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Jordan v. City of New York Human Resources Administration

August 1, 2010

JEROME E. JORDAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK HUMAN RESOURCES ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN GLEESON, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Jerome Jordan was formerly employed by defendant New York City Human Resources Administration ("HRA"). Jordan brings this action contending primarily that the HRA discriminated against him on the basis of his gender and retaliated against him after he complained about discrimination. The HRA now moves for summary judgment, contending that there is insufficient evidence to support Jordan's claims. Oral argument was heard on July 30, 2010. For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

BACKGROUND

A. Jordan's Employment at the HRA

Jordan was hired by the HRA in 1986. He began work as a provisional Special Officer in March of that year, and was appointed a Special Officer three months later. In June of 1995, Jordan was moved to the position of Fraud Investigator in the HRA's Bureau of Employee Verification. In that position, he was responsible for conducting investigations of welfare fraud, also known as Eligibility Verification and Review or "EVR." As part of his work, Jordan was required to go into the field with a partner and make visits to the homes of welfare claimants.

In the years 1999 to 2001, Jordan's supervisor, Wayne Booker, sent Jordan various memoranda noting allegations of misconduct on the job by Jordan. For example, a welfare recipient claimed that, on a visit to her home, Jordan rang her doorbell and walked away before she had the chance to answer the door. In addition, Booker complained repeatedly that Jordan had failed to complete and submit timely travel logs, and warned Jordan that he could be subjected to disciplinary action if he continued to do so. One memorandum accused Jordan of "maintain[ing] a total disregard for EVR procedural policy." Kroll Aff., Ex. O.

On January 9, 2001, Jordan had a verbal altercation with a fellow investigator, Corinne Gilliam, while in the field. In her report of the altercation to the HRA, Gilliam stated, among other things, that Jordan drank on the job after visiting a liquor store, and that he said he was going to "Fuck Mr. Booker up and put his ass in the hospital." Kroll Aff. Ex. Q. According to Gilliam, on each house visit they made, Jordan knocked on the door, counted to three, then said "fuck it, let[']s go." Id. Gilliam stated that when she challenged Jordan about this behavior, Jordan became angry and made "remarks about [her] family." Id. On learning of Gilliam's allegations, Booker referred Jordan for disciplinary action. After a protracted process involving an informal conference and a Step II hearing,*fn1 HRA disciplinary officers decided that Jordan should be dismissed for his January 9, 2001 actions in a decision effective March 11, 2005. Jordan filed an SDHR complaint on March 14, 2005, claiming discrimination on the basis of "age, national origin, sex." Kroll Aff. Ex. HH. He also challenged the dismissal through the grievance process. An arbitration hearing was set for June 27, 2005. Before the hearing began, however, the HRA agreed a settlement with Jordan's union representative. Pursuant to the settlement, Jordan was reinstated, but he accepted a 30-day suspension.

Jordan was later terminated again, and he challenges that second termination in this lawsuit. The disciplinary charges leading to the termination arose from allegations against Jordan in 2004 and 2005. One set of charges concerns alleged misconduct by Jordan towards Althea Appleton, a colleague senior to him in the HRA who worked on the fifth floor of 250 Livingston Street. (Jordan was based on the fourth floor.) Jordan claims that he and Appleton had an affair. On October 12, 2004, Jordan is alleged to have shown sexually explicit photographs of Appleton to co-workers. These photographs were apparently created by taking a photograph of Appleton's face and "Photoshopping" it onto photographs of a different woman. Appleton complained. According to Marilyn Lewis, Assistant Director of the HRA, two days after the incident, Jordan admitted during a meeting with her that he had shown the pictures of Appleton to others. Jordan was then instructed to stay away from the fifth floor of 250 Livingston. Nevertheless, according to Appleton, Jordan visited the fifth floor on March 4, 2005, causing Appleton to feel threatened and intimidated.

The second set of charges that led to Jordan's firing concerned a welfare claimant known as "Marion H." Marion H. told the HRA that when Jordan visited her home on November 22, 2005, he asked her if she had a man and if he could "get with" her. When she declined his offer to take her out, Jordan responded: "don't you know who I am[,] all the ladies love me." Kroll Aff. Ex. AA. During the same visit, Jordan is alleged to have called Marion H. a "gold digging bitch" after she mentioned that she was seeking child support from the father of her child, though Jordan called the next day to apologize for "being nasty." Id.

Jordan was told that an informal conference relating to these allegations would be held on March 27, 2006. Jordan chose to forego this hearing. The HRA found that the new allegations against Jordan were substantiated and as a result terminated his employment on August 17, 2006.

B. The Procedural History

Jordan challenged his termination by requesting arbitration. Marilyn Lewis and Marion H. testified for the HRA at the arbitration hearing. Jordan, represented by an attorney provided by the union, testified on his own behalf and also offered the testimony of Andre Johnson, a former HRA employee. In a written decision, the arbitrator substantially upheld the charges against Jordan and found that they supported the HRA's decision to terminate Jordan's employment. Jordan challenged the arbitrator's decision by commencing an Article 75 proceeding in the Supreme Court of New York, Kings County. Without considering the merits of the arbitrator's decision, Justice Francois Rivera set aside the arbitration award because there was no transcript of the arbitration proceedings.*fn2

After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, Jordan filed this action on March 10, 2008. His complaint states that he was falsely accused of sexual harassment, and asserts claims against the HRA for discrimination, retaliation, and "character assassination." Compl. 3. The case was initially assigned to Judge Irizarry. The HRA moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it was time-barred. Judge Irizarry denied the motion to dismiss, finding that Jordan had pled sufficient facts to support equitable tolling ...


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