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COLLINS v. CHRISTOPHER
May 25, 1999
LORETTA COLLINS, PLAINTIFF,
DONALD CHRISTOPHER, ROBERT OLSON, WILLIAM CAVE, GERALD CURTIS, EMIL CAVORTI, EDWARD BARRETTE, CITY OF YONKERS, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Jr., District Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Loretta Collins, a female police officer with the
Yonkers Police Department ("YPD"), brings this action against
defendants Donald Christopher, Robert Olson, William Cave, Gerald
Curtis, Emil Cavorti, Edward Barrette in their individual and
official capacities, and the City of Yonkers ("City"), pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her First Amendment
rights to free speech and to petition the government for the
redress of grievances,*fn1 and her Fourteenth Amendment right to
equal protection, as well as retaliation and hostile environment
sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq. Collins also asserts
parallel state law claim under the New York State Human Rights
Law, N.Y.Exec. Law § 296, as well as a disability discrimination
claim under New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y.Exec.Law § 290,
et seq., pursuant to this Court's pendant jurisdiction. See
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).*fn2
Before this Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment,
pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(b). For the reasons stated below,
defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Summary judgment may not be granted unless "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, "[a]s a general rule,
all ambiguities and references to be drawn from the underlying
facts should be resolved in favor of the party opposing the
motion, and all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue for
trial should be resolved against the moving party." Brady v.
Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n. 2, 106 S.Ct.
2548, 2556 n. 2, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). The following facts are
Collins claims that during 1985, her rookie year at the Police
Academy, she and other women were subjected to verbal abuse
because of their gender. She claims that on two specific
occasions, two different male rookies told her that women did not
belong on the job, a third officer made similar comments, and all
the male members of the training class stated that women were not
capable of doing the job but that female officers should be
retained for reproductive purposes. Collins says she expressed
her concern about these statements to the instructor of the
class. When she requested to be assigned to the ESU at the end of
her rookie year, Collins says she was told that she wouldn't be
assigned there and that "cunts" were not wanted in that unit.
After repeated requests to be placed there, in March of 1986,
Collins became the only female officer assigned to ESU. She
remained in that unit until May of 1993. Collins says her
experience in ESU was marked by harassment. She alleges that male
officers in ESU at times referred to her and other women in
highly derogatory terms, but she does not name the antagonists.
When she first joined ESU, men in the unit outright refused and
"went nuts" when told they would ride with Collins, she says. As
early as her first day, a rubber chicken with female genitalia
drawn on it was hung from the rearview mirror of the ESU truck
she was assigned to drive. When ESU moved from the 4th Precinct
to a separate building, the unit built a separate locker room for
Collins, but later male officers who resented her presence
usurped part of that locker room and made it a weight room.
Animal parts, including deer's legs, a dead bat and a dead mouse
were placed outside of the women's locker room. During this time,
plaintiff was also exposed to the male officers in underwear and
towels and had to listen to their conversations regarding their
sex lives. When using the common bathroom, she was told to "get
the fuck out" at least five different times while male officers
banged on the door. Collins also observed pornographic magazines
and posters in the bathroom. Collins, who was pregnant twice
during her assignment to ESU, was told that women only came on
the job to get pregnant so they could receive the benefits but
not do the job, and was demeaned for being pregnant.
Collins complained to her captain about Sgt. Cave but the
captain did nothing to resolve or rectify the situation and
treated the behavior dismissively. Sgt. Cave's behavior was
dismissed as "being on the rag." Collins also told Capt. William
Cave about his brother's actions and requested his intervention.
In addition to sexual harassment, Collins had other problems
with the YPD during this time. She claims that in 1993 to 1994,
Police Commissioner Robert Olson conspired with then Deputy Chief
Donald Christopher to stop the lawful arrest of Joseph Celli, a
man accused of stalking Collins' sister. Celli was a relative of
a YPD detective. In 1994 Collins complained about this
investigation, stating that it was "handled funny," meaning that
the matter was not properly pursued. She contacted Commissioner
Olson and the District Attorney's office and alleged cronyism,
favoritism, and protection of an officer's relative from
investigation. In response to her complaints, Collins says she
was threatened with disciplinary action, skipped over for
promotion, and followed by members of the YPD. Her superiors also
advised her to retain a lawyer because disciplinary charges would
in all likelihood be filed against her.
