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Wynn v. New York City Housing Authority

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 8, 2017

BRIAN WYNN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Lorna G. Schofield United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Bryan Wynn, John Williams, Awilda Guzman, Jose Otero and Kevin Fulton bring this action against Defendants New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) and Union Local 237, I.B.T. (the “Union”). Plaintiffs allege that NYCHA violated their rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) and the New York City Human Rights Law, NY.C. Admin. Code § 8-107 et seq. (“NYCHRL”), by paying them less than similarly situated workers as a result of their minority status and by failing to remedy the discrimination. Plaintiffs further allege that the Union “tacitly engaged in and/or encouraged” such discrimination. NYCHA and the Union independently filed motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, both motions are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are drawn from the parties' Rule 56.1 Statements and the evidence submitted by the parties in connection with the present motion. For purposes of this motion, all factual disputes are resolved, and all reasonable inferences are drawn, in favor of Plaintiffs. See Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016).

         Plaintiff Brian Wynn is a black male who has been employed by Defendant NYCHA since 1996. Plaintiff John Williams is a black male who has been employed by NYCHA since 1997. Plaintiff Awilda Guzman is a Hispanic female who worked for NYCHA from 1995 to 2013. Plaintiff Jose Otero is a Hispanic male who has been employed by NYCHA since 2000. Plaintiff Kevin Fulton is a black male who has been employed by NYCHA since 1995. Each Plaintiff worked for NYCHA as a “Caretaker P” from at least 2003 to 2013, with Otero working in that role intermittently.

         Defendant NYCHA is a municipal entity subject to the New York Civil Service Law. See N.Y. Pub. Hous. Law § 32. Pursuant to the Civil Service Law, New York City (“City”) employees are classified according to job title, which determines their compensation level. See N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law § 20. Workers whose positions require that they take and pass a competitive examination comprise the Competitive Class. See Id. § 44. Unskilled laborers whose positions do not require a competitive examination comprise the Labor Class. See Id. § 43(1). The specific job titles that fall into each class are determined by the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (“DCAS”). See N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law § 20; N.Y.C. Charter §§ 811, 814; Rules of the City of New York, Tit. 55, App. A, Rules II - IV, VII § 7.3.1.

         City employees who are deemed to be “laborers, workmen, or mechanics” within the meaning of New York Labor Law § 220 are entitled to prevailing wages, i.e., those wages paid for a day's work in the same trade or occupation in the private sector. See N.Y. Lab. Law § 220(3)(a), (5); Ramos v. SimplexGrinnell LP, 740 F.3d 852, 856 (2d Cir. 2014); see also Local 621, S.E.I.U., AFL-CIO v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 9025, 2002 WL 31151355, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2002) (City determines which employee titles are entitled to Labor Law § 220 prevailing wages). DCAS has determined that titles classified as skilled titles in the Competitive Class are entitled to prevailing wages. See Hanley v. Thompson, 838 N.Y.S.2d 59, 60 (1st Dep't 2007); see also Corrigan v. Joseph, 106 N.E.2d 593, 601 (N.Y. 1952) (workers who are members of the skilled, graded services of the Competitive Class are entitled to prevailing wages). Once DCAS has determined which job titles are entitled to prevailing wages, the City Comptroller (“Comptroller”) determines the appropriate wages for each eligible job title. See N.Y. Lab. Law § 220(3)(c), (3-a).

         As is relevant here, DCAS has authorized NYCHA to use the civil service title of “Caretaker (H.A.)” in the Labor Class. Within the Caretaker (H.A.) title, NYCHA has established internal job designations, including for Caretakers P. Caretakers P work for NYCHA assisting Plasterers. Standard duties of the position include setting up and cleaning up for Plasterers. Caretakers P are not required to take a competitive examination prior to employment, and are not paid prevailing wages for their work. The private sector version of a Caretaker P is a Plasterer Tender or Plasterer Helper. Unlike Caretakers P, private sector Plasterer Tenders also work on the exterior of buildings and mix plaster outside with a machine that Caretakers P do not use. Private sector Plasterer Tenders earn prevailing wages amounting to several thousand dollars per year more than Caretakers P. In 2000, the Comptroller issued an annual report which includes a number of prevailing wage determinations. The report states that a consent determination was entered for the title Plasterer Helper, but does not state the outcome of the determination or what duties a “Plasterer Helper” performs.

         As a result of their positions as Caretakers P, Plaintiffs are or were each members of Defendant Union. The Union represents Caretakers P in collective bargaining with NYCHA, which determines the Caretakers' compensation. The Union also represents other NYCHA workers including Mason's Helpers, who assist Bricklayers by setting up scaffolds, mixing mortar, cleaning the work site and lugging tools, among other tasks. Mason's Helpers are members of the skilled, Competitive Class of the civil service, and must take a competitive examination prior to employment. As a result of their status as skilled employees, Mason's Helpers are entitled to prevailing wages. According to Plaintiffs, Mason's Helpers do less work than Caretakers P. While approximately 94 percent of Caretakers P are black or Hispanic, over 60 percent of Mason's Helpers are white.

         In 2007, following complaints by Caretakers P, the Union's attorney filed a complaint with the Comptroller, seeking prevailing wages for Caretakers P. The Comptroller rejected the Union's complaint in February 2008, stating that Caretakers are not entitled to prevailing wages, as they are neither classified within the Competitive Class of the civil service nor employed by public work contractors or subcontractors. In March 2008, the Union's attorney requested that DCAS reclassify Caretakers P into a job title eligible for prevailing wages. DCAS rejected the Union's request in May 2008, stating that neither “Caretaker P” nor “Plasterer Helper” was a recognized title in the skilled class of the civil service and that Caretakers P are not entitled to be classified as skilled workers subject to a prevailing wage.

         In April 2010, the Union and NYCHA entered into an agreement that provided for an expansion of duties and an increase in pay for Caretakers P (the “Agreement”). As a result of their expanded duties, Caretakers P were expected to use tools, mix plaster, engage in demolition and work side by side with the Plasterers applying plaster and wire, among other new tasks. At no time did the expanded duties require Plaintiffs to work on the exterior of buildings or with certain machines used by private sector Plasterer Helpers.

         The Agreement also provides for the development and implementation of a training program for the expanded duties, and states that NYCHA “agrees to use its best efforts to petition” DCAS to create a “Plasterer's Helper (H.A.)” title incorporating the expanded duties. It further provides that NYCHA and the Union will jointly ask DCAS to consider the expanded duties as creditable experience toward meeting the qualification requirements of the skilled Plasterer title.

         Following the adoption of the Agreement, NYCHA created a training program related to the expanded duties and an assessment program by which Caretakers P would be evaluated on their progress in learning and performing their expanded duties. Only 42 percent of Caretakers P passed their initial assessment. More Caretakers P later passed the second assessment test. While NYCHA has intermittently referred to its Caretakers P as Plasterer Helpers, NYCHA has not petitioned DCAS to create a formal Plasterer's Helper title since the Agreement was signed. Nor have NYCHA and the Union jointly petitioned DCAS to reduce the amount of time for a Caretaker P to become a Plasterer.

         II. ...


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