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Todaro v. Siegel Fenchel & Peddy

March 3, 2008


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


On July 14, 2004, Plaintiffs Jacquelyn Todaro ("Todaro") and Maria Moscarelli ("Moscarelli") (collectively, the "Plaintiffs") commenced this action against Siegel Fenchel & Peddy, P.C. ("SFP"), William Siegel ("Siegel"), Saul Fenchel ("Fenchel"), Tracie Peddy ("Peddy"), Andrew Cangemi ("Cangemi"), and Edward Mohlenhoff ("Mohlenhoff") (collectively, the "Defendants"). Plaintiffs alleged various causes of action in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1994) ("Title VII") and New York Executive Law § 296 ("NYHRL") as well as violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (the "Equal Pay Act") and New York State Labor Law § 194 ("Labor Law") and other state actions. Pursuant to this Court's Order, dated February 27, 2007 ("2007 Order"), Plaintiffs' remaining claims are sex and pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII and the NYHRL, and any derivative aiding and abetting discrimination claim, and violation of the Equal Pay Act and Labor Law. Presently pending is Defendants' motion for separate trials pursuant to Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons below, Defendants' motion is DENIED.


The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts. To the extent the parties require a detailed recitation of the facts, they are referred to the 2007 Order. The following facts are relevant to the instant motion.

Plaintiffs Todaro and Moscarelli were both employed by SFP, in different capacities, during overlapping periods. Specifically, Todaro worked at SFP from 1996 until 2003, first as a law clerk and then as an associate tax certiorari attorney. (2007 Order at 2-3.) Moscarelli was hired by SFP as a legal assistant in 1987 and, eventually, became supervisor of the tax certiorari department at SFP, until 2003. (Id. at 4-5.)

While employed at SFP, Plaintiffs directly reported to different individuals since Todaro was an attorney and Moscarelli was an administrative employee. They did, however, work in a small single-office law firm, with approximately 20 total employees. (Pls.' Opp'n Letter 3.) From 2000 to Moscarelli's termination in 2003, Moscarelli reported to Betty Wells ("Wells"), a supervisor at SFP. (2007 Order at 4-5.) There is also testimony that Peddy supervised Moscarelli as well as Wells and that Fenchel was involved in the decision not to give Mosacarelli a raise and to terminate her. (Id.; Pls.' Opp'n Letter, Exs. A, B & C.) Todaro generally reported to the partner with whom she was working. (Defs.' Letter Mot. 2.)

Plaintiffs had both been on maternity leave in 2003, the year in which they suffered adverse employment actions. (2007 Order at 4-5.) In January 2003, at a time when Todaro was pregnant, Defendants reduced her salary by 25 percent. (Id. at 3.) Despite the salary reduction, Todaro indicated to the partners of SFP and Wells that she planned to return to work "at the end of July/beginning of August." (Id. at 3-4.) On July 21, 2003, the day Todaro was scheduled to return from maternity leave, she hand delivered a letter of resignation to the SFP partners, claiming that she was unable to continue working at SFP because Defendants had "discriminated against [her] (and others) both on the basis of pregnancy and gender." (Id. at 4.)

Moscarelli began maternity leave in May 2003. (Id. at 5.) While Moscarelli was on maternity leave, Wells determined, upon SFP's request, that the tax certiorari department could function effectively without her. (Id.) Moscarelli was terminated on August 22, 2003, which was within two weeks after returning from maternity leave. (Id. at 6.)


I. Rule 42(b)

Defendants move for separate trials contending that Plaintiffs' claims do not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, their respective claims do not share common facts, potential settlement and judicial economy would best be served by separate trials and, most importantly, one trial will expose Defendants to substantial risk of prejudice. (Defs.' Letter Mot. 2-3.) Plaintiffs oppose this motion arguing that, among other things, their claims "depict an overarching policy of unlawful discrimination formulated and executed by the same individual Defendants as partners running the same law firm in a single office." (Pls.' Opp'n Letter 2.)

Rule 42(b) provides, in pertinent part, that "the Court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and economy, may order a separate trial of any claim . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). As Defendants correctly point, in deciding whether to order separate trials, this Court is guided by the factors enumerated by the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt in Morris v. Northrop Gruman Corporation. 37 F. Supp. 2d 556 (E.D.N.Y. 1999). Although no one factor is dispositive, the Court considers (1) whether the claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence; (2) whether the claims present some common questions of law or fact; (3) whether settlement of the claims or judicial economy would be facilitated; (4) whether prejudice would be avoided if severance were granted; and (5) whether different witnesses and documentary proof are required for the separate claims.

Id. at 580. Moreover, courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to grant separate trials. See Tardd v. Brookhaven Nat'l Lab., No. 04-CV-3262, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34378, at *18 (E.D.N.Y. May 8, 2007) (citing Amato v. City of Saratoga Springs, 170 F.3d 311, 316 (2d Cir. 1999); New York v. Hendrickson Bros., Inc., 840 F.2d 1065 (2d Cir. 1988); Corporan v. City of Binghamton, No. 05-CV-1340, 2006 WL 2970495, at *2 n.2 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 16, 2006); Jeanty v. County of Orange, 379 F. Supp. 2d 533, 549 (S.D.N.Y. ...

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