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Staten v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 10, 2017



          John G. Koeltl United States District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff Claude Staten, an officer with the New York City Police Department (“N.Y.P.D”), brought this employment discrimination action against the City of New York (“the City”) alleging various causes of action under federal, state, and local law. This suit -- Staten's third federal litigation against the City -- includes claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 290 et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), N.Y.C. Admin. Code §8-101 et seq. In particular, the plaintiff alleges that the City has impeded his advancement within the N.Y.P.D. because of the plaintiff's age, race, and color. He also alleges that he was subjected to a hostile work environment and that the N.Y.P.D. retaliated against him. The City now moves to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the claims are subject to claim preclusion, that many of the claims are time-barred, and that the Complaint otherwise fails to state a plausible claim for relief. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


         In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court's function on a motion to dismiss is “not to weigh the evidence that might be presented at a trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient.” Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). The Court should not dismiss the complaint if the plaintiff has stated “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id.

         When presented with a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider documents that are referenced in the complaint, documents that the plaintiff relied on in bringing suit and that are either in the plaintiff's possession or that the plaintiff knew of when bringing suit, or matters of which judicial notice may be taken. Villar v. Ramos, 2015 WL 3473413, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 2, 2015).

         When faced with a pro se complaint, the Court must “construe [the] complaint liberally and interpret it to raise the strongest arguments that it suggests.” Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Even in a pro se case, however, . . . threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, although the Court is “obligated to draw the most favorable inferences” that the complaint supports, it “cannot invent factual allegations that [the plaintiff] has not pled.” Id.


         For the purposes of the motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the factual allegations in the Complaint.


         The plaintiff, a fifty-two year-old Black-Hispanic male, has been employed by the N.Y.P.D for over thirty years. Amended Complaint (“Compl.”), ECF No. 13, p. 3; Compl. Ex. 2 p. 3, ECF No. 13-2. Three years into his tenure as an officer, the plaintiff took his first promotional exam in order to seek eligibility for promotion to the rank of sergeant. Compl. p. 33. Although the plaintiff allegedly passed the exam, he was told that he had failed and was therefore not put on the list of individuals eligible for promotion at that time. Id. More than ten years later, in 2011, the plaintiff sat for and passed Exam Number 1533 for promotion to the rank of sergeant. Compl. ¶ 1. As a result, the plaintiff received a “list number” placing him among a pool of individuals eligible to be promoted to the rank of sergeant, but was not among those actually promoted from the list. Id. ¶ 15. The plaintiff alleges that multiple white officers under the age of forty with list numbers behind the plaintiff's -- that is, who scored lower on the Exam -- were promoted from the same promotional exam list. Id. ¶¶ 15-18, 22-23.

         The plaintiff also alleges that he filed for and was qualified to take Exam Number 5535 in April 2015 for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, but was denied the chance to sit for the exam despite having been permitted to take a lieutenant's exam in 2011. Id. ¶¶ 1, 21, 23.[1] The plaintiff alleges that the decisions not to promote the plaintiff to the rank of sergeant following Exam Number 1533 and not to allow the plaintiff to sit for Exam Number 5535 were made on the basis of the plaintiff's “color, race, and age” in violation of Title VII, the ADEA, and the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws. Id. ¶ 23.

         The plaintiff also alleges that he has been repeatedly assigned to dangerous posts and given unfavorable work assignments. For example, the plaintiff alleges that in January 2000 he was assigned a post as the precinct cell attendant in the 046 precinct after a white male officer with less seniority than the plaintiff protested to the assigning sergeant. Compl. ¶ 34. The plaintiff alleges that, over an unspecified period of time, he has been placed on a particularly dangerous post within the 046 precinct on multiple occasions and has been involved in two officer-related shootings while on duty there. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. He further alleges that, whereas certain white officers have been rewarded with departmental recognition and special job assignments following police-related shootings, the plaintiff “was not credited for [his] heroic acts.” Id. ¶ 28; 52-53; p. 33.

         The plaintiff also alleges that he has been repeatedly assigned to work the “barrier section, ” which is located in Queens more than two hours from his home and, because of the timing of his normal tours, the shift often leaves him sleep deprived. Id. ¶¶ 60-63. The barrier section assignment requires significant physical labor, and the plaintiff alleges that that work was made more difficult on at least one occasion in June 2016 when he was forced to perform the work while assigned to a truck with no working air conditioning. Id. ¶¶ 65-68.

         The Complaint also alleges discriminatory and harassing behavior by several individuals at the N.Y.P.D. The Complaint alleges that on one occasion a Sergeant Leone spoke to the plaintiff “in a very nasty, and unprofessional manner, ” gave him an unfavorable assignment requiring him to transport a prisoner from Bronx central booking to Montefiore hospital, and refused to provide the plaintiff with a patrol car with a partition to use during the trip. Id. ¶¶ 37-39. Two other officers of color allegedly reported to the plaintiff that Sergeant Leone had been rude and disrespectful to them, and that they felt Sergeant Leone was racist. Id. ¶¶ 43-45.

         The plaintiff alleges that another white supervisor, Sergeant Joseph Doria, has repeatedly given him unfavorable assignments, including assigning the plaintiff to a midnight “foot post” at a time when the plaintiff was recovering from a broken ankle without providing the plaintiff with a vehicle, and assigning him to multiple other posts which the plaintiff considered to be “rookie” or “undesirable” posts. Compl. ¶¶ 47-51. The plaintiff also alleges that former N.Y.P.D. Lieutenant Kristine Schelberger mounted “an ongoing attack” against the plaintiff throughout the years 2008 through 2010, apparently by participating in the presentation of charges against the plaintiff by the Internal Affairs Bureau, and put the plaintiff in “threat of unnecessary harm” when she acted as his platoon commander in or around 2013. Id. ¶¶ 56-58.

         The plaintiff also alleges that, in January 2016, Lieutenant Gabriel Healy made an inappropriate sexually explicit comment to the plaintiff, and that on two other occasions Lieutenant Healy made inappropriate jokes about the plaintiff “harassing” female officers in the office. Compl. ¶¶ 71-80. The plaintiff alleges that this behavior created a hostile work environment and constituted harassment in violation of Title VII and the New York City and New York State Human Rights Laws. He also alleges that a Lieutenant Hillian wrongfully refused to correct and consolidate the plaintiff's sick reports as a form of retaliation against the plaintiff “for speaking out against the NYPD.” Id. ¶¶ 92-94.

         Finally, the plaintiff alleges that he believes that the N.Y.P.D. was responsible for the disruptive and aggressive questioning of the plaintiff's then-sixteen year-old daughter at his home in Monticello, New York, in what he believes was a failed attempt to discover the plaintiff in violation of the N.Y.P.D. residency requirements. Compl. ¶¶ 81-87.

         In sum, the Complaint alleges a wide-ranging plot to impede the advancement of the plaintiff's career and force the plaintiff to quit or retire. Prior to filing suit, the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on June 29, 2016. Compl. p. 3.[2]Construed liberally, the Complaint asserts claims for (1) race and age discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the ADEA; (2) creation of a hostile work environment; (3) retaliation; (4) race and age discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights ...

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