were purposefully discriminatory and racially motivated. See Carovano, 851 F.2d at 571.
The burdens of proof and persuasion applicable in a Title VII action apply. Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 186-188, 105 L. Ed. 2d 132, 109 S. Ct. 2363 (1989); Ramos v. City of New York, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10538, 96 Civ. 3787, 1997 WL 410493, at **4-5 (S.D.N.Y. July 22, 1997).
Applying these standards, it is clear that plaintiffs have met their burden with regard to the first and third elements required. As Puerto Ricans, plaintiffs are minorities within the meaning of the statutes. Lopez v. S.B. Thomas, Inc., 831 F.2d 1184, 1188 (2d Cir. 1987). Additionally, they have demonstrated that the activity at issue concerned the ability to contract with the defendant. See Shen v. A&P Food Stores, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21404, 93 Civ. 1184, 1995 WL 728416 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 1995) (refusal to sell groceries).
This Court finds that plaintiffs have also met their burden on the intent element.
First, plaintiffs set forth their prima facie case by presenting evidence showing that a Hertz manager said that Hertz would not rent to them because they were Puerto Ricans. According to plaintiffs, Ceriello told them that Hertz would not rent to Puerto Ricans because of a suspicion that they, as a group, used false forms of identification.
Second, plaintiffs produced evidence showing that defendant's articulated reasons for denying the rental are pretextual.
In this connection, defendant makes two arguments. First, Hertz contends that it denied plaintiffs a rental car because they "did not qualify to rent a car under Hertz policies and procedures." (Def.'s Mem. in Supp., dated Feb. 18, 1997, at 13.) These procedures require Hertz personnel to confirm the validity of any potential customer's driver's license before renting a car to that person. In order to accomplish this, Hertz provides its employees with the "I.D. Checking Guide" (the "Guide"), which pictures authentic licenses from all United States jurisdictions, including Puerto Rico. It is undisputed that the plaintiffs produced licenses that did not match those pictured in the Guide. According to Hertz, its policy instructs its rental agents to refuse to rent to prospective customers who produce licenses not pictured in the Guide.
Second, Hertz contends that the plaintiffs' licenses were "altered." Hertz policy, however, mandates that persons who present such licenses not be allowed to rent or drive one of its vehicles.
There is sufficient evidence, however, to put in issue whether these proffered reasons for denying plaintiffs a rental are pretext for discrimination. First, while the Guide, itself, claims to list "all valid licenses," a Hertz "Field Bulletin" states that the Guide "can be used for the validation of U.S. driver's licenses." (Emphasis added.) That same bulletin also states that another publication, the "International I.D. Checking Guide," can be used for the validation of licenses for countries outside of the United States and specifically lists Puerto Rico as a foreign country (despite its actual status as a commonwealth of this country). (See Hertz Field Bulletin, dated April 21, 1995, at 7.) Accordingly, Hertz' own policy bulletin suggests that the Guide should not be relied upon when evaluating the validity of Puerto Rican licenses.
Moreover, the same bulletin also instructs Hertz personnel to make an "effort . . . with the issuing State's Dept. of Motor Vehicles" to "validate the license[s]" of potential customers unable to prove the validity of their licenses. In this connection, Ceriello admitted that under normal circumstances if a person claims to have a valid driver's license but is unable to produce one, he would "try to call the Department of Motor Vehicle and see if their license is valid."
Yet, there is no evidence that any Hertz representative attempted to contact a Puerto Rican authority to ask about the licenses.
Thus, the Court finds that plaintiffs have adduced enough evidence to assert not only a prima facie case of discrimination, but also that the proffered reasons for Hertz' actions were not its true reasons; plaintiffs have raised a genuine issue of material fact on the intent issue.
Lastly, defendant's conclusory contention that Hertz cannot be held vicariously liable for the actions of Ceriello is without merit. Ceriello was an area manager acting in a supervisory capacity. The evidence shows that he made the ultimate decision to refuse to rent a Hertz car to plaintiffs. These alleged actions establish the personal involvement necessary to hold Hertz liable. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Gaddis, 733 F.2d 1373, 1380 (10th Cir. 1984); Flowers v. Crouch-Walker, 552 F.2d 1277, 1282 (7th Cir. 1977); Negussey v. Syracuse Univ., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3853, 95 Civ. 1827, 1997 WL 141679, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. March 24, 1997); Lewis-Kearns v. Mayflower Transit, Inc., 932 F. Supp. 1061, 1069 (N.D.Ill. 1996); Alqahtani v. George Washington Univ., 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4213, 95 Civ. 803, 1996 WL 568843, at *3 (D.D.C. March 29, 1996); Shen v. A&P Food Stores, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21404, 93 CV 1184, 1995 WL 728416, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 1995); Totem Taxi, Inc. v. N.Y.S.H.R. Appeals Bd., 65 N.Y.2d 300, 480 N.E.2d 1075, 491 N.Y.S.2d 293 (1985) (under NYHRL, company may be vicariously liable for employee's actions if company encouraged, condoned, approved of, or acquiesced in such conduct).
