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COLLINS v. SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT

December 20, 2004.

FELICIA COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT and the COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, POLICE OFFICER JAMES EDMONDS, POLICE SGT. LINDA CICALESE and CAPTAIN RAYMOND PETERSON, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SPATT, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

The plaintiff Felicia Collins ("Collins" or the "Plaintiff") brought this employment discrimination action against the Suffolk County Police Department, the County of Suffolk and three police officers (collectively the "Defendants") alleging violations of Title VII, the New York Human Rights Law and 42 U.S.C § 1983

("Section 1983").

  Presently before the Court are the Plaintiff's post-trial motions for (1) injunctive relief in the form of: (a) the purging of documents containing negative comments about the Plaintiff from the Defendants' files; (b) a direction to the Defendants to refrain from further discriminatory/retaliatory conduct; and (c) a designation of the Plaintiff to a detective position with retroactive seniority, or alternatively, front pay; and (2) prejudgment interest.

  I. BACKGROUND

  This case was based on claims by Collins, a black Suffolk County police officer, of racial and gender discrimination, retaliation for making complaints of discrimination, and a hostile work environment. The Plaintiff alleged racial and gender discrimination and retaliation with regard to (1) the failure to promote her to detective, (2) the failure to transfer her to the narcotics unit, (3) her transfer from the Domestic Violence Section to the 6th Precinct, and (4) the filing of a disciplinary charge against her in October 2000.

  A trial was held on all of the claims except for those arising under Section 1983 as that portion of the trial was bifurcated. On May 19, 2004, the jury returned a verdict in favor of all the Defendants in the federal and state racial and gender discrimination causes of action. However, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff on the federal and state retaliation claim as to all four adverse employment actions against the three individual defendants, Police Officer James Edmonds, Sergeant Linda Cicalese and Captain Raymond Peterson. The jury also found that Collins was subjected to a hostile work environment by the police officers and supervisors of the Suffolk County Police Department. In addition, the jury determined that the supervisory officers at the Suffolk County Police Department knew or should have known of the racial-gender-retaliatory based harassment and failed to implement prompt and appropriate corrective action. In this regard, the jury also found that all three individual defendants aided, encouraged or assisted in the commission of the hostile work environment.

  As to damages, the jury made the following awards:
Emotional distress to May 19, 2004 $67,500 for failure to promote,
Loss of back wages from 6/10/98 to 5/19/04 12,000
Punitive damages against defendant 75,000 James Edmonds
Punitive damages against defendant 25,000 Linda Cicalese
Punitive damages against defendant 50,000 Raymond Peterson
  In sum, the jury awarded the Plaintiff compensatory damages in the amount of $79,500 and punitive damages in the sum of $150,000.

  Post-trial, the Plaintiff has moved (1) for attorney's fees; (2) for costs and expenses; (3) for injunctive relief in the form of: (a) the purging of documents containing negative comments about the Plaintiff from the Defendants' files, (b) a direction to the Defendants to refrain from further discriminatory/retaliatory conduct, and (c) a designation of the Plaintiff to a detective position with retroactive seniority, or alternatively, front pay; and (4) prejudgment interest. The parties have reached a settlement as to the attorney's fees, costs, and expenses leaving the motions for equitable relief and prejudgment interest for the Court to decide.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. As to Equitable Relief

  Title VII entitles individuals to be made "whole for injuries suffered on account of unlawful employment discrimination." Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 418, 45 L. Ed. 2d 280, 95 S. Ct. 2362, 2372 (1975). Courts have "full equitable powers" to place the injured party "as near as may be, in the situation he [or she] would have occupied if the wrong had not been committed." Id. at 418-19 (internal quotation omitted); see also Malarkey v. Texaco, Inc., 983 F. 2d 1204, 1214 (2d Cir. 1993). The court must exercise this "broad equitable discretion . . . in light of the large objectives of [Title VII]." Gunby v. Pennsylvania Elec. Co., 840 F. 2d 1108, 1122 (3d Cir. 1988). This broad discretion should be used to "fashion the most complete relief possible for victims of discrimination." Gibson v. American Broadcasting Co., 892 F.2d 1128, 1133 (2d Cir. 1989).

  1. As to the purging of documents containing negative comments about the Plaintiff.

  The plaintiff requests that the "Court order [the] [d]efendants to purge, from their files, all negative comments which pertain to the plaintiff." Plf. Mem. in Sup. 20. In particular the plaintiff seeks the purging of the documents identified as Plaintiff's Trial Exhibits 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and Defendant's Trial Exhibit C. Plfs. Reply Decl. ¶ 61. In opposing this request, the defendants argue that because "the ...


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