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LANGHORNE v. PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK

November 10, 2005.

DONALD WEBSTER LANGHORNE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY and ROBERT HALF INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GABRIEL GORENSTEIN, Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Plaintiff Donald Webster Langhorne filed this complaint against his former employer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority"), and Robert Half International, Inc. ("RHI"). The complaint purports to raise claims against RHI under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(1) and N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107, prima facie tort, and tortious interference of contract. RHI has moved to dismiss the complaint for, inter alia, failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, RHI's motion to dismiss should be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

  A. Factual History

  The following facts are alleged by Langhorne in his Amended Complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of the current motion. See Amended Complaint and Jury Trial Demand, dated May 21, 2004 ("Am. Compl.") (Docket #10). Donald Langhorne worked as an employee of the Port Authority from May 1999 until January 31, 2003, when he was terminated. See Am. Compl. ¶ 4. The Port Authority is a bi-state entity created by compact between the States of New York and New Jersey. See id. ¶ 6. Between May 1999 and October 2001, Langhorne held several different positions within the Port Authority, including Summer Law Intern, Senior Paralegal Specialist, and permanent Law Intern. See id. ¶¶ 12-13. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Langhorne was transferred, along with three other employees, to a newly-created subdivision of the Administrative and Technical Services Division — later named the Litigation Management Unit ("LMU") — for the purpose of retrieving and reconstructing legal case files destroyed on September 11th. See id. ¶¶ 15-16.

  For the next several months, the LMU operated with no formal policy, and sometimes without regular access to computers and phones. See id. ¶¶ 16-18. On January 23, 2002, Langhorne learned from a time and labor summary sheet that his income had been deducted for being "AWOL" on January 10 and 11, 2002. He disputes this characterization, claiming that he had left on those days only because his workstation was temporarily inaccessible. See id. ¶¶ 18-19. On January 28, Langhorne was called in to a meeting and reprimanded for these disputed absences. Id. ¶ 19. On February 7, Langhorne's manager, Josephine Gajewski, memorialized the January 28 meeting, threatened Langhorne with disciplinary action for his disputed absences and other alleged infractions, and asked him to sign a "confidential memorandum." Id. ¶ 20. Langhorne refused to sign and was told he could respond to the disputed claims in writing, seek counsel from the Employment and Labor Law Division of the Law Department, or contact Human Resources. Id. ¶ 21. Upon contacting Human Resources, he was told his case was a "conflict of interest" and that he would need to secure outside counsel — an instruction he believed violated his rights as a Port Authority employee. See id. ¶ 22. Langhorne consulted an attorney, but did not have sufficient documentation and was unable to afford counsel's hourly rates. Id. ¶ 23.

  In February 2002, the LMU was reorganized, and the Port Authority brought in two temporary employees of an "independent" employment agency to act as a manager and supervisor. See id. ¶ 24. The independent employment agency was defendant RHI, and the supervisor was Jonathan Stark, an employee of a subsidiary of RHI called The Affiliates. See id. ¶¶ 9, 24. RHI is a personnel services, recruiting, and placement firm. Id. ¶ 9.

  Langhorne asked why he had not been given the chance to apply for the supervisory position and was told he was not qualified, even though he had more formal and legal education and work experience than Stark. Id. ¶ 24. Stark is a white male; Langhorne is an African-American male. Id. ¶¶ 4, 24.

  Stark immediately began compiling a "secret log" against Langhorne. Id. ¶ 25. On March 5, 2002, Stark ordered Langhorne to sign a memorandum relating to Langhorne's new job duties. When Langhorne asked whether other employees were required to do this, Stark told him that if he did not sign he would be accused of insubordination. Id. ¶ 26. On April 19, 2002, Langhorne was called to Gajewski's office, where he was served with a draft of a charge against him and a recommendation for his termination. He was told to review the draft and report to a meeting one week later. He subsequently learned from the Labor Relations Division that a disciplinary proceeding against him was being initiated, but he had not previously received any information about this. See id. ¶ 27. At the follow-up meeting on April 30, 2002, Langhorne met with Gajewski and Stark, who told him that he could accept five days' suspension without pay and ten days "in abeyance" as an alternative to the termination proceeding. His only other option, he was told, was to resign. See id. ¶ 28. He was also told that the offer was good until May 3, but when he appeared on that day, he learned that the offer had been revoked on May 1, without his knowledge, because he had failed to move his computer monitor as requested by Stark. No other employees were similarly ordered to move their monitors. Id. ¶¶ 28-30. Langhorne was told to contact Labor Relations to present a counteroffer. Id. ¶ 30.

  On May 9, 2002, Langhorne received an e-mail from Gajewski demanding his resignation by the following day, and stating that he would otherwise be suspended without pay pending a hearing to terminate him. Id. ¶ 31. He refused to resign, and the Port Authority filed a formal charge against him. Id. On May 28, 2002, Langhorne received a job evaluation that he disputed and refused to acknowledge. Id. ¶ 32. On July 9, 2002, Langhorne was served with the charge and nine specifications. Jeffrey Green, General Counsel of the Port Authority, was the complainant, the reviewer of the complaint, and the reviewer of the selection of the Impartial Hearing Officer for the disciplinary proceeding. Id. ¶ 33. Langhorne states that this was a conflict of interest and against the terms of his employment. Id.

  Langhorne's first hearing was on July 30, 2002, at which time a tenth specification was added: the falsification of time sheets — specifically, the deletion of alterations made by Stark. Langhorne appeared at the hearing pro se. Id. ¶ 34. Langhorne also appeared pro se at his second hearing, on August 12, 2002. Id. ¶ 35. After the second hearing, Langhorne contacted the Port Authority's Office of Equal Opportunity Employment to complain of discrimination, but that office did not inquire further. Id.

  On October 31, 2002, the Impartial Hearing Officer recommended Langhorne's termination, and Langhorne was suspended with pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary process. Id. ¶ 37. On November 19, 2002, Langhorne filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), which forwarded the charge to the New York State Division of Human Rights. Id. ¶¶ 38-39.

  On January 31, 2003, the Port Authority approved the recommendation of Langhorne's termination — an action that did not conform to the Port ...


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