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Corrado v. New York State Unified Court System

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 15, 2014

NICOLE CORRADO, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK STATE UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM, Defendant.

ORDER

MARILYN DOLAN GO, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. asserting claims of sexual harassment and retaliation against the New York State Unified Court System (the "UCS"). Plaintiff moves to amend the complaint to add eight individual defendants and the Departmental Disciplinary Committee of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department (the "DDC").[1] In addition, plaintiff seeks to add new claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, the New York State Human Rights Law (the "NYSHRL"), the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), the Family Medical Leave Act (the "FMLA") and state tort law.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this action on April 10, 2012 asserting claims against the New York State Unified Court System for sexual harassment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000(e) et seq. ("Title VII"). Specifically, plaintiff alleged in her complaint that while working as an attorney for the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, Departmental Disciplinary Committee, she was subjected to sexual harassment from 2003 to 2009 by two male supervisors, Andral Bratton and Vincent Raniere. Plaintiff further alleges that she was subject to retaliation for complaining about the harassment and for testifying in a coworker's race discrimination suit against UCS.

At an initial conference held on October 11, 2012, this Court issued a scheduling order which required, inter alia, that plaintiff file any motion for leave to amend and/or join other parties by November 13, 2012, and that, prior to doing so, plaintiff provide defendant with a copy of a proposed amended complaint. After plaintiff changed counsel, this Court issued a new scheduling order extending the time to file a motion to amend to May 1, 2013 and further extended the time for such a motion to July 13, 2013. Although plaintiff did not file a motion to amend by this deadline, this Court further extended the time for plaintiff to file a motion to October 25, 2013 in light of her one page letter filed on August 15, 2013 (ct. doc. 52), improperly denominated as a motion to amend, in which she advised that she had been terminated from employment. She subsequently filed a proposed amended complaint on October 26, 2014, which she again improperly denominated as a motion to amend and did not accompany with a memorandum or other document with legal discussion. Ct. doc. 59. When defendant objected to plaintiff's attempt to rely on the proposed pleading as constituting a motion to amend (ct. doc. 62), plaintiff filed a reply containing some legal argument and attaching a further revised proposed amended complaint ("Prop. Am. Compl.") on November 14, 2013. Ct. doc. 63. This Court then gave defendant an opportunity to respond.

In this second proposed amended complaint, plaintiff alleges at great length and detail the events alleged in the original complaint and includes allegations concerning events occurring since commencement of this action. The following is a summary of the allegations contained in plaintiff's 60 page revised proposed amended complaint, which are assumed to be true for purposes of the instant motion.

Plaintiff alleges that after Bratton became plaintiff's immediate supervisor in 2003, he was infatuated with her and subjected her to sexual harassment, including making unwelcome, sexually laden comments at work, and staring at her. Prop. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 21(d-j). He also routinely called her at night at her home. Id. at ¶ 21(k). After plaintiff requested in June 2007 a transfer to another supervisor, Bratton took a medical leave for a few months but then persisted in pursuing plaintiff upon his return to work. Id. at ¶ 21(m-o).

Plaintiff alleges that Raniere, who, at the time, was Chief Investigator at the DDC, also subjected plaintiff to sexual harassment between 2004 and 2008. Id. at ¶ 21(v-w). Besides making unwanted, sexually laden comments to plaintiff, Raniere kissed and inappropriately touched plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 21(x-bb).

In June 2008, after plaintiff provided corroborating testimony in an unrelated race discrimination suit against the UCS, Alan Friedberg, then Chief Counsel to the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, Departmental Disciplinary Committee, began closely monitoring plaintiff and adding memos to plaintiff's personnel file reflecting negative evaluations of plaintiff's work. Id. at ¶ 21(q). Prior to 2008, plaintiff had received positive annual performance reviews. Id. at ¶ 21(eeee).

In September 2008, plaintiff lodged a complaint with Alan Friedberg regarding Bratton's and Raniere's conduct. Id. at ¶ 21(t). Friedberg subsequently referred plaintiff's complaints regarding Bratton, but not against Raniere, for investigation by the Inspector General's Office for the Unified Court System. Id. at ¶ 21(dd), (vv). During the investigation, Bratton admitted to making inappropriate comments and to his infatuation with plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 21(ee). Despite Bratton's admission, the UCS, DDC, Judge Gonzalez, Mr. Reardon and court administrators determined that Bratton engaged only in inappropriate conduct, but not sexual harassment, and would be transferred to another unit. Id. at ¶ 21(ii). However, plaintiff continued to have contact with Bratton when he appeared at the DDC intermittently and at a meeting in November 2008 that plaintiff was required to attend. Id. at 21(jj-kk). After the investigation concluded in November, plaintiff alleges that Friedberg retaliated against her by intensifying his monitoring of plaintiff, routinely ridiculing and reprimanding plaintiff, criticizing her work and demanding that she attend counseling sessions or face termination. Id. at ¶ 21(gg), (hh), (nn).

