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Clark v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 29, 2014

TODD CLARK, Plaintiff,
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC. et al., Defendants.

RYAN M. FINN, ESQ., Hacker, Murphy Law Firm, Latham, NY, for the Plaintiff.

SUSAN C. RONEY, ESQ., CSX Transportation, Inc., Nixon, Peabody Law Firm, Buffalo, NY, for the Defendants,

WILLIAM L. PHILLIPS, ESQ., Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Office of William L. Phillips, Chicago, IL.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Todd Clark commenced this action against defendants CSX Transportation, Inc. and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), alleging discrimination based on race and disability pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, [1] the Americans with Disabilities Act, [2] and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[3] ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 7.) CSX filed an answer to the complaint, (Dkt. No. 11), and BRS filed a pre-answer motion, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), seeking dismissal of all of Clark's claims against it. (Dkt. No. 12.) For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is denied.

II. Background[4]

Clark, an individual of Native American descent, was, at the time relevant to this action, an employee of CSX, and a member of BRS Local 93, a labor organization. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 8-11.) Clark alleges that "[f]rom the beginning of his employment with [CSX, he] has been subjected to inappropriate racial and ethnic slurs concerning his Native American heritage." ( Id. ¶ 11.) He has been subjected to discriminatory conduct by both coworkers and his supervisor, in the form of stereotypical and offensive jokes and comments. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-19.) Many of these incidents occurred in front of other coworkers and supervisors. ( Id. ¶¶ 15, 17-18.) Clark complained to his supervisor about this conduct, but the offending parties were "not disciplined in any way for the conduct, " ( id. ¶¶ 15, 17), and he alleges that his superiors "condone the behavior by refusing to take action to stop [it], " ( id. ¶ 19).

In February 2013, a supervisor performed a search of Clark's vehicle, at which time an unopened case of beer was discovered in Clark's truck. ( Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 25.) Although Clark did not drink the beer while on duty, he was accused of being an alcoholic and endangering his coworkers. ( Id. ¶¶ 23, 25.) Clark was placed on suspension without pay. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Several days after his suspension began, Clark was informed that his alleged possession of alcohol at work violated both federal law and CSX policies. ( Id. ¶ 34.) However, identical behavior by other employees went unaddressed by CSX management, and Clark therefore informed his employer that he had hired a lawyer because he felt "offended" and "singled out" for punishment. ( Id. ¶¶ 32-33, 36-37.)

Upon conveying these concerns to both his employer and the union, Clark was told by BRS that "the only way for [Clark] to keep his job was to tell [CSX] that he had been drinking on the job (a lie) and that he wanted to seek treatment." ( Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) Clark was thus "threatened, bullied and coerced [by BRS] into lying about the situation in order to save his job." ( Id. ¶ 51.) According to Clark, CSX and BRS officials "decided and agreed upon [Clark]'s punishment before affording [him] the opportunity to defend against the charges at a hearing." ( Id. ¶ 50.) A hearing was ultimately scheduled for April 25, 2013, after an unexplained delay, but at some point prior to that, Clark filed a complaint against BRS with the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR). ( Id. ¶¶ 40, 58.) BRS refused to prepare or assist Clark in anticipation of the hearing. ( Id. ¶¶ 59-62.) Clark complained that he felt BRS was refusing to assist him because of his earlier complaints "about the manner in which he had been treated." ( Id. ¶¶ 65, 70)

During this same period, shortly after the incident at issue occurred, Clark was contacted by an Employee Assistance Professional (EAP) counselor employed by CSX. ( Id. ¶ 42.) According to Clark, during their phone conversation, the EAP counselor accused him of being an alcoholic, and urged him to admit that he was under the influence of alcohol at work, despite his insistence that this had never been the case. ( Id. ¶¶ 43-47.) At one point, the counselor stated that it was common knowledge that "signalmen are a bunch of drunks.'" ( Id. ¶ 46.) After this conversation concluded, the counselor then "informed [BRS] and [CSX] officials about [the] conversation, " ( id. ¶ 48), who then "openly discussed the matter, " ( id. ¶ 50), "very publicly[, ] caus[ing] the situation to become part of the [c]ompany rumor mill, '" ( id. ¶ 63). This disclosure caused Clark "extreme humiliation, embarrassment, stigma and ridicule." ( Id. )

Clark ultimately agreed to attend alcohol rehabilitation counseling, ( id. ¶ 59), but alleges that his "punishment was disproportionate to the alleged violation, " ( id. ¶ 22), and that CSX alcohol policies were not uniformly enforced, to his detriment, ( id. ¶ 74). Clark alleges that he has continued to experience "adverse working conditions[, ] increased scrutiny and oversight[, ] targeted drug and alcohol testing[, and] loss of benefits" since returning to work. ( Id. ¶ 77.) In January 2014, Clark commenced this action. ( See generally id. )

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is well settled and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its prior decision in Ellis v. Cohen & ...

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