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Humphries v. City University of New York

United States District Court, Second Circuit

November 26, 2013



PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Dr. Jill Humphries ("Humphries") brings this action against the City University of New York ("CUNY"), her former employer, and several named CUNY employees (collectively, "defendants"). Humphries alleges race discrimination, gender discrimination, and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et. seq. ("Title VII"), the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq. ("NYSHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq. ("NYCHRL"). Humphries also brings a claim for retaliation under the NYSHRL.

Defendants now move to dismiss all but the NYSHRL retaliation claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the Court: (1) dismisses Humphries' discrimination and hostile work environment claims under Title VII, the NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL; and (2) declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Humphries' NYSHRL retaliation claim.

I. Background

A. Facts[1]

Humphries, an African-American woman, has worked in academia for the past 20 years "as a Researcher, Lecturer, Instructor or Professor." EEOC Charge ¶ 2; Am. Compl. ¶ 5. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration, a masters degree in Public Administration, a masters degree in Public Health, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. EEOC Charge ¶ 4. In fall 2006, Humphries began to work for CUNY[2] as an adjunct assistant professor in the Urban Studies Department at Queens College. Id. ¶ 9. In spring 2008, Humphries was hired "as an adjunct assistant faculty member" for CUNY's Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies ("JSMI"). Id. ¶ 12.

In May 2010, Humphries accepted an administrative position at the JSMI. Her job title was "Urban Studies Academic Program Manager/Higher Education Associate." Am. Compl. ¶ 5; EEOC Charge ¶ 13. The posted salary range for a CUNY Academic Program Manager was between $55, 602 and $74, 133. EEOC Charge ¶ 20 n.1. Humphries was initially offered a salary of $62, 665, which she declined. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Humphries then accepted the position at a salary of $64, 956. Id. ¶ 20. Later, Humphries learned that Pamela Whitfield, a Caucasian female who, Humphries alleges, "performed similar job functions" and "had less academic experience and fewer academic credentials, " was paid a salary of $79, 242. Id. ¶¶ 18, 21-22; Am. Compl. ¶ 19.

On August 2, 2010, Humphries started working in her new role. EEOC Charge ¶ 25. Humphries alleges that during her employment, she experienced numerous adverse actions attributable to her race and gender, resulting in a "hostile, discriminatory, and retaliatory work environment." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 30. In particular, she alleges that:

(1) Katherine Krupat ("Krupat"), the Associate Director of Worker Education at the JSMI, subjected Humphries to "pejorative words" whenever she submitted completed work assignments. Am. Compl. ¶ 18(A).
(2) Krupat changed Humphries' job description on July 19, 2010 (before Humphries started) and on September 21, 2010, "for no other reason other than to subject Plaintiff to a hostile working environment where Plaintiff could not possibly succeed as her job responsibilities and performance goals changed, arbitrarily and materially, day-to-day." Id.
(3) Laurence Jackson ("Jackson"), the JSMI Associate Director for Administration and Personnel, "failed to timely provide [her] an office, keys, and access card, " id. ¶ 23, denied her request to purchase "statistical software for the Murphy Institute, " EEOC Charge ¶¶ 33-43, and denied her request for an "ergonomic chair, " id. ¶ 44; Am. Compl. ¶ 23.
(4) Humphries spoke to Jackson about these issues, but "found Jackson's communication harsh and demeaning for no apparent reason other than her sex and skin color." Am. Compl. ¶ 24.
(5) Humphries had difficulty obtaining an ergonomic chair. EEOC Charge ¶ 61; Am. Compl. ¶ 29. On September 24, 2010, Humphries sent Jackson and Yosette Jones-Johnson ("Jones-Johnson")-the Assistant Vice President for Faculty and Staff Relations at CUNY's Graduate Center-a letter from her physician "regarding her medical condition and her need for an ergonomic chair." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10, 27. Jones-Johnson forwarded Humphries' request to Ella Kiselyuk ("Kiselyuk"), the Director for Human Resources for CUNY's Graduate Center. Id. ¶ 28. On September 27, 2010, Humphries and Kiselyuk met to discuss the request. EEOC Charge ¶ 54. Kiselyuk requested permission to speak to Humphries' doctor, which Humphries denied. Id. ¶¶ 56-57. On October 5, 2010, Humphries asked Kiselyuk to put her medical request in writing for review before forwarding it to Humphries' physician. Id. ¶¶ 58-60. Humphries never received an ergonomic chair.

