Stock, her ultimate supervisor, subjected her to a variety of harassing and intimidating behaviors during that period. The administrative complaint further alleges that Ryan complained to the Thruway Authority and that the Thruway Authority rejected her claim on April 12, 1989, but concomitantly notified her that she could file a complaint with DHR or EEOC.

 On February 12, 1991, Ryan amended her complaint to add the following language: "On September 19, 1989, Mr. Stock wrote a memo in which he said that my husband was impotent and that I was after him on (sic) order to release my 'stress.'"

 EEOC issued a "Right to Sue" letter on August 12, 1991, and on September 4, 1991, DHR dismissed Ryan's complaint for administrative convenience pursuant to section 297.3(c) of the New York State Human Rights Law. N.Y. Exec. Law § 297.3(c). The Division noted in dismissing the complaint that "processing the complaint will not advance the State's human rights goals as the complainant has initiated or wants to initiate an administrative agency proceeding or court action based on the same grievance."

 III. Facts

 A. The Alleged Harassment

 For purposes of this summary judgment motion, I accept, as I must, all of Ryan's allegations of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 Ryan began working for Robert Stock as an administrative aide in May 1986 after several years of employment in other positions with the Thruway Authority. Ryan accepted Stock's offer of employment in order to transfer from nights to days and thus be able to spend more time with her family, despite the fact that Stock delayed her interview by two hours and screamed at Ryan that he did not want to hire her and had promised the job to another woman.

 During Ryan's first few months in her new position, Stock treated her in a relatively unremarkable fashion, but late in the summer of 1986 Stock began to develop a hostile attitude toward Ryan. From then on, Stock repeatedly subjected Ryan to public humiliation by either giving her the "silent treatment" or denigrating and mocking her intelligence, her physical appearance and her work. Stock also engaged in other, not easily categorized, forms of abuse including rearranging the office so that Ryan was separated by a screen from other employees and then telling other employees that he did not want to see Ryan's ugly face; commanding Ryan to alternately stand and sit; forbidding Ryan from having interactions with other employees and from participation in office lunches; displaying a cartoon that denigrated women; forcing Ryan to perform humiliating and inappropriate tasks as part of her job; throwing minutes that Ryan had prepared on the floor and then making her pick them up; requiring Ryan to make coffee when male colleagues of Ryan's husband -- who worked for another branch of the Thruway Authority -- were visiting and then insulting her; accusing Ryan of dishonesty and threatening criminal prosecution; setting up an intercom to eavesdrop on her conversations; and making references to and/or displaying a whip he otherwise kept concealed in a desk drawer. Stock's abusive treatment was fairly constant but accelerated after Ryan completed her probationary period as an administrative aide. *fn2" Although Stock directed some similar behaviors at some other women, he did not direct such behaviors at men.

 Stock's abusive behavior continued through and including September 30, 1988, when he called an office meeting so that "everybody [could] tell what they didn't like about Charlene." Ryan Dep. at 238. As various staff people offered specific criticisms, Ryan attempted to explain or refute these criticisms. Stock broke in to say that the only reason Ryan had not filed harassment charges against him was that nothing had happened to her. Ryan then -- in reaction both to this incident and to her memories of other incidents -- began to hyperventilate, have pains in her chest, become shaky, rigid and sweaty, and to lose awareness of her surroundings. Ultimately she left the office and, on the way home, called her doctor because she thought she was having a heart attack.

 Having been emotionally traumatized by the harassment she had suffered on the job, Ryan took sick and personal leave on full pay from September 30, 1988, through December 7, 1988. She then went on half-pay status through June 8, ...


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