United States District Court, N.D. New York
KLAPROTH LAW PLLC BRENDAN J. KLAPROTH, ESQ. Attorneys for
LAW FIRM JOSEPH J. RANNI, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiffs.
BERGSTEIN & ULRICH, LLP STEPHEN BERGSTEIN, ESQ. Attorneys
WALLENS GOLD & MINEAUX LLP EARL T. REDDING, ESQ. MATTHEW
J. KELLY, ESQ. Attorneys for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. Senior United States District
before the Court are the parties' proposed findings of
fact and conclusions of law with regard to Plaintiff
Legg's disparate impact claim pursuant to the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act ("PDA"). See Dkt. Nos.
Legg was a corrections officer at the Ulster County Jail and,
on May 11, 2009, she filed this lawsuit along with three
other corrections officers, pursuant to Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), New York
State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Among various other claims, Plaintiff Legg
asserted claims of pregnancy discrimination against all
Defendants under the PDA and state law. The basis for her
claim was that Defendants denied her request for light-duty
assignments during her pregnancy, and she was consequently
required to work directly with inmates.
January 7, 2011, Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment arguing that Plaintiffs' claims failed for
various reasons. See Dkt. No. 29. In a
Memorandum-Decision and Order, the Court dismissed several of
Plaintiffs' claims. However, the Court determined that a
trial was necessary to adjudicate, among others, Plaintiff
Legg's PDA claim against Defendant County. See
generally Dkt. Nos. 55, 98.
Plaintiffs presented their case-in-chief, Defendants moved
for a directed verdict on all of Plaintiffs' claims,
including Plaintiff Legg's PDA claim. The Court granted
Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff Legg's PDA claim
after concluding that Defendants' light-duty policy was
applied neutrally to all employees and, thus, could not form
the basis for a PDA claim. See Dkt. No. 101; see
also Dkt. No. 165 at 613-15.
Legg appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing
that the Court had erred in dismissing her PDA claim.
See Dkt. Nos. 113. The Second Circuit first noted
that, while the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court had
held in Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 135
S.Ct. 1338 (2015), "that an employer's facially
neutral accommodation policy gives rise to an inference of
pregnancy discrimination if it imposes a significant burden
on pregnant employees that is not justified by the
employer's non-discriminatory explanation." Legg
v. Ulster Cty., 820 F.3d 67, 70 (2d Cir. 2016).
Therefore, based on this new controlling precedent, the
Second Circuit vacated the Court's directed verdict
regarding Plaintiff Legg's PDA claim and instructed the
Court to hold a new trial.
Court thereafter held a trial regarding Plaintiff Legg's
PDA claim. In that regard, the Court bifurcated the case to
allow a jury to decide whether Plaintiff had established a
disparate treatment claim and directed the parties to file
proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect
to Plaintiff Legg's disparate impact claim.
Findings of fact
The Ulster County jail and posts
Ulster County Jail ("Jail") has three shifts, A
Line, B Line, and C Line. See Dkt. No. 194 at 3. In
2008, correction officers did not bid for their posts but
were allowed to bid on their shifts. See id. at 79.
With regard to posts, Sergeant Ferro and Corporal Reeves had
discretionary authority to prepare the schedule. See
id. at 8-9. Officers were therefore rotated to posts
throughout the Jail. See Id. at 163. In 2008,
Plaintiff was qualified to work any position in the Jail.
See Dkt. No. 195 at 16.
Jail had eight Pods, each of which was a 48-cell housing unit
that housed up to 60 inmates. See Dkt. No. 194 at 9.
In each Pod, inmates were able to walk freely and socialize
in a common area. See id. at 10. A-Pod housed 16-18
year-old men. See Id. at 11. B-Pod housed rapists,
sex offenders, and suicide risks. See id. at 18-22.
C-Pod housed "maximum security" male inmates, who
had committed dangerous crimes. See id. at 12.
D-Pod, G-Pod and I-Pod housed male inmates in the general
population. See id. at 12-14. F-Pod housed female
inmates. See id. at 13. H-Pod housed
disciplinary/classification male inmates. See id. at
13. Dorm 2 was a smaller male housing unit that included a
bathroom. See id. at 14-15. One correction officer
supervised each Pod as well as Dorm 2. See id. at
11, 15. In these Pods and Dorm 2, the correction officer had
direct contact with inmates. See id. at 14, 16, 152.
officers had more limited inmate contact in Medical, K-Pod
and Dorm 1. See id. at 22, 26. Dorm 1 was the
"trustee's pod, " where up to 24 inmates were
housed who were pre-screened to ensure they did not have a
violent background. See id. at 22, 23. One officer
worked in Dorm 1 per shift. See id. at 23. K-Pod was
a work-release program that housed inmates who were preparing
to leave the Jail. See id. at 24, 25. One officer
supervised K-Pod per shift. See id. at 24.
Furthermore, one officer was assigned the Medical Unit per
shift. See id. at 26.
Jail, light-duty assignments were Central Control and
Reception. See Dkt. No. 195 at 29; see also
Dkt. No. 191-7 at 5. Correction officers had no contact with
inmates while working in Central Control. See Dkt.
No. 194 at 16, 18, 85, 154. Officers in Central Control did
not respond to emergencies in the Jail. See id. at
78. Officers did not bid for Central Control; rather, they
were assigned the position at the chart officer's
discretion. See id. at 18, 163, 127-128. Each day,
five officers worked in Central Control: two each on the day
and evening shifts and one on the overnight shift. See
id. at 89. Correction officers also had no contact with
inmates when they worked in Reception. See id. at
16, 19. Officers in Reception did not respond to emergencies
in the Jail. See id. at 78. Officers did not bid to
work in Reception; rather, they were assigned the position.
See id. at 19.
Defendant's light-duty policy
parties agree that the relevant policy is the "Line of
Duty Injuries/Light Task Assignment" (hereinafter, the
"Policy") procedure guide. See Dkt. No.
191-7. However, the parties disagree on how Defendant
implemented the Policy. Defendant, on the one hand, argues
that its Policy was not intended to provide light-duty
accommodations for employees; rather, it was meant to provide
the Sheriff with a tool to force employees who were injured
on the job to return to at least light-duty because, pursuant
to N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 207-c, the County had to pay
their full salary regardless of whether they worked. To the
contrary, Plaintiff argues that the Policy allowed only those
injured on the job to request light-duty accommodations; and
the Sheriff would then, at his discretion, choose whether to
assign such duties.
The Policy and testimony presented at trial
Policy's stated purpose is "[t]o establish procedure
concerning employee's (sic) injured in the line of duty
and light task assignments." See Dkt. No. 191-7
at 2. Furthermore, the Policy provides that "[i]t is the
policy of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office . . . to
provide, whenever practicable, light duty task assignments
for injured employees capable of performing such tasks."
See id. In the section discussing line-of-duty
injury status leave, the Policy explains that,
[i]n a case where an employee is on line of duty injury
status leave or authorized sick leave and that employee is
injured or recovering from injury and the extent of the
injury would prevent the employee from performing full duty
status assignments, whenever possible, the employee may be
required to perform light task assignments.
See id. at 5.
Policy continues under the heading "LIGHT TASK
ASSIGNMENTS" to state that, "[i]f it is determined,
by physical examination, that a Corrections Officer is able
to perform 'Light Task' he/she ...