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Johnson v. City University of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 8, 2014

ALFRED JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, d/b/a Medgar Evers College, Defendant. [1]

Page 573

Alfred Johnson, Plaintiff, Pro se, Brooklyn, NY.

For City University of New York, c/o Medgar Evers College, Defendant: Alissa Schecter Wright, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, NY.

Page 574

OPINION AND ORDER

VALERIE CAPRONI, United States District Judge.

Bullying and harassment have no place in the workplace, but unless they are motivated by the victim's membership in a protected class, they do not provide the basis for an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (" Title VII" ), and any complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) based on them does not constitute " protected activity" under Title VII. Victims of non-discriminatory bullying at the workplace, like those treated unfairly for reasons other than their membership in a protected class, must look outside Title VII to secure what may be their fair due. The Court does not condone bullying, but it cannot read Title VII to protect its victims unless the bullying reflects discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

BACKGROUND[2]

Plaintiff Alfred Johnson, pro se, brings this Title VII action against the City University of New York (" CUNY" ). Johnson was a Lecturer in the Music Department of CUNY's Medgar Evers College, where he worked for nine years " with a stellar work and performance record." Compl. at 3. For at least the last three years of his employment, Johnson regularly complained " regarding the bullying and harassment by [his Department's] current Chair." Id. Although his grievance process was somewhat complicated by the fact that the President of his union was the Department Chair against whom he had a grievance, SAC at 3, in April 2013 Johnson spoke with the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, who referred him to the school's Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Sylvia Kinard, id. From April 2013 on, CUNY was formally on notice of the nature and substance of Johnson's complaints. Id.

In September 2013, Johnson met with the Chair for his annual evaluation. Johnson's evaluation was " conducted differently than previous evaluations." Id. at 3; see also Dkt. 28 at 6. Approximately one month after this meeting, on the recommendation of Dr. Kinard, Johnson filed a formal complaint with the EEOC. Id. at 4. Johnson's initial EEOC complaint alleged " [b]ullying and harassment" that was not predicated on Johnson's membership in a protected class, Dkt. 28 at 2-5, and unlawful retaliation based on protected conduct, Compl. Ex. A (" You allege you were retaliated against, in violation of Title VII." ).[3] Within a few days of his EEOC complaint, in October 2013, the Union filed a grievance with the Chair regarding how he conducted Johnson's annual evaluation. SAC at 4.

From September through November 2013, the Chair represented the faculty in

Page 575

a series of annual personnel and budget meetings in which the University determined which faculty would be retained for the following school year. Id. at 3-4. Based on these meetings, CUNY decided not to reappoint Johnson after the 2013-2014 academic year and not to approve him for tenure. SAC at 4, Compl. at 3. On November 21, 2013, Johnson received a non-reappointment letter from CUNY President Dr. Rudy Crew. SAC at 4. Until he received this letter, Johnson did not know for sure that he would not be reappointed. Id.

On December 24, 2013, the EEOC completed its investigation; it was unable to conclude that Johnson had established a violation of his rights under Title VII and issued Johnson a Right to Sue letter. Compl. Ex A at 1-2. Johnson initiated this action on January 30, 2014, asserting claims for failure to hire, termination, failure to promote, and retaliation. Compl. at 2-3. CUNY moved to dismiss the complaint, prompting Johnson to amend his complaint. Upon receipt of the first amendment to the Complaint, the Court issued an order permitting Johnson to amend the Complaint more completely to include, inter alia, facts supporting the allegations that he engaged in protected activity, CUNY was aware of this activity, and because of this activity CUNY took an ...


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