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Burgis v. Department of Sanitation City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 31, 2014

BURGIS, et al., on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION CITY OF NEW YORK, JOHN J. DOHERTY, and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.

OPINION

THOMAS P. GRIESA, District Judge.

Plaintiffs bring this action on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, against the New York City Department of Sanitation (the "Department"), Commissioner John Doherty, and John Does 1-10 (collectively, "defendants"). Plaintiffs allege that defendants discriminated against applicants for promotion on the basis of race and national origin in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title VII"), and various state laws. Before the court are plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint and defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint, inter alia, on statute of limitations grounds and in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

The court grants plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint and grants defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint. In light of the dismissal of plaintiffs' federal claims, the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed their original complaint on February 13, 2013, and filed an amended complaint on July 31, 2013. Plaintiffs' original complaint alleges causes of action under the 42 U.S.C. § 1981, § 1985(3), Section 296 of the New York State Human Rights Laws, and Section 8-107 of the New York City Human Rights Laws. The first-amended complaint adds claims under Title VII and voluntarily dismisses the claims of John Whitehead, Angel Fuentes, and Don Phillip as time-barred. It also dismisses the § 1985(3) civil rights conspiracy claim. On October 4, 2013, plaintiffs filed a second-amended complaint to clarify certain claims and correct false statements made in the prior complaints. Plaintiffs moved to substitute the complaint filed on October 4, 2013 for the first-amended complaint filed on July 31, 2013, instead of moving to file a second-amended complaint. However, the October complaint is the third complaint filed, so this opinion will refer to it as the second-amended complaint.

Complaint

This opinion assumes the truth of all facts alleged in the second-amended complaint for the purposes of deciding this motion to dismiss.

The Department is the city agency responsible for garbage and recycling collection, street cleaning, and snow removal. It employs over 7, 000 sanitation workers and superintendents.[1] The Department has a hierarchical structure through which sanitation workers are promoted to supervisory positions. An employee begins as a sanitation worker and then may be promoted to Supervisor, General Superintendent Level 1 ("Level 1"), General Superintendent Level 2 ("Level 2"), General Superintendent Level 3 ("Level 3"), and General Superintendent Level 4 ("Level 4"). (Compl. ¶ 21). Prior to 1979, the Department promoted individuals to General Superintendent Levels 1, 2, and 3 based on civil service examinations. After 1979, the Department eliminated the examination for Levels 2 and 3. Since that time, promotion to Levels 2, 3, and 4 have been based on recommendations by superior officers.

Plaintiffs allege that defendants discriminated against Hispanic and African-American sanitation workers who applied for promotion to supervisory and superintendent positions. The claim is that despite meeting all requirements for promotion, plaintiffs were denied promotions while defendants promoted Caucasian applicants with less experience and inferior evaluations. (Compl. ¶ 25). Plaintiffs allege that "[d]efendants' actions were undertaken purposefully and intentionally, and/or in reckless disregard of the rights of Plaintiffs' class." (Compl. ¶ 13). Additionally, they contend, the subjective-evaluation component of promotions has led to a culture of discrimination against African Americans and Hispanic. (Compl. ¶ 27).

In addition to asserting claims against the Department, plaintiffs assert claims against Commissioner Doherty, individually and in his official capacity and employees who worked in "various assistant, ... deputy commissioner and human resources offices" in the Department who "collaborated with Defendant Doherty in promotion decisions" (John Does 1-10). (Compl. ¶ 15). Plaintiffs allege that Commissioner Doherty "was aware that his supervisory workforce was skewed and did not reflect either the racial or national origin makeup of [the Department's] non-supervisory workforce... Doherty, reflecting his approval of this disparate classification, has taken no action to change it, and has, therefore condoned the discrimination." (Compl. ¶ 13).

In support of their claims, plaintiffs describe several named plaintiffs' employment histories at the Department:

1. Andrenia Burgis

Andrenia Burgis is an African-American woman who has been employed at the Department since 1998. After passing the requisite civil service examinations, Burgis was promoted to Supervisor in 2003 and to Level 1 in 2007. In 2009, Burgis obtained the prerequisites needed to be appointed to Level 2 - a promotion that requires a supervisor's recommendation - but, instead, she was demoted and replaced by a Caucasian male under her command. She received "another command" in 2012. The complaint alleges that the "discrimination against Burgis continued during the four years immediately preceding this Complaint, during which time [Caucasian] employees, who were less qualified, [were] promoted to positions that she wished to be promoted to." (Compl. ¶ 30(a)).

On June 9, 2013, Burgis obtained a Right to Sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Compl. ¶ 2). The Right to Sue letter was based on a complaint alleging that defendants intentionally discriminated against her based on her race.

2. Christopher Burgos

Christopher Burgos is a Hispanic man who has been employed at the Department since 2000. He took the civil service exam for Level 1 and currently remains on the list for promotion. (Compl. ¶ 30(b)).

The EEOC issued a Right to Sue letter to Burgos on June 9, 2013 based on his complaint against the Department for intentional discrimination. (Compl. ¶ 2).

3. Leticia Smith

Leticia Smith is a Hispanic woman. She began working at the Department in 1995, and after passing the requisite civil service examinations, she was promoted to Supervisor and Level 1 in 2001 and 2007, respectively. The Department has promoted several Caucasian women to Level 2 instead of Smith during the four years prior to the filing of the complaint. (Compl. ¶ 30(c)).

4. Samuel Duncan

Samuel Duncan is of African-American and Hispanic descent. He began working at the Department in 2001. In 2008, the Department promoted Duncan to Supervisor but demoted him three days before the end of his probationary period because of complaints received during that period. Several Caucasian Supervisors received similar complaints during their probationary periods, but they were not demoted. The discrimination against Duncan continued in the four years prior to the ...


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