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Dudley P. Gilbert v. New York State Police and Wayne E. Bennett

October 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court



Plaintiff Dudley P. Gilbert commenced this employment discrimination action by filing a Complaint in the District Court for the Western District of New York. (Docket No. 1.) Therein, he alleges that Defendants the New York State Police ("NYSP") and former Superintendent of the New York State Police Wayne E. Bennett discriminated against him based on his race (African American). Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (hereinafter, "Title VII"), and New York Executive Law § 292 and § 296.

Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety.*fn1 (Docket No. 19.) Plaintiff opposes the motion.*fn2

For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is granted.


A. Facts

Dudley P. Gilbert, Plaintiff, is an African American resident of the City of Buffalo, Erie County, New York. (Complaint, ("Comp."), Docket No. 1, ¶ 7.) Defendant NYSP is a division of the executive department of the State of New York. (Id. ¶ 9.) Defendant Wayne E. Bennett was, at all relevant times, the Superintendent of NYSP. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Plaintiff was hired by NYSP on March 30, 1987 as a New York State trooper. Plaintiff was employed by NYSP in that capacity for eighteen years. (Id. ¶ 8.) On November 9, 2004, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident. (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts in Support of Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Statement"), Docket No. 21, ¶ 11.) A police investigation concluded that Plaintiff had driven while intoxicated at the time of the accident. (Declaration by George Michael Zimmermann ("Zimmermann Decl."), Docket No. 22, Ex. B.) No charges were filed regarding this incident, but Gilbert was issued a letter of censure, suspended without pay for fifteen days, and put on probationary status from February 1, 2005 to August 1, 2005. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 13; Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1(b) Statement and Response to Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statement ("Pl.'s Statement"), Docket No. 28, ¶ 12.) Plaintiff opted not to challenge these disciplinary actions or request a hearing, despite being offered the opportunity. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 14.)

Subsequently, on May 27, 2005, Plaintiff became involved in another motor vehicle accident. (Id. ¶ 17.) An officer at the scene described Plaintiff as smelling of alcohol, slurring his speech, and appearing unsteady on his feet. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff had been drinking and spilled beer on himself after being "physically overcome in the bar," allegedly as a result of his recent diagnosis with Type 2 Diabetes. (Pl.'s Statement ¶ 21.) Plaintiff was arrested and taken to the Erie County Holding Center, where he chose not to submit to a chemical test to measure the amount of alcohol in his blood, but was otherwise cooperative. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.)

Following this incident, Gilbert entered an alcohol rehabilitation program at the Tully Hill Treatment Facility, after being advised by New York State police investigator Bernard Feldman, that checking himself into an alcohol recovery program would help protect his job. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 28; Comp. ¶ 26.) Upon being informed of Plaintiff's arrest during the May 27, 2005 incident, Superintendent Bennett made the decision to suspend Plaintiff without pay. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 31.) Bennett conferred with Chief Inspector Joseph Loszynski and was informed that several police officers believed Gilbert had been driving while intoxicated. (Id. ¶ 33; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 33.) Finally, on June 10, 2005, Bennett notified Plaintiff by letter that his employment with the NYSP was terminated. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 39.) In contrast to previous disciplinary incidents involving other troopers, Bennett did not wait for Gilbert to complete his in-patient treatment program, did not impose the lesser disciplinary sentence recommended by the First Deputy Superintendent, did not review a statement by Gilbert, and completed the investigation in approximately two weeks, as opposed to the usual two to four months. (Pl.'s Statement ¶¶ L, M, N, Q.) Plaintiff alleges that in numerous cases, white officers guilty of similar offenses received less severe punishments. (Id. ¶ G.)

Following these events, Plaintiff was acquitted of all charges relating to the May 27, 2005 incident in Buffalo City Court. (Defs.' Statement ¶ 44.)

B. Procedural History

On October 14, 2005 Plaintiff jointly filed a verified complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging NYSP, and other parties, with unlawfully discriminating on the basis of race in violation of New York State's Human Rights Law. (Comp. ¶ 34; Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), Docket No, 29, 1.) The New York State Division of Human Rights initially concluded that there was probable cause to believe Defendants had engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices. (Pl.'s Statement ¶ E.) The proceeding was subsequently dismissed ...

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