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Davis v. N.Y.S. Dep't of Corrections Attica Correctional Facility

United States District Court, W.D. New York

September 12, 2014


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Stefanie A. Davis, Plaintiff, Pro se, Rochester, NY.

For N.Y.S. Department of Corrections, Defendant: J. Richard Benitez, LEAD ATTORNEY, N.Y.S. Attorney General's Office, Department of Law, Rochester, NY.

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ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff Stefanie A. Davis (" Plaintiff" ) is an African American woman and a former employee of Defendant New York State Department of Corrections (" Defendant" ) at the Attica Correctional Facility (" Attica" ). She filed the instant action on November 10, 2010, alleging discrimination on the basis of her race and gender and unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ), and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § § 290 et seq. (the " NYSHRL" ). (Dkt. 1). In sum and substance, Plaintiff alleges that while she was employed as an alcohol and substance abuse counselor at Attica, her supervisor assigned her a disproportionate number of minority and/or behaviorally difficult inmates, and that as a result of complaining about this disproportionate assignment, she was retaliated against.

Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 on the ground that Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination. (Dkt. 26). Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion and has nominally cross-moved for summary judgment in her favor. (Dkt. 33). Plaintiff has also requested that the Court reopen discovery and issue a subpoena for a former colleague and appoint counsel to represent Plaintiff. ( Id.). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied as to Plaintiff's claim for retaliation and granted in all other respects. Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment is deemed an opposition to Defendant's motion. Plaintiff's request to reopen discovery and subpoena Jeanine Fitz is denied. Plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice.


Plaintiff claims she was previously employed by Defendant at Five Points Correctional Facility (" Five Points" ). (Dkt. 26-2 at 11:16). She allegedly made a complaint against Defendant to the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging that " facility people" at Five Points were mistreating her based on her ethnicity and age. ( Id. at 11:16-22). According to Plaintiff, that complaint was settled and the parties entered into a stipulation of settlement. ( Id. at 11:23-12:3). As a result, Plaintiff was assigned to Attica. ( Id. at 12:2-3).

Plaintiff claims that when she first toured Attica, a " Mr. Whiteford" talked to her about Five Points and her relationship with her former supervisor and said " he had heard things didn't go too well over there." ( Id. at 12:6-11). According to Plaintiff, she interpreted this statement as meaning that Defendant's attorney had informed the staff at Attica about her prior complaint and that as a result " they had already placed a judgment on [Plaintiff]." ( Id. at 12:12-17).

At Attica, Plaintiff was supervised by Brenda Post. ( Id. at 13:4-5). Ms. Post was the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (" ASAT" ) supervisor and Plaintiff was the sole ASAT program assistant. ( Id. at 41:4-15). Mr. Whiteford was the senior correction counselor. ( Id. at 41:11-13).

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Plaintiff testified that she had positive interactions with Ms. Post and Mr. Whiteford during her initial months at Attica. ( Id. at 14:9-13). Plaintiff claims that her experience at Attica changed in the middle of February or beginning of March 2009, after she was assigned her own caseload. ( Id. at 14:16-22). In sum and substance, Plaintiff testified that she believes Ms. Post and Mr. Whiteford were manipulating the assignment of inmates to treatment groups such that Plaintiff received a disproportionate number of challenging and disruptive inmates. ( Id. at 14:23-15:15). Plaintiff further testified that her group consisted of mostly African American and Hispanic inmates, while her supervisor's group had a larger number of Caucasian inmates. ( Id. at 21:15-21). According to Plaintiff, there were " behavioral issues with the African American men and the Hispanics" due to " gang related, behavioral dynamics." ( Id. at 25:14-17).

Plaintiff claims that she approached Ms. Post about this purported racial disparity and that Ms. Post denied any awareness. ( Id. at 24:8-12). As a result, Plaintiff alleges that " some of the dynamics began to change" and she began seeing more Caucasian inmates in her group. ( Id. at 24:20-25).

Plaintiff claims that in March 2009, she was called into a meeting with Ms. Post and Mr. Whiteford to discuss her concerns about the racial make-up of the treatment groups. ( Id. at 32:9-14). During this meeting, Mr. Whiteford allegedly informed Plaintiff that he and Ms. Post had nothing to do with assigning inmates to a particular group. ( Id. at 33:2-7). Also during this meeting, Ms. Post allegedly told Plaintiff that Plaintiff probably had more black friends than white friends. ( Id. at 34:10-13). Mr. Whiteford and Ms. Post allegedly called Plaintiff a troublemaker and told her she was " causing problems . . . like [she] caused problems at Five Points." ( Id. at 35:10-12). Plaintiff claims that Mr. Whiteford and Ms. Post wrote up a memorandum memorializing this meeting but the memorandum was inaccurate. ( Id. at 37:1-25).

Plaintiff testified that after the meeting in March 2009, " they" started increasing supervision and monitoring of her group. ( Id. at 38:1-6). She also testified that she and Ms. Post no longer had lunch together or walked together and that " [i]t was almost like [Ms. Post] was scared to talk to [Plaintiff]." ( Id. at 40:14-17). Plaintiff testified that Ms. Post discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender in the following ways: (1) by assuming that Plaintiff had more black friends than white friends; (2) by working with the administration team to assign inmates to treatment groups by ethnicity; (3) by whispering and gossiping about her; and (4) by accusing her of being a troublemaker and telling people at Attica that Plaintiff was trying to sue the people at Five Points. ( Id. at 42:4-9, 42:16-21, 45:24-46:8, 47:6-19, 48:1-7). Ms. Post consistently maintained that she had nothing to do with the assignment of inmates. ( Id. at 46:23-25). Plaintiff further testified that Mr. Whiteford discriminated against her by agreeing with Ms. Post in the March 2009 meeting and by stopping speaking to Plaintiff. ( Id. at 51:22-52:23).

Plaintiff also claims that she had requested to be on the " NAACP board" [1] and that a " Ms. Dolce," Attica's deputy supervisor for programs, would not allow her to attend the ...

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