(6) Krupat, Jackson, and other JSMI employees "inappropriately labeled [Humphries] as an Angry Black Woman'" by "categorizing her appropriate and effective assertiveness with pejorative words likened to the Angry Black Women Syndrome: aggressive', agitated', angry', belligerent', disruptive', hands on hip', hostile', threatening', and Vituperative', among others." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26, 26(A).[3]

Humphries also alleges that she complained to her supervisors about Jackson's denial of her software request, but that they "sid[ed] with" defendant Jackson. Id. ¶ 25. On September 20, 2010, Humphries met with Edith Rivera ("Rivera"), the Chief Diversity Officer for CUNY's Affirmative Action Office ("AAO"). Id. ¶¶ 36-38. Also present was Kristin Maynard, a representative of the School of Professional Studies, CUNY Graduate Center. EEOC Charge ¶ 85. At the meeting, Humphries felt "Rivera was dismissive of her discrimination claims suffered at the hands of all Defendants." Am. Compl. ¶ 38. Humphries alleges that Rivera "tried to bully and discourage [her] from pursuing a formal complaint against Defendant CUNY and its agents." Id. Humphries further alleges that Rivera "failed to follow written CUNY policy and procedure in investigating [Humphries'] allegation of race and gender discrimination." Id. ¶ 38(A).[4]

After Humphries' September 20, 2010 meeting with CUNY's AAO, Humphries "insisted on union representation during all management-initiated meetings" regarding her performance. Id. ¶ 40(C). Krupat scheduled a meeting with Humphries on October 4, 2010, but Humphries did not attend. EEOC Charge ¶ 96. As a result, Krupat told Humphries to "put all work in progress on hold, " and to "not go further with any project or any meetings with Urban Studies staff." Am. Compl. ¶ 40(A). Humphries characterizes this as a " de facto " suspension, which was "lifted, " 11 days later, on October 15, 2010. Id. ; EEOC Charge ¶ 110. On October 12, 2010, Krupat directed Humphries to attend the Urban Studies program team meeting scheduled for October 13, 2010. EEOC Charge ¶ 108. Humphries attended the meeting, but was, apparently, "belligerent." Id. ¶ 111. On October 15, 2010, Krupat placed in Humphries' personnel file "an instructional memo labeling [her] as being belligerent during" that meeting. Id.

Between October 21, 2010 and January 3, 2011, Humphries took a 10-week leave of absence to care for her ailing father. Id. ¶¶ 112-113. Upon her return, Humphries "received a notice of Intent for Immediate Discharge from the Instructional Staff" of the CUNY Graduate Center. Id. ¶ 114. Four days later, on January 7, 2011, Humphries was fired. Id. ¶ 115; Am. Compl. ¶ 40(F).

Humphries filed a grievance against CUNY under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, see EEOC Charge ¶ 121, which was submitted for arbitration on January 20, 2012, see Humphries v. City University of New York, Index No. 651699/2013 (Sup.Ct. N.Y. Co., Singh, J.) (June 26, 2013).[5] The purpose of the Arbitration was to determine whether CUNY had just cause under the collective bargaining agreement and CUNY by-laws to terminate Humphries. Id. The Arbitrator ruled in favor of CUNY. Humphries' petition in New York State Court to vacate this ruling was denied. Id.

B. Procedural History

On April 27, 2011, Humphries filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that she had suffered discrimination and retaliation on the basis of race, sex, and disability. See EEOC Charge. On January 22, 2013, the EEOC issued Humphries a "right to sue letter." See Am. Comp. Ex. A.

On April 22, 2013, Humphries filed her initial Complaint. Dkt. 1. On June 28, 2013, defendants submitted a motion to dismiss, Dkt. 4, and a supporting memorandum of law, Dkt. 5 ("Def. Br."). On July 19, 2013, Humphries filed an Amended Complaint. Dkt. 7. On July 31, 2013, defendants submitted a letter stating that they would "stand on their original papers." Dkt. 8. On August 26, 2013, Humphries submitted a memorandum of law in opposition to the motion to dismiss, Dkt. 11 ("Pl. Br."), the Affidavit of Dr. Jill Humphries, ...

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