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Young v. Town of Islip

United States District Court, E.D. New York

November 13, 2017

MELANIE YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF ISLIP, ELIZABETH LORENZ, in her personal and official capacity, CAROL CHARCHALIS, in her personal and official capacity, and ROBERT FINNEGAN, in his personal and official capacity Defendants.

          Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington Attorneys for the Plaintiff By: Frederick K. Brewington, Esq., Of Counsel

          William D. Wexler, Esq. Attorney for the Defendants By: William D. Wexler, Esq., Of Counsel

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION & ORDER

          ARTHUR D. SPATT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On February 23, 2017, a jury found that the Plaintiff Melanie Young (the “Plaintiff”) did not prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Defendants Town of Islip (“Islip”), Elizabeth Lorenz (“Lorenz”), Carol Charchalis (“Charchalis”), and Robert Finnegan (“Finnegan”) (collectively, the “Defendants”) discriminated against her on the basis of her race, or that they retaliated against her because of her complaints of discrimination. The Plaintiff's claims were brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 (the “NYSHRL”), and the Suffolk County Human Rights Law (the “SCHRL”).

         Presently before the Court is a motion by the Plaintiff for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.” or “Rule”) 59(a). Specifically, the Plaintiff argues that the Court erred in its charge to the jury on what incidents could be considered materially adverse employment actions in the context of the Plaintiff's retaliation and discrimination claims.

         For the following reasons, the Plaintiff's motion is granted in part, and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Relevant Facts

         The Court will not engage in a complete recitation of the facts adduced at the trial, just a discussion of those that are relevant to the Plaintiff's instant motion.

         Between April 21, 2008, and December 31, 2013, the Plaintiff worked for the Town of Islip. During that time, she worked in two offices: the Commissioner of Human Services for the Town of Islip, and the Office of the Supervisor. Her respective titles in those two departments were Executive Assistant to Management Staff/Acting Director of Human Development, and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) Compliance Specialist.

         The Plaintiff alleged that she was terminated from her position as ADA Compliance Specialist due to discrimination based on her race, as well as retaliation based on her numerous complaints of discrimination. The Plaintiff complained verbally and in writing in February 2009, the spring of 2009, and October 2009 that she believed that she was the subject of discrimination. In February 2009, she told the chief of staff to the Town supervisor that she was being subjected to discriminatory treatment and a hostile work environment (Tr. at 139-40). On April 2, 2010, she filed a notice of claim with the Town of Islip of her intent to bring discrimination charges. (Pl.'s Ex. 461). On February 11, 2011, she filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (the “NYSDHR”). (Pl.'s Ex 57).

         As stated above, the Plaintiff moves for a new trial on the ground that the Court erred in charging the jury that the only materially adverse employment action was the Plaintiff's termination.

         During the charging conference, the Plaintiff objected to the Plaintiff's termination being the only materially adverse employment action in the retaliation context. The following conversation occurred:

MR. BREWINGTON: You say in those charges, including going back to five [the retaliation cause of action], you say “based on alleged discrimination and the decision to discharge her.” Is it the decision, or is it leading to her discharge?
THE COURT: No. I think that it's a decision. I don't know how it could be leading to her. This is retaliation. The claim is that because she made prior complaints she was discharged.
MR. BREWINGTON: That's the ultimate.
THE COURT: Yes.
MR. BREWINGTON: That's the ultimate. But the claim is that the retaliation came in other forms, that the retaliation came in the over documentation, the charges, the other actions. The retaliation itself does not have to be a single act. And that's my concern. I was raising that the other -
THE COURT: I understand it was a single act.
MR. BREWINGTON: I know. It doesn't have to--and it shouldn't-- in this situation our argument has been that she was discharged, and that was the ultimate action of retaliation after she filed her complaints. But all of the things leading up to that were ...

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