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M.O.C.H.A. SOCIETY INC. v. CITY OF BUFFALO
March 16, 2002
M.O.C.H.A. SOCIETY, INC., MICHAEL BROWN, AND OTTO BREWER, PLAINTIFFS,
CITY OF BUFFALO, CITY OF BUFFALO FIRE DEPARTMENT, CORNELIUS KEANE, JOHN D. SIXT, BUFFALO PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION, INC., LOCAL 282 AFL-CIO-CLC, AND RONALD CASSEL, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: John T. Curtin, United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc. ("MOCHA") and Michael
Brown — as well as nineteen other individually named plaintiffs*fn1
— bring this employment discrimination action pursuant to various
sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including 42 U.S.C. § 1981,
1983, 1985(3), and §§ 2000e-2 and 2000e-5 (Title VII).*fn2 On the
basis of these statutes, MOCHA and the individually named plaintiffs
assert various discrimination claims against the City of Buffalo, the
City of Buffalo Fire Department, Fire Commissioner Cornelius Keane,
Deputy Fire Commissioner John Sixt, Buffalo Professional Firefighters
Association, Inc., Local 282 ("the Union"), and Union President Ronald
Cassell. The City, the Fire Department, Keane, and Sixt (collectively,
"the City defendants" or "the City") now move to dismiss plaintiffs'
Second Amended Complaints "A" and "B."*fn3 The court heard oral argument
on the City defendants' motions on August 17, 2001, and has received and
considered subsequent supplemental filings.
For the following reasons, the City's motions are granted in part and
denied in part.
In the amended pleadings, MOCHA describes its constituency and
organizational purpose as follows:
MOCHA . . . is a Not-for-Profit corporation organized
and existing under the laws of the State of New York.
It is an organization of African American firefighters
employed by the City of Buffalo Department of Fire and
it is a member organization of the International
Association of Black Professional Firefighters
("IABPFF"). . . . MOCHA's organizational purpose is to
promote understanding, friendship and cooperation
among all members of the fire department of the City
of Buffalo; to see that competent Blacks are recruited
and employed as firefighters; [and] to encourage and
aid in the advancement of Blacks to elevated ranks
within the fire department. . . .
Plaintiffs make a number of allegations in support of their claims
regarding the Fire Department's allegedly discriminatory enforcement of
its drug-testing policy. Among other things, plaintiffs claim that
nineteen of the twenty-one firefighters who have been terminated as a
result of failure to abide by the drug abuse and testing policies have
been Black (see Item 55, ¶ 63). In addition, plaintiffs allege that White
firefighters receive superior out-patient drug treatment at the Beacon
Center's Amherst offices and that the Fire Department treats White
firefighters more leniently in terms of the disciplinary consequences of
testing positive for drug use. By way of example, plaintiffs allege that
the Fire Department has terminated one Black firefighter for a positive
drug test while allowing a White firefighter to return to work for a
substantially identical test result (see Item 66, p. 3).
MOCHA asserts standing to sue by virtue of the direct harm it suffers
as a result of the City's discriminatory enforcement of its drug-testing
program. Specifically, MOCHA claims that it loses members and membership
dues each time the City fires a Black firefighter for failure to comply
with the Fire Department's drug-testing policy, thereby frustrating
MOCHA's corporate purposes (Item 55, ¶¶ 2, 68).
Plaintiffs' claims regarding the Fire Department's promotion practices
— embodied in Second Amended Complaint "B" — relate to the
way in which the Fire Department promotes firefighters to the rank of
lieutenant (see generally Item 54). On this point, plaintiffs again make
a number of specific allegations in support of their claims regarding the
Fire Department's alleged discrimination. By way of example, plaintiffs
allege that the Fire Department employs a subjective "points system" as
the means of designating which firefighters are qualified to take the
lieutenants' exam, and that this system is manipulated to favor Whites.
Plaintiffs also claim that the Fire Department sponsors training sessions
for the promotion exam and excludes Blacks from participating. Further,
plaintiffs allege that Fire Department officials have actually released
exam questions and subject areas to White firefighters in advance of the
exam, but have not done the same for Blacks. Finally, plaintiffs point to
statistical evidence indicating that the promotion exam is racially
biased against Blacks (see Item 66, pp. 6-7).
The City moves pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) to dismiss both amended
complaints "A" and "B" on the following grounds:
1. Lack of standing to sue;
2. Failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted;
3. Unavailability of punitive damages against a municipality;
4. Failure to state a Title VII claim against
defendants Keane and Sixt in their individual
5. Failure to state a claim against the Fire
Department as a separate entity.
Each of these grounds is discussed in turn.
Whether a plaintiff has sufficiently alleged standing to sue presents a
question of justiciability — i.e., "whether [a] plaintiff has made
out a `case or controversy' between himself and the defendant within the
meaning of Art. III." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). The
court's jurisdiction therefore can only be invoked when a plaintiff has
suffered "some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively
illegal action. . . ." Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617
(1973), quoted in Warth, 422 U.S. at 499.
In United States v. Vazquez, 145 F.3d 74 (2d Cir. 1998), the Second
Circuit provided a comprehensive summary of the standing requirements:
[T]he party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the
burden of establishing the elements of standing. To
meet this burden, a plaintiff must show (1) that she
suffered an injury in fact — an invasion of a
legally protected interest that is concrete and
particular, and not merely hypothetical; (2) that
there is a causal connection between the injury and
the conduct complained ...