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COOPER v. WYETH AYERST LEDERLE

January 26, 1999

ANNGELA COOPER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WYETH AYERST LEDERLE, INTERNATIONAL CHEMICAL WORKERS UNION LOCAL 143, AND RICHARD DUMAS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

BACKGROUND

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is obligated to construe the pleadings in the plaintiff's favor and accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint. Cooper v. Parsky, 140 F.3d 433, 440 (2d Cir. 1998). Likewise, in considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), "the Court must accept as true all material factual allegations in the Complaint and refrain from drawing inferences in favor of the party contesting jurisdiction." Serrano v. 900 5th Avenue Corp., 4 F. Supp.2d 315, 316 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). The following facts are accordingly construed.

In 1997, Anngela Cooper, an African American woman, began working at Lederle Laboratories, the predecessor corporation to Wyeth Ayerst Lederle (hereinafter referred to as "AHP"). Around March 1996, Cooper's supervisor, Richard Dumas, allegedly began a course of conduct against Cooper that consisted of unwanted physical and verbal sexual abuse. Cooper contends that Dumas' conduct included sexual assault, violent sexual advances, unwanted physical touching, obscene language, and threats. Cooper also alleges that Dumas often demanded that she perform work-related tasks that would require her to be alone with him.

Cooper contends that she made repeated attempts to discuss this problem with Local 143C representatives, but they refused to take any action and claimed that it was not within their control. Cooper also claims that she reported Dumas' behavior to AHP's Director of Consumer Health Products, the Human Resources Department, the Plant Manager, and various medical personnel at the factory, but her reports were ignored.

Cooper contends that after she reported Dumas' behavior to AHP and the Union, Dumas' behavior worsened, and she was subjected to unwarranted disciplinary action in the form of a false disciplinary notice issued by Dumas to her in an attempt to terminate her employment. When Cooper filed a grievance protesting this notice, the Union allegedly tried to demote Cooper for "tearing up" the false disciplinary notice. Cooper contends that as a result of her treatment, she was forced to take a disability leave from work and to seek psychological and medical treatment for depression and related physical and emotional problems. By letter dated January 31, 1997, AHP informed Cooper that her complaints were baseless, and that she could either accept a demotion to a different job or return to work in her former position, continuing to report to Dumas. Cooper contends that defendants' failure to provide her with a working environment free of harassment, threats, and discrimination resulted in her constructive discharge on January 31, 1997.

On June 19, 1997, Cooper filed a Charge of discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On her charge, Cooper specifically stated, "I want this charge filed with only the EEOC." By letter dated January 13, 1998, the EEOC notified Cooper of her right to institute a civil action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff filed this action within ninety days of the receipt of her Notice of Right to Sue.

DISCUSSION

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(c) provides that no charge may be filed with the EEOC,

At the time plaintiff filed her EEOC charge, there was a Worksharing Agreement in place between the NYSDHR and the EEOC. This agreement provided: "In order to facilitate the assertion of employment rights, the EEOC and the [NYSDHR] each designate the other as its agent for the purpose of receiving and drafting charges." Fiscal Year 1997 Worksharing Agreement between NYSDHR and EEOC, § II(A). In addition, the NYSDHR waived its right of exclusive jurisdiction to initially process charges in order to allow the EEOC to proceed immediately with the processing of such charges before the sixty-first day. Id. at § III(A)(1). Under such agreements, courts in this Circuit have held that filing a charge with one agency would also constitute a filing with the other. See, e.g., Ford v. Bernard Fineson Dev. Ctr., 81 F.3d 304, 308 (2d Cir. 1996) (date of NYSDHR's receipt of charge was equivalent of plaintiff's filing EEOC charge on that date); McGuirk v. Eastern Gen. Ins. Agency, 997 F. Supp. 395, 398 (W.D.N.Y. 1998) (pursuant to Worksharing Agreement, EEOC's filing of plaintiff's complaint served as filing with both EEOC and NYSDHR); Figueira v. Black Entertainment Television, Inc., 944 F. Supp. 299, 303 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (same); Wanamaker v. Columbian Rope Co., 713 F. Supp. 533, 542 (N.D.N.Y. 1989) (even where plaintiff expressly instructed the EEOC not to file his charge with the NYSDHR, plaintiff had commenced proceedings with NYSDHR where EEOC had forwarded charge to NYSDHR pursuant to standard procedure), aff'd, 108 F.3d 462 (2d Cir. 1997).

In this case, defendants argue that because Cooper wrote on her EEOC charge, "I want this charge filed with only the EEOC," proceedings were never commenced with the NYSDHR. Under the Worksharing Agreement, however, a charge filed with one agency is automatically filed with the other. This dual filing is brought about by agency regulation, not personal preference. See, e.g., Ford v. Bernard Fineson Dev. Ctr., 81 F.3d at 307 (Worksharing Agreement "operates pursuant to and in the manner of a governmental regulation"). Since it is undisputed that the filing with the EEOC was accepted, not rejected, that filing also constituted filing with the NYSDHR. Cooper's announcement of her preference could not (and did not) amend or circumvent the arrangement crafted by the EEOC and the NYSDHR, an arrangement intended to facilitate, not confuse, the functioning of an important remedial statute. In any event, this Court reads plaintiff's instructions to the EEOC to reflect a conclusion — entirely reasonable to reach, but unnecessary to state — ...


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