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GRILLO v. NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY

November 21, 2000

ANGELO GRILLO, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CITYWIDE ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, NORA BASSETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ELIZABETH SOTO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, BONNIE LEE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, KARL MILLER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, PETER INGOGLIA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, RICHARD WACHENHEIM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickerson, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Angelo Grillo a white male of Italian origin brought this action against the City of New York, The New York City Transit Authority (the Transit Authority) and various officers and employees of the Transit Authority, alleging, among other things, that they improperly demoted him from his probationary job due to racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, 1981, 1983, 1985, and New York State and New York City legislation and law.

Plaintiff Grillo served three complaints. The first made eleven claims. The next, styled "First Amended Complaint," made twelve claims. The third, styled "Second Amended Complaint," made fifteen claims. The Second Amended Complaint realleges all of the allegations previously made, and each of the fifteen claims purports to reallege all the statements in all the previously alleged claims. The addendum clause asks for five million dollars in damages, plus full back pay, front pay, and reimbursement for various allegedly lost benefits.

The defendants have moved for summary judgement dismissing the Second Amended Complaint. The papers submitted for and against the motion show, in substance, the following.

I

In 1996, Grillo, who had been employed for some years by the Transit Authority, held a Civil Service permanent job of light maintainer, a position involving the rehabilitation of lighting fixtures and wiring in stations and tunnels. In December of that year the Transit Authority promoted him on a one-year probationary basis to the position of a Supervisor of Lighting Maintenance. Grillo's successful completion of the one year probationary period would have enabled him to hold the permanent title as a supervisor.

On June 30, 1997, Peter Ingoglia, the Manager of the office of Labor Relations of the Transit Authority, after an investigation, demoted Grillo back to his former civil service title, light maintainer.

Ingoglia said he made the decision to demote for several reasons. Grillo had engaged in what Ingolia found to be improper conduct in a training course. In addition, Ingoglia had received from Grillo's supervisors a poor performance evaluation because of Grillo's repeated failure to perform his job adequately.

The training course was called the Supervisory Training Core Curriculum, a course for new supervisors. The course began June 16, 1997 and was scheduled to run for two weeks for about seven hours a day. The instructors were defendants Nora Bassett (a Black), Bonnie Lee (a Black), and Elizabeth Soto (an Hispanic). According to the course design, the three instructors were to present the material on an alternating basis, either individually or in a team.

About twenty-seven supervisors from various operating divisions of the Transit Authority attended the program. Of the twenty-seven, eleven, were white males and some of those eleven were apparently of Italian heritage. One of the eleven was Grillo.

During the first week of the class the instructors observed Grillo to be disruptive and disrespectful towards the class, the other participants, and the material. According to the instructors, Grillo refused to comply with directions during class such as periodically moving to an assigned seat during group exercises. He continuously made jokes during the discussion by the instructors, and constantly asked to go on breaks and to go home at inappropriate times. He also made sexist remarks, referring to the material as "woman's stuff," and stating "women should expect to be grabbed and pulled on, walking around dressed like these women, in this building." He frequently interrupted other participants when they spoke without allowing them to complete their thoughts.

On June 20, 1994, three visitors were asked to attend the class. They were Lawrence Miller, the Director of the Transit Authority's Equal Employment Opportunity Office, Jimmy Wilson, the Assistant General Manager of Operations Support for the Department of Buses, and Jack Dempsey, the Transit Authority's Assistant Vice President of Training.

While Miller was speaking, Grillo made remarks and broke into loud laughter. After Miller and Dempsey had spoken and were leaving, Grillo bolted from his seat, brushed by Instructor Lee, disrupting her presentation, and yelled to Miller, "Hey you, I want to ask you something," and followed Miller and Dempsey out into the hallway.

Instructors Bassett and Lee then talked to the class about the lack of respect and attention given to visitors during their remarks to the class and the level of behavior expected of a supervisor. The instructors then dismissed the class for the lunch break.

During the break Wilson approached Bassett and Lee with his supervisor Patricia O'Brien, Vice President of the Department of Buses, whom he had informed as to Grillo's behavior. O'Brien told Bassett to call Gene Cooper, the Assistant Chief Officer of the Department of Infrastructure, and inform him of what had happened. Cooper then told Grillo and the instructors that Grillo was being removed from the class.

Grillo, Cooper and Miller then met. Miller told Grillo to prepare and submit a written statement explaining what had happened in the class. Grillo did so. The statement, dated June 20, 1997, in substance stated that Grillo was "unaware of any behavior pattern" he might have exhibited that would have been considered offensive, since the atmosphere in the classroom encouraged participation. He added that he became embarrassed when "Nora Basset" (sic) joked as to another student, who habitually came to class a minute before it started, being a "minute man" "as it related to his sexual performance."

Grillo's statement contained no mention that he regarded himself as having been discriminated against in any way, let alone on the grounds of "race" or "gender," or "national origin."

On June 23, 1997 Ingoglia, having received Grillo's statement and a statement from the three instructors, spoke with defendant Richard Wachenheim, the Transit Authority's Chief of Infrastructure Office. Ingoglia told Wachenheim, that, while he believed Grillo's behavior warranted demotion, he had decided to request a work performance evaluation from Karl Miller, who was Grillo's supervisor and in December 1996 had approved Grillo's promotion to the probationary position of a supervisor.

Ingoglia made the request of Karl Miller, who was the Project Superintendent in Station Rehabilitation when Grillo was appointed in December 1996 and assigned to the Church Avenue Station Rehabilitation project. Karl Miller's evaluation included the following. In January 1997 Miller sent to Grillo written instructions to provide a list of the existing circuit breakers contained in the electrical panels at Church Avenue. During a subsequent field visit to Grillo's station Miller found ...


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