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LIFRAK v. NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL

August 22, 2005.

SAFORA M. LIFRAK, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIDNEY STEIN, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

This action stems from gender and religious discrimination that Safora M. Lifrak allegedly experienced as an employee of the New York City Council. Lifrak asserts a claim pursuant to the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), as well as several claims pursuant to the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Administrative Code. The Council has moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Council's motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) is granted, because Lifrak has not met her burden to show that she has statutory standing to pursue her sole federal claim.

I. Background

  The facts as alleged in the complaint are as follows.

  Lifrak has been employed since 1993 as an attorney in the office of the General Counsel to the New York City Council. (Compl. ¶ 9). From the start of her tenure with the City Council until 2002, she worked as employment law counsel, which required her to investigate employment discrimination concerns, advise on disciplinary matters, and supervise staff. (Id. ¶ 10). In that capacity, Lifrak also conducted training seminars and drafted civil rights legislation. (Id.). She currently serves as General Counsel to the Council's Committee on Standards and Ethics, a position she has held since early 2002, and as Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Counsel, a position she assumed in February of 2004. (Id. ¶ 11). These roles involve advising Council members on legal and policy issues relating to the workplace. (Id.).

  Starting in early 2002, Lifrak experienced a series of incidents in which a councilmember, Allan Jennings, allegedly harassed her on account of her gender and religion. Those alleged incidents are set forth in detail in the complaint (see id. ¶¶ 12-25), but their recitation here is unnecessary in light of the Court's conclusion that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Lifrak maintains that she lodged complaints regarding the mistreatment, which were ignored, and that Council Speaker Gifford Miller and General Counsel Thomas L. McMahon retaliated against her for drawing attention to the problem. (See id. ¶¶ 25-42). Lifrak also alleges that her "salary is substantially lower than that of the male lawyers performing the same or similar work." (Id. ¶ 30).

  II. Analysis

  Before addressing the merits of a given action, a federal court must consider the threshold question of whether it has subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. See United Republic Ins. Co., in Receivership v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 315 F.3d 168, 170-71 (2d Cir. 2003); Concourse Rehab. & Nursing Ctr., Inc. v. DeBuono, 179 F.3d 38, 43 (2d Cir. 1999). Consequently, the Court's analysis of this motion to dismiss the complaint begins with the Council's contention that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Lifrak's claims.*fn1

  A. The Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) Standard

  "A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The burden rests on the party invoking the court's authority to establish that the court possesses subject matter jurisdiction over the action. See Shenandoah v. Halbritter, 366 F.3d 89, 91 (2d Cir. 2004). That party must show by a preponderance of the evidence that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Luckett v. Bure, 290 F.3d 493, 497 (2d Cir. 2002). In reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a court may consider material outside the complaint. See Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113; Europe and Overseas Commodity Traders, S.A. v. Banque Paribas London, 147 F.3d 118, 121 n. 1 (2d Cir. 1998).

  B. Statutory Standing

  According to the Council, the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) — pursuant to which Lifrak brings her only federal claim — does not provide a right of action for someone, such as Lifrak, who is employed by a local legislature and not subject to civil service laws. The Council therefore contends that Lifrak is deprived of statutory standing, a jurisdictional prerequisite to the Court's adjudication of this dispute. See Lerner v. Fleet Bank, N.A., 318 F.3d 113, 127 (2d Cir. 2003). Lifrak's complaint must be dismissed because she has failed to satisfy her burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that she has statutory standing.

  1. Statutory Standing As a Jurisdictional Prerequisite

  There are generally two aspects to standing, constitutional standing pursuant to Article III of the Constitution and prudential standing, which involves "`judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction. . . .'" Lerner, 318 F.3d at 126 (quoting Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S. Ct. 3315, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1984)). "Prudential considerations include `the general prohibitions on a litigant's raising another person's legal rights, the rule barring adjudication of generalized grievances more appropriately addressed in the representative branches, and the requirement that a plaintiff's complaint fall within the zone ...


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