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Walker v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 26, 2014

TAMRA WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge.

KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge:

Plaintiff Tamra Walker initiated the instant action on April 29, 2011, against Defendants City of New York, Raymond W. Kelly, and Rafael Pineiro (collectively, "Defendants"). In broad summary, Plaintiff asserts claims of discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17; Sections 1981 and 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code; the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 to 297 (the "NYSHRL"); and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 to 8-131 (the "NYCHRL"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed in the remainder of this Opinion, that motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Employment with the NYPD and Application for Reinstatement

Plaintiff is a self-identified African-American female who was employed as an officer with the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") from approximately July 2001 to August 2007. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 1-2; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 1).[1] When she initially applied for a position with the NYPD in April 2001, Plaintiff averred that she had never used marijuana or any other controlled substance. ( Id. at ¶ 5). In point of fact, Plaintiff used marijuana several times during her teenage years. ( Id. at ¶¶ 4-5; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶¶ 4-5). Plaintiff alleges that her failure to report her prior marijuana use was accidental, not purposeful. (Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 4).

Plaintiff retired from the NYPD in August 2007 and applied for a position with the City of Atlanta Police Department ("APD"), the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority ("MARTA"), and the Dekalb County Police Department. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 2). When Plaintiff applied for a position with the APD, she did not report any prior drug use; however, Plaintiff subsequently admitted such drug use to an APD proctor who was administering a voice stress analysis test to Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 4). As a result, by letter dated November 15, 2007, Plaintiff was denied employment by the APD based upon a "Deliberate Omission/Falsification" in her application. ( Id. at ¶ 3). Notably, Plaintiff does not believe that the APD's decision not to hire her after learning of her false statement in its application is discriminatory. ( Id. at ¶ 6).

On November 9, 2007, Plaintiff applied for reinstatement with the NYPD. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 7; Walker Tr. 51). By letter dated November 26, 2007, the NYPD confirmed receipt of Plaintiff's application, and informed her that "[a]n investigation will be conducted concerning your job performance while a member of the Department, and your activities since leaving the Department." (Def. 56.1 ¶ 9). The letter also notified Plaintiff that she would be required to submit to medical and psychological examinations, and that consideration of her application for reinstatement would take approximately three months. ( Id. ).

Plaintiff's psychological review was conducted on January 4, 2008. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 11). Plaintiff was provided with medical release forms, and was instructed to submit those forms to MARTA, so that MARTA could provide the NYPD with Plaintiff's psychological tests. ( Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff alleges that she was informed by MARTA that such a release had to come from the NYPD directly. (Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 13). Accordingly, Plaintiff called both MARTA and the NYPD regularly to request that her records be sent to the NYPD. ( Id. ).

In March 2008, Plaintiff was informed that her application had been closed because the NYPD had received no information from MARTA. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 13). In July 2008, MARTA provided the requested information to the NYPD, which then advised Plaintiff to resubmit her application for reinstatement. ( Id. at ¶ 14). Plaintiff did, and she was subsequently determined to be medically and psychologically qualified by the NYPD's Medical Division. ( Id. at ¶ 15). As a result, on August 8, 2008, the NYPD advised Plaintiff that it had all the information necessary to make a determination with respect to her application for reinstatement. ( Id. at ¶ 16).

Around that time, Plaintiff called her designated contact person at the NYPD, Officer Jenimarie Garcia-Cruz, to discuss why her application had been delayed. Plaintiff testified that she told Officer Garcia-Cruz:

I just told her, you know, I just don't feel like, you know, everything that's going on. Nobody's helping me. I just felt like if I was different, maybe somebody would help me. I had a lot of people call her to speed up the process, but I don't know if that annoyed her. I just felt like she was discriminating against me, and not doing what she needed to do to ensure [that] my folder [went] through in a timely fashion.

(Def. 56.1 ¶ 26). Plaintiff further testified that Officer Garcia-Cruz had a "bad [] disposition" when they spoke over the phone. ( Id. at ¶ 27). However, Plaintiff also testified that she and Officer Garcia-Cruz never spoke of Plaintiff's race. (Walker Tr. 67).

B. The Denial of Plaintiff's Application for Reinstatement

On August 19, 2008, Lieutenant Lorenzo Womack, the Operations Coordinator of the NYPD's Applicant Processing Division, recommended that Plaintiff's request for reinstatement be denied, stating:

The Reinstatement was disqualified by The Atlanta Police Department for discrepancies in the area of drug use. A review of the original case that the candidate was hired from in July of 2001 yield[ed] inconsistent statements made by her during the initial investigation in the same area of drug use. Therefore Recommend[] DISAPPROVAL for reinstatement.

(Def. 56.1 ¶ 17).

Inspector Walter T. Salowski, Commanding Officer of the NYPD's Applicant Processing Division, concurred with Lt. Womack's recommendation. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 18). Thereafter, the NYPD informed Plaintiff that her application for reinstatement was denied. While there is no evidence in the record concerning when, if at all, the NYPD informed Plaintiff of the reasons for the denial, the parties are in agreement that Plaintiff surmised (correctly, as it turns out) that her application had been denied based upon her report of previous marijuana use to, and her rejection from, the APD. ( Id. at ¶ 19; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 19).

On September 10, 2008, Plaintiff wrote to then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly regarding the denial of her application for reinstatement. (Andersen Decl., Ex. F). Significantly, Plaintiff did not suggest in that letter that either the decision denying her reinstatement request or the delay in arriving at that decision amounted to gender- or race-based discrimination. Instead, Plaintiff sought to explain her omission of information about prior drug use from the application. In particular, Plaintiff stated that she was "was not intentionally trying to withhold information" from the NYPD, but rather that, as a result of her interview with the APD, she had recollected an incident of trying marijuana "as a juvenile" that she had previously forgotten. ( Id. ). Plaintiff closed the letter by writing, "I have never used drugs while employed with the New York City Police Department. I feel like my Character and integrity is being misjudged.... My part of lack of understanding [of] the question should not be the determining factor of me being re-hired to the New York City Police Department." ( Id. ).

By letter dated December 11, 2008, Rafael Pineiro, the NYPD's Chief of Personnel, informed Plaintiff that the Department had reviewed the NYPD's records to ensure that the decision to deny Plaintiff's reinstatement was made in accordance with the Civil Service Rules and Regulations of the City of New York. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 21). He further noted ...


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