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Parra v. City of White Plains

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 4, 2014

JEANETTE PARRA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WHITE PLAINS, WHITE PLAINS POLICE DEPARTMENT and/or DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, and LIEUTENANT LARRY JOHNSON, Individually, SERGEANT JOSEPH CASTELLI, Individually, SERGEANT HOWARD TRIBBLE, Individually, LIEUTENANT ELIZABETH SEIT, Individually, POLICE COMMISSIONER DAVID CHONG, Individually, POLICE CHIEF JAMES BRADLEY, Individually, and ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF ANN FITZSIMMONS, Individually, Defendants

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For Jeanette Parra, Plaintiff: Marjorie Mesidor, LEAD ATTORNEY, Phillips & Phillips Attorneys At Law, PLLC, New York, NY.

For City of White Plains, White Plains Police Department, and/or Department of Public Safety, Lieutenant Larry Johnson, Individually, Sergeant Joseph Castelli, Individually, Sergeant Howard Tribble, Individually, Lieutenant Elizabeth Seit, Individually, Police Commissioner David Chong, Individually, Police Chief James Bradley, Individually, Assist. Police Chief Ann Fitzsimmons, Indvidually, Defendants: John Martin Flannery, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP (CT), Stamford, CT; Lalit Kumar Loomba, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, (WPls), White Plains, NY; Peter Alexander Meisels, Wilson Elser, Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP(White Plains), White Plains, NY.

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MEMORANDUM DECISION

Vincent L. Briccetti, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeanette Parra, a Hispanic woman, brings this employment discrimination action alleging defendants[1] (i) subjected her to a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment, (ii) retaliated against her for complaining about such harassment, and (iii) discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ); the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (" Section 1981" ); and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § 290 et seq. (" NYSHRL" ).

Now pending is defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint. (Doc. #25).

For the following reasons, defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

BACKGROUND

For purposes of deciding the pending motion, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the amended complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.

Plaintiff is a police officer in the White Plains Police Department (" Department" ), where she has worked since September 2005. Throughout her employment with the Department, plaintiff alleges defendants have subjected her to a hostile work environment " based on numerous acts of sexual harassment, as well as discriminatory and retaliatory actions." (Am. Compl. ¶ 39).

Shortly after plaintiff was hired, Sergeant Joseph Castelli allegedly told her, " wait until you meet Lt. Johnson." (Id. ¶ 40). When they met, Johnson allegedly instructed plaintiff to call him " Big Daddy." (Id. ¶ 41). Soon, Johnson allegedly began asking plaintiff " when are you gonna sit on my face?" and " when are you gonna suck my dick?" and making " hand gestures simulating oral sex and masturbation." (Id. ¶ 43).

Johnson allegedly harassed other female police officers as well, although they are not identified by name in the amended complaint. When these officers complained, the Department allegedly " reassigned" them, but did not reassign or discipline Johnson. (Id. ¶ 67). As a result, Johnson allegedly continued to harass and subject plaintiff to " unwelcome[] touchings and attention." (Id. ¶ 68).

Sergeant Howard Tribble is alleged to have behaved similarly. Plaintiff alleges that throughout 2006, Tribble " frequently made unwanted sexual comments" to her, and " frequently subjected" her to " unwanted sexual touching, grabbing, and pulling, including rubbing her hands, arms, shoulders, neck, feet, head and hair." (Id. ¶ ¶ 45, 47). Plaintiff " repeatedly complained" to Tribble " that his conduct was

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unwelcome and unwanted, but he continued to inappropriately and illegally grab, rub, pull, and touch her, causing her extreme discomfort, embarrassment and humiliation." (Id. ¶ 49). When plaintiff told Tribble she planned to file a complaint about him, he allegedly " threateningly replied, 'NO YOU WON'T.'" (Id. ¶ 50).

