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Bowen-Hooks v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 31, 2014


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For Sylvia Bowen-Hooks, Plaintiff: Linda Cronin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Susan P Bernstein, Cronin & Byczek LLP, New Hyde Park, NY; Dominick Peter Revellino, Cronin & Byczek, LLP, Lake Success, NY; Mariam Ahmad, Cronin & Byczeki LLP, New Hyde Park, NY.

For City of New York, David M. Frankel, Commissioner of City of New York, Department of Finance, Lindsay Eason, Sheriff of City of New York, Timothy Larose, Chief of Operations Office of the Sheriff, Oliver Pu-Folkes, First Deputy Office of the Sheriff, Peter Sammarco, Director of Strategic Operation and Integrity, individually and in their Official capacities, Defendants: Grace Diane Kim, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York City Law Department, Office Of The Corporation Counsel, New York, NY; Eric Jay Eichenholtz, NYC Law Department, Office of the Corporation Counsel, New York, NY; Jamie M. Zinaman, Epstein Becker Green, New York, NY.


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MARGO K. BRODIE, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Sylvia Bowen-Hooks brings the above-captioned action against Defendants City of New York, Commissioner David Frankel, Sheriff Lindsay Eason, Chief of Operations Timothy LaRose, First Deputy Sheriff Oliver Pu-Folkes and Chief of Staff Peter Sammarco, alleging claims of race and gender discrimination, retaliation

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and creation of a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq. (" NYSHRL" ) and the New York State Constitution, the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq. (" NYCHRL" ), and violations of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Plaintiff also brings suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deprivation of due process and equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and retaliation in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendants moved for summary judgment as to all claims. At oral argument the Court dismissed Plaintiff's (1) Equal Pay Act claims, (2) race and gender discrimination claims under Title VII against all individual Defendants, (3) § 1981 claim for race discrimination against all individual Defendants sued in their official capacity, and against the City of New York, (4) § 1981 and § 1983 claims against Commissioner David M. Frankel, and (5) due process claim to the extent a due process claim was alleged.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all of Plaintiff's claims under federal and state law, and declines to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims under the NYCHRL which are dismissed without prejudice.

I. Factual Background

a. Plaintiff's duties in the Sheriff's Office

Plaintiff is employed as a lieutenant in the Sheriff's Division of the Department of Finance (" Sheriff's Office" ). (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 1; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff began working with the Sheriff's Office in 1986, and the Sheriff's Office became part of the Department of Finance (" DOF" ) in 1995. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 3; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was promoted to the position of lieutenant in 1997, after passing a civil service test and being selected from an eligible list.[2] (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 4; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 4.) Plaintiff worked in an office in Manhattan between 1997 and 2004. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 12-15; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 12-15.) In 2004 Plaintiff was transferred to the office at 30-10 Starr Avenue in Long Island City, where she was assigned to the Scofflaw Tow Unit to work as a contracts manager until 2007, overseeing contracts between the DOF and private towing companies. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 17, 20, 25; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 17, 20, 25, 30; Pl. Dep. 34:2-10, 37:15-17.) According to Plaintiff, she was the only African-American female lieutenant, and the position of contract manager was an undesirable and burdensome position that previously had never been assigned to any lieutenant. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 26, 28, 36; Pl. Dep. 37:25-38:7, 54:13-15.) She was not given any preparation to fulfill the responsibilities of the position, did not like the work, and voiced objections to her supervisor.[3] (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 23; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 23; Pl. Dep. 38:8-21.)

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In addition to her duties as contract manager in the Scofflaw Tow unit, Plaintiff was also assigned to work in other units, including working security detail for buildings beginning sometime after 2004,[4] working as a lieutenant in the cigarette tax unit beginning in 2006 -- her primary assignment -- performing duties in the warrants unit under the title of " community coordinator," assisting in the auction unit and the auto theft unit beginning in 2006, assisting sergeants assigned to other units if and when they required it, and assisting with personnel needs across multiple units as needed. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 20, 31-36; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 31-36; Pl. Dep. 37:15-16, 50:15-53:10.) Plaintiff claims that having responsibilities spread across several units placed her at a disadvantage relative to the white male lieutenants, who were permitted to concentrate on just one unit, and that the additional responsibilities were given to her in or around June 2006, immediately after she filed an internal EEO complaint. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 38; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 38, 55; Pl. Dep. 39:13-19, 40:21-41:14, 51:6-8, 61:12-21; Defs. Ex. D, Deposition of Timothy LaRose (" LaRose Dep." ) 43:2-3.)

