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Coleman v. Town of Brookhaven

April 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tucker L. Melançon United States District Judge


TUCKER L. MELANÇON, Senior United States District Judge

Plaintiff Linda Coleman alleges that defendants Town of Brookhaven, Department of Parks Recreation Sports and Cultural Resources ("Brookhaven"), Bob Chartuk ("Chartuk") and Frank Pasqualo's ("Pasqualo") discriminated against her on the basis of her race. Plaintiff asserts claims against Brookhaven under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., New York State Executive Law § 296, and contract law, and claims against all defendants under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and 1985.

Before the Court are defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Rec. Doc. 37], plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition thereto and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on her § 1983 claim [Rec. Doc. 44], and defendants' Reply Memorandum in further support of their Motion of Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Opposition to plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Rec. Doc. 45]. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Rec. Doc. 37] will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Rec. Doc. 44] will be DENIED.

I. Background

Plaintiff is a black female employed by Brookhaven. Brookhaven is a municipal corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York. Chartuk and Pasqualo are white males who worked for Brookhaven at the relevant times, and held supervisory roles over plaintiff.

Plaintiff began working for Brookhaven as a laborer in 1999. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. She was subsequently promoted to Custodial Worker I, Maintenance Mechanic I, and Maintenance Mechanic II. Millus Decl., Exh. T. At some point, plaintiff was assigned within Brookhaven's Department of Parks to an area known as Bald Hill. L. Coleman Dep. 52. Plaintiff alleges that in 2004, she complained to her union representative, Eddie Gregory, that she was being given work assignments that were "out of title" or "under title," and claims that Gregory told her he would convey her complaints to her then-supervisor, Marty Crispino. L. Coleman Dep. 57-62, 73-75. She alleges that some time thereafter Crispino asked her: "why are you crying, I thought you were a bad ass black woman?" and alleges that this query was in response to the complaints she had made to Gregory. L. Coleman Dep. 72, 104-05.

In late 2004 or early 2005, Pasqualo replaced Crispino as plaintiff's supervisor. L. Coleman Dep. 108.

Edward Forrester III ("Forrester III"), a co-worker, alleges that some time in early 2005 Pasqualo referred to plaintiff as a "fucking bitch" out of plaintiff's presence (but in the presence of several other employees). Forrester III Dep. 62.

On June 18, 2005, plaintiff alleges co-worker Thomas DeSena intentionally kicked a garbage can toward her, and that when she sought help, another co-worker told her that she needed to continue working or could "go the fuck home." L. Coleman Dep. 119-29. Plaintiff reported this incident in two union grievances filed on July 28, 2005. Millus Decl., Exh. G.

Plaintiff alleges further that she was frequently assigned large tasks and given inadequate help, that she was assigned to work alone and unassisted more frequently than other employees, and that on several occasions she was subjected to angry and hostile remarks from co-workers for requesting help. L. Coleman Dep. 143-69. Plaintiff reported these complaints in two additional union grievances, also filed on July 28, 2005. Millus Decl., Exh. G. Her co-worker Edward Forrester III alleges that he was frequently paired to work with plaintiff, and that they were assigned the task of picking up garbage more frequently than other employees. Forrester III Dep. 39-40.

Plaintiff also alleges that she was not given a key to the trailer to which she would report for her assignments, and that other employees had keys to the trailer, and that she often had to wait for other employees to open the door. L. Coleman Dep. 270-82.

Chartuk scheduled a mandatory meeting for members of plaintiff's crew with Brookhaven's Employee Assistance Program on August 11, 2005 to discuss plaintiff's issues as well as others. Millus Decl., Exh. H; Chartuk Dep. 45-46; Pasqualo Dep. 55-56; L. Coleman Dep. 171-79.

Around the time of the meeting, plaintiff's grievances were brought to the attention of David Cohen, Brookhaven's outside counsel. Plaintiff claims that Cohen spoke to her at least once, and to her husband once, regarding her grievances. L. Coleman Dep. 133, 179-80. The number and timing of plaintiff's meetings and communications with Cohen, and what exactly she told Cohen, is unclear from the record. Plaintiff alleges that she complained to Cohen of racial discrimination.

L. Coleman Dep. 180-82; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-24.

Plaintiff alleges still further that on or around August 19, 2005 she was "set up," i.e. tricked by one supervisor into getting reprimanded by another. Specifically, plaintiff claims that one day Pasqualo told her to work first at Martha Avenue Park and then at Granny Road Park, and then to staff an event in the evening. She alleges that when she went home to change her clothes after working at Granny Road Park and before the event, Chartuk went to her home and "asked [her] what [she was] doing home." L. Coleman Dep. 226. She alleges that when she told Chartuk what her assignment was for the day, Chartuk communicated with Pasqualo, and Pasqualo denied having told her to leave Martha Avenue Park in the first place. At that point, she alleges, Chartuk told her to come to his office the following Monday to discuss the incident. Forrester III was with plaintiff throughout the incident. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33-42; L. Coleman Dep. 217-230; Forrester III Dep. 49-70.

Edward Forrester Jr. ("Forrester Jr."), a Brookhaven employee and the father of Forrester III, alleges that shortly after the alleged setup incident Pasqualo told him that his son, Forrester III, should change his story about the incident, and told Forrester Jr. that "if [Forrester III] sides with the niggers, he will never get a full-time job in this town." Forrester Jr. Dep. 18-20.

Plaintiff and her husband claim that they visited Pasqualo at work and plaintiff's husband complained to him about the incident. T. Coleman Dep. 8-10. Plaintiff alleges that Edward Forrester Jr. told her that Pasqualo, in reference to the Colemans' visit, told Edward Forrester Jr. that "them niggers had the nerve to come to [Bald] Hill." L. Coleman Dep. 245; Am. Compl. ¶ 52.

After the incident, plaintiff was assigned to work exclusively at Martha Avenue Park until further notice. L. Coleman Dep. 262; Calliste Decl., Exh. G. Plaintiff alleges, as do her husband and Forrester Jr., that Martha Avenue Park has a high crime rate. L. Coleman Dep. 231-35; T. Coleman Dep. 15; Forrester Jr. Dep. 96-97. Plaintiff does not allege that she was punished in any other way as a result of the alleged setup incident. Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54.

On October 5, 2005, plaintiff lodged a complaint against Brookhaven with the New York State Executive Department, Division of Human Rights. Millus Decl., Exhs. A, I. Plaintiff filed a complaint initiating this action on January 28, 2008.Plaintiff served an Amended Complaint on defendants on March 21, 2008.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only when the record reflects "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Such a determination is to be made "after construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and drawing ...

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