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Green v. District Council 1707

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 29, 2014



PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Green ("Green") brings this action against defendants District Council 1707 ("DC 1707") and Raglan George, Jr. ("George") for employment discrimination and wrongful termination. Green alleges that defendants discriminated against him and terminated his employment on the basis of his race and ancestry, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a) ("NYCHRL"). Green also alleges that defendants violated § 193 of the New York Labor Law ("NYLL") by, inter alia, failing to pay him severance and for unused vacation time upon his termination. In the alternative, Green alleges that defendants breached an implied contract to pay such benefits, and that these failures to pay were motivated by racial animus.

Defendants now move to dismiss Green's First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim, on the ground that the FAC fails to plead facts sufficient to show intentional discrimination on the basis of race or ancestry. They also move for sanctions under Rule 11. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is granted, and the motion for sanctions is denied.

I. Background[1]

A. Green's Employment by DC 1707

DC 1707 is a labor union for state, county, and municipal employees in New York. FAC ¶ 5. Green, a Caucasian man of Jewish ancestry, id. ¶ 12, began working for DC 1707 in September 1991, id. ¶ 13. During Green's employment at DC 1707, George, an African American man, id. ¶ 22, served as the union's Executive Director, its highest rank of employee, id. ¶ 7, and was Green's supervisor, see id. ¶ 20. In September 2008, George promoted Green to Organizing Director, id. ¶ 24, an Assistant Director-level job, id. ¶ 15. Green held that position through his termination from DC 1707 on May 17, 2013. Id. ¶ 13. Although he had been so during an earlier part of his employment, Green was not a member of the DC 1707 Professional Employees Union while he served as Organizing Director, between September 2008 and May 2013. Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.

While under George's supervision, Green did not receive any formal performance evaluations, nor any warnings that his work performance was unsatisfactory or deficient. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. By all accounts, Green was qualified for and successful in his role as Organizing Director; in that position, he brought in approximately 250 new members to the union per year. Id. ¶¶ 17-18.

B. Pre-Termination Allegations of Discrimination

In 2003 or 2004, while Green was serving as Director of Daycare and Headstart, George accused him of not doing his job during an Assistant Directors' meeting. Id. ¶ 33. Green left the meeting to retrieve for George an example of his work, but upon his return he was told he had been fired. Id. When others at the meeting objected and intervened, George changed his mind and rescinded Green's termination. Id. When African-American or Latino employees struggled with their work performance, George provided them with multiple opportunities to improve. Id. ¶ 31.

In 2011 or 2012, Green requested vacation time. Id. ¶ 28. George insisted that Green ask each other Assistant Director to be sure they did not want to take a vacation during the same period, and then took about a week to decide whether to approve his request. See id. African-American and Latino employees were not subjected to such difficulty when they requested vacation. Id. ¶ 29.

C. Green's Termination

On May 17, 2013, Green stopped by George's office, whereupon George accused Green of not doing his job. Id. ¶ 53. Green countered that he was doing a lot of work; George replied that he was "not seeing it." Id. After Green responded that he was working on a specific project and George again expressed disbelief, Green told George "that if he left his office, he would be aware of the work that [Green] had been doing." Id. George became incensed by this suggestion and began screaming at Green. Id. In response, Green raised his voice and insisted that he was in fact doing his job. Id. George ended the exchange by telling Green to "take a hike." Id.

Shortly after he left George's office, Green received a memorandum from George, delivered by DC 1707's Human Resources Director, stating that he was being terminated "effective today" for being "extremely insubordinate" to George. Id. ¶ 54; see FAC Ex. A ("Termination Memo"). In the memo, George ordered Green to prepare the report he had been working on by May 28, 2013, and stated that George would then reconsider Green's position. FAC ¶ 54; Termination Memo.

Over the following weekend, Green spoke with the Associate Executive Director of DC 1707, who confirmed that Green was terminated and should not return to work. FAC ¶ 55. After that conversation, Green ceased working on, and never completed, the report he had been preparing. Id. ¶ 57. Later, Green received a letter from George, dated May 31, 2013, confirming that he had been terminated for insubordination on May 17, 2013 and noting that he had not submitted the report per George's request. Id. ¶ 62; see FAC Ex. B ("Termination Letter"). Since his termination, Green has not been paid severance or for unused vacation days. See id. ¶¶ 67, 81.

D. Procedural History

On December 6, 2013, Green filed his original Complaint. Dkt. 1. On March 7, 2014, defendants submitted a motion to dismiss. Dkt. 8. On March 11, 2014, defendants submitted a motion for sanctions under Rule 11. Dkt. 12. On March 28, 2014, Green filed the FAC. Specifically, the FAC alleges that, in terminating his employment, defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race and ancestry, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and NYCHRL § 8-107(a). The FAC also alleges that DC 1707's failure to pay severance benefits and for unused vacation days upon ...

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