Plaintiff alleges many of the incidents with Johnson and Tribble " took place in front of . . . superior officers" who did not intervene. (Id. ¶ 51). For instance, when plaintiff's supervisor, Lieutenant Michael Knox, first observed Tribble " groping" plaintiff, he allegedly did nothing, assuming that Tribble and plaintiff " had something going on." (Id. ¶ 52). But after plaintiff complained to Knox that Tribble's conduct was unwelcome, Knox submitted a complaint to the Department's Internal Affairs Bureau (" IAB" ) on her behalf. Even then, plaintiff alleges, " no member of the IAB ever contacted" her to discuss her complaint and no " formal investigation" was ever conducted. (Id. ¶ ¶ 53, 54). As a result, plaintiff alleges Tribble " was never reprimanded or disciplined," and his harassment continued unabated. (Id. ¶ ¶ 54, 55).

The amended complaint also alludes to two incidents involving Police Commissioner David Chong. In June 2010, Chong allegedly " displayed unwanted and inappropriate" affection toward plaintiff at a fundraising benefit. (Id. ¶ 70). And in March 2011, plaintiff alleges, Chong again " sexually harassed" her " with unwanted and inappropriate touching." (Id. ¶ 75).

Plaintiff alleges defendants also retaliated against her for complaining about sexual harassment. After plaintiff complained about Tribble in 2006, for example, she was allegedly denied " bicycle training," and has since been denied such training and other training opportunities every year. (Id. ¶ 98). Plaintiff also alleges she was denied " dispatch training" months after complaining about Tribble. (Id. ¶ 57). As a result, plaintiff alleges she is ineligible for advancement and ill-equipped to continue in her current position.

Similarly, plaintiff alleges she applied for and was granted a " favorable transfer" to the " Neighborhood Conditions Unit" in July 2009, but Police Chief James Bradley " reversed" this transfer. (Id. ¶ ¶ 59-64). Then, in October 2009, Castelli allegedly assigned plaintiff to " the most dangerous post in the city--one that, upon information and belief, was always reserved for male officers and had never before been assigned to a female employee." (Id. ¶ 65). Finally, plaintiff alleges that despite her certification as a " Field Training Officer," she was denied " all requests for training and career advancement that were being offered" in 2010, among them, " a promotion to the Detectives Division." (Id. ¶ 71).

The amended complaint also describes an incident in March 2011 involving a traffic sergeant who is not named as a defendant here. The traffic sergeant allegedly " intimidated" plaintiff " by standing close to and over her while screaming and yelling at her" for " doubling up," or " sharing a police vehicle with another police officer." (Id. ¶ 72). Upon information and belief, plaintiff alleges " the similarly situated non-Hispanic male colleague" with whom she shared a vehicle was not reprimanded. (Id.). Although plaintiff complained to Chief Bradley about the traffic sergeant, she alleges Bradley " never responded." (Id. ¶ 73). Somewhat incongruously, plaintiff also alleges Bradley launched a " harassing investigation" into her complaint about the traffic sergeant, which was conducted by Castelli, Assistant Police Chief Ann Fitzsimmons, and others. (Id. ¶ 74). At about this time, Castelli allegedly told plaintiff " he would 'go easier on her' if she

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retracted her complaint" and, referring to her complaints against Tribble and the traffic sergeant, chided plaintiff for being a " complainer." (Id. ¶ 76).

In October 2011, plaintiff was reassigned to " Squad 8," where she was reunited with Johnson and Tribble, and introduced to Tribble's close friend, Lieutenant Elizabeth Seit. Upon learning plaintiff and she would be working together, Seit allegedly stated, " I DON'T WANT THAT BITCH IN MY SQUAD!" (Id. ¶ 79). When plaintiff complained to Castelli about working with Tribble, Castelli told her Chief Bradley thought " enough time ha[d] passed and IT SHOULD BE FINE; THOSE WERE JUST JOKES." (Id. ¶ 77).

Soon thereafter, Lieutenant Johnson's harassment allegedly resumed. In November 2011, Johnson allegedly " ordered" plaintiff " to go to the women's locker room and surreptitiously photograph the breasts of female civilian dispatchers, as well as her own buttocks, and to deliver these nude photographs to him." (Id. ΒΆ 81). Johnson also allegedly made derogatory comments to plaintiff about other female officers, such as " I wanna hit that," and " I ...


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