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Hooda v. Brookhaven National Laboratory

September 15, 2009


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


Plaintiff Balwan Singh Hooda, appearing pro se, filed suit alleging violations of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1986, the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Human Rights Law. Defendants Brookhaven Science Associates LLC ("BSA")*fn1 , Michael Bebon, William Hempfling, William Robert Casey and George Goode (collectively, the "Brookhaven Defendants") have moved to dismiss certain claims that Mr. Hooda asserts. For the following reasons, the Brookhaven Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

The Brookhaven Defendants have also moved to partially stay discovery pending the Court's decision on this motion. That motion is DENIED AS MOOT.

For his part, Mr. Hooda has filed a "Cross Motion For Full Discovery." That motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. As per the usual application of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Mr. Hooda is entitled to normal discovery on the claims that this decision has not dismissed.


Brookhaven National Laboratory is a facility owned by the Department of Energy and managed by Defendant BSA. BSA employs more than 2500 people at BNL. Compl. ¶ 9.

Mr. Hooda, an American citizen of Indian origin, has been employed at BNL since May 1, 2000. Compl. ¶¶ 8-9. During this entire time, he has worked as an Environmental Radiation Program Manager with the pay classification Project Engineer-I. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 19. Mr. Hooda's performance appraisals have categorized him as a "commendable performer" who "often performs above performance expectations." Compl. ¶ 20. Mr. Hooda is the only certified health physicist with 18 years experience in BNL's Environmental and Waste Management Services Division ("EWMSD"). Compl. ¶ 21. He is a recognized expert in the fields of radiological protection, Department of Energy standards, environmental compliance, occupational radiation safety, and health protection and compliance. Compl. ¶ 23.

In or about March 2007, Mr. Hooda applied to be BNL's "Assistant Lab Director for the Environmental Safety and Health Division." Compl. ¶ 24. On July 26, 2007, Mr. Hooda emailed Mr. Hempfling, BNL's Manager of Personnel, to inquire about his application. Compl. ¶ 25. Mr. Hempfling informed Mr. Hooda that he had been arbitrarily screened out of the selection process because there were too many candidates, and because Mr. Hooda had not run an organization with a $20 million budget nor supervised over 100 people. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27. Mr. Casey, the Chair of the Hiring Committee, also participated in this decision. Compl. ¶ 26. Mr. Hooda informed Mr. Hempfling that: (1) he met all of the position's advertised requirements; (2) he possessed qualifications similar to the last person to hold the position; (3) he was more qualified than any of the internal candidates for the position; and (4) there were other candidates who did not meet the $20 million and 100 people criteria but were not screened out. Compl. ¶¶ 27-30. Mr. Hempfling responded that BSA did not need to advertise all of the position's requirements and can "base the selection process in any way they want to." Compl. ¶ 29. However, after Mr. Hooda protested, Mr. Hempfling agreed to permit Mr. Hooda to reapply. Compl. ¶ 30. Mr. Hooda refused to do so, arguing that "unless the selection process is transparent, unbiased, has detailed selection criteria and posts consistent job requirements for the position," his reapplication would be "futile" because he had no guarantee that the selection process "is going to be fair this time around." Compl. ¶ 31.

In response to the difficulty he encountered in applying for the Assistant Lab Director position, Mr. Hooda sent a letter to BNL's Advisory Committee, asking that they investigate allegedly discriminatory hiring practices at BNL. Compl. ¶ 32. In this letter, Mr. Hooda also asked the Advisory Committee to investigate other kinds of discrimination, including the alleged hostile work environment he claims to have experienced. Id.

In October 2007, Mr. Hooda applied for another position, this time as an ES&H Manager in the National Synchroton Light Source II project office, a lower-level position than the Assistant Lab Director position that Mr. Hooda failed to obtain. Compl. ¶ 33. Mr. Hooda received no response to this application, despite sending repeated emails to BSA's human resources personnel. Compl. ¶¶ 34, 35. Eventually, Mr. Hooda was informed (it is unclear by whom) that he was not considered for the position because he lacked construction experience, even though construction experience was not an advertised qualification or requirement for the position. Compl. ¶ 36. On January 25, 2008, Mr. Hooda wrote BSA personnel, noting that he met or exceeded all of the position's posted requirements. Compl. ¶ 38. Mr. Hooda believes that the failure to consider him for this position was not only discriminatory, but also in retaliation for his previous discrimination complaints.

Mr. Hooda has other complaints concerning BSA's hiring process and BNL's working environment. He alleges that decision-makers frequently award promotions to their personal friends, and cites two specific examples of this occurring. Compl. ¶¶ 43, 44, 46. He alleges that, although he is his division's only certified health physicist, he is not permitted to participate in a "senior managers" meeting, or join certain workplace committees. Compl. ¶¶ 45, 52. He alleges that he is not "given credit and recognition for his work," and that his recommendations "are marginalized . . . to the extent of endangering the public health and safety." Compl. ¶ 47. He alleges that BSA does not enforce its own workplace policies with respect to minorities' complaints. Compl. ¶ 50. He alleges that his superiors have engaged in "intimidation" by "making statements such as 'where have you been hiding'" to him in front of his co-workers, even though he had been on official duty. Compl. ¶ 53. He alleges that BNL management has allocated certain "radiological" responsibilities to a white person with lower qualifications than himself. Compl. ¶ 54. And he alleges that BSA promotes white people who lack a "health physics certification," while not promoting him or providing him with a "decent raise" despite his certification.

On February 25, 2008, Mr. Hooda filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. In this Charge, Mr. Hooda checked the boxes indicating that he was complaining of discrimination based on "race," "national origin" and "retaliation." He did not check the "color" discrimination box. Describing his complaints, Mr. Hooda alleged that:

1. Selection process/criteria is arbitrary and biased.

2. Promotion/management selection are preemptive and geared towards whites.

3. Allocation of Resources/projects are selectively biased, and minorities are excluded.

4. Inconsistent post advertising and selection criteria is opaque.

For specific examples, Mr. Hooda listed the difficulties he encountered in attempting to apply for the Assistant Lab ...

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