From January 2009 through July 2009, plaintiff was assigned unreasonable work loads and received negative performance evaluations. Id. at ¶ 21(ss), (tt). As a result of continued contact with Bratton and Raniere and scrutiny by Friedberg, plaintiff felt threatened.

In January 2009, plaintiff's home was "virtually destroyed" by a flood caused by a broken pipe and the following month, one of plaintiff's other properties burned down. Id. at ¶ 21(ll). Plaintiff reported these events to Friedberg and her view they were "highly suspicious, " but Friedberg was indifferent. Id. at ¶ 21(mm).

In May 2009, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, sexually harassed and retaliated against. Id. at ¶ 21(pp).

In July 2009, Mr. Friedberg further increased his close monitoring of plaintiff at work. Id. at ¶ 21(ss). Plaintiff, who was becoming "increasingly anxious, " sought to take a leave of absence or transfer to another division of UCS but her requests were denied. Id. at ¶ 21(uu). She was directed on July 16, 2009 by Friedberg, Gonzalez, McConnell and Reardon to attend counseling sessions under threat of termination if she did not attend. Id. at ¶ 21(ss), (ww).

In or around July or August 2009, the Inspector General's office commenced an investigation into plaintiff's complaints regarding Raniere's conduct. Id. at ¶ 21(vv). In August 2009, plaintiff was informed that the Inspector General's investigation into her complaint regarding Raniere resulted in a finding that her allegations were unfounded. Id. at 21(yy).

Also in August 2009, the DDC commenced an investigation into an attorney plaintiff had retained to represent her in an unrelated civil case. Id. at ¶ 21(fff). In May 2010, plaintiff's counsel in the unrelated case abruptly withdrew. Id. at ¶ 21(ggg). That same month, the ethical charges against plaintiff's counsel were dismissed as unfounded. Id. at ¶ 21(hhh). In January 2012, plaintiff discovered the investigation files regarding her former counsel. Id. at ¶ 21(mmm).

Plaintiff took an unpaid leave of absence from her position from August 2009 to August 2011. Id. at ¶ 21(zz), (aaa). Upon her return to work, plaintiff was subjected to rigorous scrutiny of her work and her attendance was strictly monitored. Id. at ¶ 21(ddd). In addition, within her first month back at work, two of plaintiff's office desk chairs collapsed under her. Id. at ¶ 21(ddd). On at least two occasions at the office, she suddenly began to experience severe irritation, swelling and blurry vision in her eyes. Id.

In 2012, plaintiff was criticized for her handling of a disciplinary hearing, including that she had missed important documents in the file. Id. at ¶ 21(www). Plaintiff contends that those documents were not in the file when she prepared for the hearing. Id.

After plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on April 10, 2012, she renewed her request for a transfer from the DDC, which was denied. Id. at ¶ 21(sss). She alleges that she was also then subjected to increased hostility from DDC management and staff, strict monitoring and excessive work assignments. Id. at ¶ 21(ttt).

From on or about March 4, 2013 through March 25, 2013, plaintiff took an approved FMLA leave of absence to care for her daughter. Id. at ¶ 21(xxx), (zzz). Upon her return from FMLA leave, on or about March 25, 2013, plaintiff was given a negative evaluation. Id. at ¶ 21(zzz). Plaintiff again renewed her request for a transfer, which was ignored and/or denied. Id. at ¶ 21(ffff). Plaintiff resigned her position on August 7, 2013 after being ordered to attend counseling sessions under threat of termination for insubordination. Id. at ¶¶ 21(ffff), (iiii), (oooo), (qqqq).

Plaintiff seeks to add as defendants: Justice Luis Gonzalez, Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department; John McConnell, former Clerk of the Court, Appellate Division, First Department; Roy Reardon, Chairman of the Policy Committee for the DDC; Jorge Dopico, current Chief Counsel of the DDC; Angela Christmas, Deputy Counsel of ...


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