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FINN-VERBURG v. NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
August 14, 2001
MADELINE FINN-VERBURG, PLAINTIFF, VS NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd, United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER
On June 10, 1998, plaintiff Madeline Finn-Verburg ("Finn-Verburg" or
"plaintiff") commenced the instant action against defendant New York State
Department of Labor ("NYSDOL" or "defendant") pursuant to Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, U.S.C. § 42 § 2000e.
Defendant answered the complaint on July 16, 1998. Following completion
of discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims against
it. This motion was granted in part and denied in part on November 8,
2000. Finn-Verburg v. New York State Department of Labor,
122 F. Supp.2d 329 (N.D.N Y 2000).
Trial of plaintiff's claims commenced on April 3, 2001, in Albany, New
York. At the conclusion of a five day trial, the jury returned a special
verdict in favor of the defendant. Judgment was entered accordingly.
Plaintiff now moves to set aside the jury verdict and seeks an order
entering judgment as a matter of law in her favor, pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 50, or in the alternative, for a new trial
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Defendant opposes. Oral
argument was heard on May 25, 2001, in Albany, New York. Decision was
Finn-Verburg was, and is, an employee of NYSDOL. She claims that she
was harassed by Alley, and treated with hostility because of her gender.
Because of this harassment, she claimed to have had no choice but to
reduce her work schedule to limit contact with Alley. At the trial of
this matter, in addition to her own testimony, she proffered the
following in support of her claim.
First, plaintiff called Karen Martin ("Martin"), an equal opportunity
investigator for NYSDOL.*fn1 In June through August of 1997, Martin
investigated plaintiff's internal harassment complaint. Martin testified
that she was told by employees that Alley did have supervisory problems
with women, but that she found plaintiff's claim of gender-based
harassment to be unsubstantiated. While testifying as a witness for the
defense, Martin admitted on cross-examination that in 19 years as a
NYSDOL employee, she had never heard of an allegation of harassment being
substantiated by an internal investigation.
Plaintiff also called her immediate supervisor, John Dillon
("Dillon"). Dillon testified that he was aware of Alley's conduct toward
plaintiff and Deborah Atwell ("Atwell"), another auditor under Alley's
supervision. However, Dillon also admitted that he often told plaintiff
that much of what she perceived to be harassment was within the
"legitimate prerogatives" of a manager. (Def. Mem. at 4.)
Plaintiff called three female clerical employees — Virginia
Ford, Beth Schmidt ("Schmidt"), and Lucinda Kentris ("Kentris") —
who all testified to harassing conduct on the part of Alley. This
harassing conduct consisted of glaring, yelling, sarcasm, "stalking" in
the office, and at least one comment that was arguably sexual in nature.
Plaintiff also proffered the testimony of James Stewart ("Stewart"), a
co-worker of plaintiff's. Stewart acknowledged witnessing some of the
conduct alleged by plaintiff. He also testified that he witnessed Alley
yell at female employees, as well as one male employee; however, Stewart
testified that the male employee, Keith Austin ("Austin"), was not
treated with the same intensity as female employees. Alley subsequently
denied this characterization, but also testified that Austin actually
thanked him for being "hard" on him.
In addition, plaintiff introduced testimony that three women, including
plaintiff, resorted to extreme measures to get away from Alley because of
his treatment toward them. Atwell requested a transfer 75 miles away
from her home to a NYSDOL office in Poughkeepsie, New York. Kentris
resigned. As noted above, plaintiff requested a reduced work schedule.
*fn3 Plaintiff also demonstrated that no male subordinate of Alley had
ever resorted to similar steps to avoid him, and that Alley
supervised a relatively equal number of male and female employees.
In defense, NYSDOL introduced evidence through the testimony of Alley,
Martin, Wallace Brennan ("Brennan"), Julie Hickey ("Hickey"), and Marie
Wilson ("Wilson"). All testified that they had not observed Alley
display any gender-based animus toward women. Wilson also testified that
she was under Alley's supervision when he was a field supervisor, and
that he had never conducted himself in an inappropriate manner on any
site visits. All these witnesses ...
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