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Becerril v. Ease Bronx NAACP Child Develpoment Center

September 17, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge



Plaintiff, Adriana Becerril ("Becerril"), alleges violations of: (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 ("Title VII"); (2) the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), New York Executive Law §§ 290 et seq.; and (3) the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), New York City Administrative Code §§ 8-101 et seq., against East Bronx N.A.A.C.P. Child Development Center (the "Center"). The defendant failed to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint, and the plaintiff moved for default judgment. On March 2, 2009, the Court granted the default judgment to plaintiff and referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox to conduct a post-default inquest and to report and recommend the amount of damages, if any, to be awarded to the plaintiff against the defendant. On August 18, 2009, Magistrate Judge Fox issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending the amount of damages that the plaintiff should be awarded. On September 3, 2009, Becerril filed timely objections to the damages suggested in the R&R ("Obj."). The Court has reviewed the R&R and Becerril's objections and adopts the R&R in its entirety.


I. Facts*fn1

Becerril was an employee at the Center from April 2005 until September 17, 2007. In March 2007, Becerril told her Managing Director, Yolanda Braham ("Braham"), that she was pregnant, following which, in the summer of 2007, the Center assigned Becerril tasks that entailed greater travel. In July 2007, Becerril was diagnosed with pre-term labor and high-risk pregnancy, which required her to reduce stress by minimizing travel and overall responsibilities. On September 14, 2007, Becerril submitted a note from her physician informing Braham that the associated health-risk to her pregnancy prevented her from stressful activities, including travel. Braham appeared annoyed at these requests, and, on September 17, 2007, Braham terminated Becerril's employment without explanation. Becerril believes that she was terminated because of her pregnancy. Following her termination, Becerril was diagnosed with depression, migraine headaches, and post-concussive syndrome, and she was prescribed medications. Becerril's symptoms improved after September 2008 and dissipated in December 2008, when she secured new employment. On March 10, 2008, Becerril filed a timely discrimination charge against the Center with the Equal Employment Opportunity Center. This action timely commenced on November 25, 2008.


II. Standard of Review for a Report and Recommendation

A district court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). When a timely objection is made to the magistrate's recommendations, the court is required to review the contested portions de novo. Pizarro v. Bartlett, 776 F. Supp. 815, 817 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). The court "may adopt those portions of the [R&R] to which no objections have been made and which are not facially erroneous." La Torres v. Walker, 216 F. Supp. 2d 157, 159 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).

III. Magistrate Judge Fox's R&R and Becerril's Objections

Magistrate Judge Fox reviewed the facts and thoroughly analyzed the applicable law. Magistrate Judge Fox recommended, among other things, that Becerril be awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages (R&R at 12), denied punitive damages (Id. at 13), and awarded $52,830 in attorneys' fees (Id. at 18). Becerril objects to these recommendations, arguing that she is entitled to: (a) $250,000 in compensatory damages (Obj. at 3-5); (b) $250,000 in punitive damages (Id. at 5-6); and (c) $78,128 in attorneys' fees (Id. at 7-9). The Court finds that none of Becerril's objections have merit and adopts the R&R in its entirety.

a. Compensatory Damages

Title VII caps Becerril's combined amount of compensatory and punitive damages at $50,000; the NYHRL and the NYCHRL entitle Becerril to an unlimited amount of compensatory damages. See New York City Transit Auth. v. New York State Div. of Human Rights, 78 N.Y.2d 207, 216 (1991). In discrimination cases, the NYHRL provides for punitive damages; the NYCHRL does not. See Farias v. Instructional Sys., Inc., 259 F.3d 91, 101 (2d Cir. 2001).

A prevailing Title VII plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for "emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses." See 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(3). In employment discrimination cases, courts have awarded damages commensurate with the severity of the emotional distress. See Rainone v. Potter, 388 F.Supp.2d 120, 122 (E.D.N.Y. 2005). Courts have awarded damages ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 for significant emotional distress claims; courts have awarded damages in excess of $100,000 ...

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