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JAMES v. CITY OF N.Y. AND N.Y. CITY DEPT. OF CORRECTION

August 18, 2003

DONALD D. JAMES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Laura Taylor Swain, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Donald D. James ("Plaintiff"), a former Correction Officer with the New York City Department of Correction, ("DOC"), filed this action pro se under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, 1988, Article 15 of the New York State Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law section 290 et seq., ("SHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, Title 8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, section 8-101 et seq., ("NYCHRL"). Plaintiff claims that he was discriminated against by the City of New York (the "City") and DOC (collectively, "Defendants") because of his race. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure "12(b)"(sic). The Court construes Defendants' motion as one brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) to the extent it is premised on arguments that (i) Plaintiff's Title VII claims are barred by the statute of limitations. [ Page 2]

(ii) the complaint fails to state a claim because the actions complained of do not constitute a prohibited employment practice, and (iii) Plaintiff's claims under sections 1981 and 1983 are precluded by collateral estoppel arising from a prior determination of the New York State Division of Human Rights ("SDHR"). Defendants' motion is treated as one brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) to the extent Defendants argue that Plaintiff's election to bring his state and local law claims before the relevant state agency constituted an election of remedies depriving this Court of jurisdiction to adjudicate those claims.

The Court has considered thoroughly the parties' submissions. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is denied as to Plaintiff's federal claims and granted as to Plaintiff's state and local law claims.

BACKGROUND

In evaluating a motion to dismiss a complaint, the Court is obliged to take as true the facts as alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Grandon v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 147 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 1998). The following recitation of background fact is, accordingly, taken from the complaint.

Plaintiff, a black male, was appointed by the DOC as a Correction Officer in 1987. Compl. ¶ 16. In or about January 1996, Plaintiff requested that the City of New York stop withholding all federal income tax from his paycheck. Id. ¶ 18. In 1996, the DOC began an investigation of Correction Officers who claimed an unusual number of exemptions on their W-4 tax withholding forms and, in December 1997, Plaintiff and a large number of other Correction Officers were arrested. Plaintiff was suspended on December 2, 1997, the date of his arrest, and [ Page 3]

was terminated from his position on some unspecified later date. Id. ¶¶ 18-23. Plaintiff asserts, upon information and belief, that some white officers were allowed to make changes and corrections on their W-4 forms and were not arrested and/or were not terminated from employment. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff alleges he was not afforded the same opportunity. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had a disproportionate number of minority officers arrested as compared to nonminority officers. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff claims that, out of the approximately 1,400 officers who were investigated, only somewhere between approximately 85 and 300 were arrested, and that the overwhelming majority of those arrested were minorities, namely black and Hispanic officers, although white and Asian DOC employees also participated in the alleged wrongdoing, Id. ¶ 27.

Plaintiff alleges that the minority officers who were charged with this wrongdoing were treated much more harshly than white individuals who had been charged with much more serious crimes and that the treatment of minority officers was disparate from that of non-minority officers charged with the same or more serious crimes. Id. ¶¶ 26, 28. Finally, Plaintiff claims that, by terminating Plaintiff without preparing and serving formal disciplinary charges against him, without allowing him the requisite time to respond to same, and without holding a disciplinary trial, the Defendants failed and refused to follow their own rules and regulations with regard to the proper procedure for disciplining a correction officer. Id. ¶ 29. [ Page 4]

DISCUSSION

Title VII Claims

Defendants argue that the complaint should be dismissed as barred by the applicable statute of limitations, in that all of the events complained of occurred outside the 300-day time limitation imposed by Title VII on New York employment discrimination plaintiffs. In this connection, Defendants assert that the claims clearly fall outside of the relevant time limitation because Plaintiff's employment was, by operation of law, terminated as of a date in April 1998 and further argue that the termination was not, as a matter of law, an "employment practice" actionable under Title VII.

A court must not dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) unless "`it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Cohen v. Koenig, 25 F.3d 1168, 1172 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d 14, 20 (2d Cir. 2000). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court is obliged to take as true the facts as alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Grandon v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 147 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 1998). The Court is also permitted to take into account the contents of documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, Cosmas v. Hassett, 886 F.2d 8, 13 (2d Cir. 1989), as well as those documents which are "integral" to the complaint. San Leandro Emergency Med. Group Profit Sharing Plan v. Philip Morris Cos., 75 F.3d 801, 808 (2d Cir. 1996). In Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 122 S.Ct. 992 (2002), the Supreme Court overturned Second Circuit authority requiring Title VII plaintiffs to plead facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under the framework established by the Supreme Court in [ Page 5]

McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 805-05 (1973). The Supreme Court held that plaintiffs must merely give defendants "fair notice of what [their] claims are and the grounds upon which they rest," Swierkiewicz, 122 S.Ct. at 999, and need not plead facts sufficient to make out a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. On a motion to dismiss a complaint, the issue "is not whether a plaintiff will prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. . . .'" Villager Pond. Inc. v. ...


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