2. New York Civil Rights Law § 40-d
Defendant argues that plaintiffs' claim pursuant to N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 40-c must be dismissed because plaintiffs did not plead that they met the statutory requirements of notice imposed by N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 40-d.
It is undisputed that the plaintiffs actually complied with the notice requirement.
Failure to actually comply with section 40-d mandates dismissal of a section 40-c claim. See Silver v. Equitable Life Assurance Soc'y, 563 N.Y.S.2d 78, 80 (N.Y. App. Div. 1990). Additionally, failure to allege such compliance may mandate dismissal if a plaintiff is unable to show that notice was actually given. Harvey v. NYRAC, Inc., 813 F. Supp. 206, 212 (E.D.N.Y. 1993).
Defendant has provided this Court with no case law suggesting that the failure to plead compliance with section 40-d's notice requirements renders a section 40-c claim deficient even though it is undisputed that such compliance occurred.
In the context of this case -- where discovery is complete, notice was provided within the strictures of section 40-d, there is no allegation that defendant was unaware of the claim, and summary judgment motions have been filed -- dismissal of the claim based on the mere failure to plead notice would be inappropriate.
3. Breach of contract
Defendant further argues that it never entered into an enforceable contract with the plaintiffs. The evidence demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact on this question, however. It is axiomatic that a contract must be supported by consideration. Holt v. Feigenbaum, 52 N.Y.2d 291, 299, 437 N.Y.S.2d 654, 419 N.E.2d 332 (1981).
Here, Perez made a reservation with Hertz over a toll-free phone line. In doing so, she claims she provided the defendant with a credit card number in order to secure a car. Another Hertz "Field Bulletin," meanwhile, suggests that in exchange for reserving the car, Perez may have agreed to allow the company to charge her a cancellation fee if she was a "no-show." Thus, there is evidence both that Hertz obligated itself to rent plaintiffs a car and that plaintiffs obligated themselves to do so.
4. Infliction of Emotional Distress
Plaintiffs also sue for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Both of these claims must fail.
First, even assuming the truth of all of plaintiffs' assertions, they have failed to allege the kind of extreme and outrageous behavior required to establish an instance of intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). See Bender v. City of New York, 78 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1996) (discussing elements of IIED); Murphy v. American Home Products Corp., 58 N.Y.2d 293, 303, 461 N.Y.S.2d 232, 448 N.E.2d 86 (1983) (IIED requires conduct "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as utterly intolerable in a civilized [society]."); Lyman v. City of New York, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12340, 96 Civ. 2382, 1997 WL 473976, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 1997) (listing cases requiring a "strong showing" of "extreme and outrageous conduct"). In this connection, "despite the unacceptability of racial discrimination in civilized society, [the Court has] seen no indication that New York courts would consider the conduct here 'outrageous' per se. . . ." Martin v. Citibank, N.A., 762 F.2d 212, 220 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (where bank selects six minority employees for polygraphing during investigation of missing funds).
Second, the plaintiffs have failed to allege, let alone offer evidence, that defendant ever threatened them with physical harm or that their physical safety was unreasonably endangered. Thus, their claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED") must fail. Mortise v. United States, 102 F.3d 693, 696 (2d Cir. 1996) (discussing standard for NIED); Muhlrad v. Mitchell, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4683, 96 Civ. 3568, 1997 WL 182614, at **9-10 (S.D.N.Y. April 14, 1997) (dismissing claim for NIED).
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgement is denied as to plaintiffs' claims under section 1981, the NYHRL, the New York Civil Rights Law, and breach of contract, and granted as to the claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The parties are ordered to appear for a pretrial conference on September 23, 1997 at 4:30 p.m.
BARBARA S. JONES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: White Plains, New York
September 11, 1997