a. 2006 window covering incident

According to Plaintiff, when she began working in the office at 30-10 Starr Avenue in 2004, all of the offices in the building had already been allotted to the white male lieutenants, leaving her as the only lieutenant who was not allotted an office. Plaintiff found and used a " tape room" off the main hallway as her office. (Pl. Dep. 62:22-63:5, 218:14-220:4.) The door to this room had a window, which Plaintiff covered with opaque material. (Pl. Dep. 63:5-6.) Plaintiff covered the window because she counseled deputies in her office, which required privacy, and because she occasionally changed in her office. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 70 (citing Pl. Dep. 220:23-221:16); Pl. 56.1 ¶ 70 (citing Pl. Dep. 62:22-25, 63:1-6).) Plaintiff's office was off the main hallway with ample foot traffic, whereas the offices of all the other lieutenants were either inside a larger room, or had solid wood doors. (Pl. Dep. 217:21-219:6, 220:17-221:16.)

In April or May of 2006, Sammarco began working in the office at 30-10 Starr Avenue as an Integrity Officer. (Pl. Dep. 2:5-6, 223:4.) Sammarco observed that several offices in the building had material covering the windows on the doors, or the windows between the offices and hallways, and contacted Sheriff Eason inquiring about the covered windows. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 56, 58; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 58; Defs. Ex. J, Deposition of Peter Sammarco (" Sammarco Dep." ) 63:25-65:2.) Sammarco did not believe this was a good business practice. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 58; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 56, 58; Sammarco Dep. 63:25-65:2.) On May 19, 2006, LaRose visited the office at 30-10 Starr Avenue and subsequently sent an email to two Undersheriffs requesting that the opaque material covering the windows be removed immediately unless there was a work-related justification for the windows to be covered. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 53; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 53; Defs. Ex. I.) According to Defendants, everyone removed their window coverings. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 60). According to

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Plaintiff, the other lieutenants all had solid doors and no windows into their offices, and they continued to close the doors when they needed privacy. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 60; Pl. Dep. 64:14-19.) Plaintiff removed the cover from her office window, but after Sammarco left the office at 30-10 Starr Avenue in 2007,[5] Plaintiff again covered the window. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 60, 62; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 60, 62.)

b. 2006 EEO complaint and EEOC charge

According to Plaintiff, on May 22, 2006, she called the EEO Officer for the DOF, Annie Long, to complain about the directive, indicating that because she was the only female lieutenant in the building, the directive prevented her from enjoying her privacy like the " other bosses." (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 47; Pl. Ex. B and Defs. Ex. C (" 2006 EEOC charge" ) at 2.) Plaintiff states that EEO Officer Long contacted management, although Plaintiff did not know precisely who, and the next day Long called Plaintiff to discourage her from moving forward with a formal EEO complaint. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 47, Pl. Dep. 61:22-62:10, 65:1-19; 2006 EEOC charge at 2.) Plaintiff contends that the day after this conversation with the EEO Officer, Plaintiff was assigned additional duties working in other units. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 47.)

Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC approximately three months later, on August 22, 2006, alleging race and gender discrimination in connection with the directive to remove the window coverings, (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 55; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 55; 2006 EEOC charge), and in connection with being assigned " menial tasks" on May 23, 2006, (2006 EEOC charge at 2). Plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter but decided not to sue at that time. (Pl. Dep. 70:21-71:11.) In the 2006 EEOC charge, Plaintiff noted that three other offices were affected by the directive, two of which opened onto a smaller area with just a small number of staff, and one of which belonged to Sammarco, but because those offices did not open onto a main hallway, the occupants of those offices did not have their privacy interfered with by the directive in the same way her privacy was affected. (2006 EEOC charge.) Plaintiff also noted that immediately after she had a conversation with the EEO officer in the Sheriff's Office, she was asked to take on the duties of another unit, and assigned menial tasks. ( Id. at 2.)

c. Performing Undersheriff duties

Plaintiff claims that, in or about November 2007, Plaintiff's direct supervisor, Undersheriff Peter Talamo, retired, and Plaintiff took over some of his responsibilities including generating reports, signing time-sheets for the Firearms and Auto Theft unit, attending meetings and making decisions. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 136; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 136; Pl. Dep. 144:1-19.) Plaintiff performed these additional duties without a direct supervisor for the approximately seven months it took to find a replacement for Talamo. (Defs. 56.1 ¶ 138; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 137.) The work caused her to stay late " a couple of times like 20 minutes, a half an hour," but she did not request overtime pay for these hours. (Pl. Dep. 146:14-18.) Nor did Plaintiff receive additional ...

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