Collins alleges that the sexual harassment and use of foul
language in MCU continued under Captain Gerald Curtis, who was
the commanding officer of the Internal Affairs Division ("IAD")
and MCU from March 1995 to September 1996. Sgt. Richard Bannetto;
Collins alleges, referred to complainants in vulgar and extremely
offensive terms. This affected plaintiff in that she felt
"guilty" because the YPD was not helping the complainants and was
"embarrassed" because Curtis displayed disrespect for women.
Collins alleges that Curtis had a particular disdain for women.
Both he and Sgt. Cave stated to Collins that women should be
"kept barefoot and pregnant." Collins told Curtis that this
offended her, yet he continually made such remarks. Capt. Curtis
told Plaintiff that gassing up a car is a good job for a woman,
that if a police car was broken a woman must have been driving
it, and that cleaning up vomit was a woman's job. Capt. Curtis
referred to women police officers who were absent from work due
to injury as "phonies" and "fakers," made them go to the doctor
multiple times and had their houses watched. Capt. Curtis told
plaintiff she should "diet," that she should run up and down the
stairs to lose weight, and when she was eating he would state
"don't you think you had enough?"
Collins alleges that she received inferior assignments and
training, and that she was undermined in the performance of her
duties because she is a woman. Collins claims, inter alia, that
on patrol in the 3rd Precinct, where she worked during her rookie
year, males with less seniority than her were assigned patrol
cars while she was assigned to foot posts. In 1992 during her
later pregnancy and against her wishes, Collins was assigned to
the Records Administration Unit, derisively called the "vegetable
bin" within the department, where she had to do mundane work
beneath her skill level. She and other women officers did not
receive the specialized training that male officers received, a
matter which Collins complained about to Police Commissioner
Olson. For example, Collins says she requested numerous times to
attend auto theft school, hazardous material school and sniper
school, but was denied access to such training. In November of
1993, Collins was promoted to Sergeant. Despite her promotions,
Collins claims she was not given a take-home department car,
although Sgt. Warren Cave,
the supervisor of MCU, and all other male officers had one. In
late 1993 and 1994, as Infection Control Officer responsible for
health and safety monitoring within the department, Collins
discovered Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA")
violations and recommended in a series of memos to Capt. Cave
that the department comply with federal regulations. Her
recommendations included TB and HIV prevention techniques to
improve the health and safety of officers and civilians. She also
inspected the city jail and pointed out some health hazards. She
says her recommendations were ignored.
Finally, during Capt. Curtis' command of MCU, the Pope visited
Yonkers. On the day of the Pope's visit, Collins did not receive
a special assignment but was required to work at MCU, her usual
post. This occurred despite the fact that the majority of the
department was detailed to the Pope and other law enforcement
agencies were brought into Yonkers to assist.
On February 22, 1996, plaintiff filed a discrimination
complaint against the YPD with the United States Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging she had been passed
over for promotion to Detective Sergeant in the Internal Affairs
Division because of her gender. (Collins has since dropped this
claim.) In response, Collins says, she suffered acts of
retaliation. On March 4, she says her office was stripped bare
and she was moved to the fourth floor to a location that had been
constructed for use as a jail. Collins alleges that this was a
punitive measure in which she was separated from the rest of the
internal affairs staff and moved to an unsuitable office. The 4th
floor office was windowless, had spidermites, and a dead bird.
The bathroom — which Collins had to share with criminal suspects
— was unsanitary: the toilet was routinely smeared with feces and
urine, and the drinking water was the color of mud. She avers,
inter alia, that she was deliberately denied necessary office
supplies, including a fax machine (which was not replaced when it
broke) and a copy machine, and forced to climb a treacherous
staircase which aggravated an old injury.
On March 27, 1996, following the relocation of her office,
plaintiff filed her second formal complaint — a retaliation
charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Over the next several
months, plaintiff contends the retaliation against her continued
and that she was ostracized by other members of the department.
For example in May of 1996, Collins was absent from work because
she had aggravated an old injury going up and down the steps
between the third and fourth floors. Capt. Curtis ordered Lieut.
Barrette and Sgt. Cave to visit Collins at home, the only time he
had ever ordered Sgt. Cave to conduct such a visit. In addition,
Collins says she was directed to report to Oracle Management
where a "treating" physician made out a false report regarding
her symptoms, claiming that she had a full range of motion when
in fact she did not. A subsequent MRI revealed herniated discs in
her neck and back. Beginning in June of 1996, Collins alleges
that her ...