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Lozada v. County of Nassau

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 20, 2017

BEATRICE LOZADA, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF NASSAU and EDWARD MANGANO Individually, and in his capacity As NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          ANNE Y. SHIELDS, Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Beatrice Lozada (“Plaintiff” or “Lozada”) commenced this action on November 14, 2016, alleging employment discrimination in the form of unlawful retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights. Specifically, Lozada claims that she was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. See Docket Entry (“DE”) 1. Defendants in this action are County of Nassau (the “County”) and Edward Mangano (“Mangano”).

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to quash the non-party depositions of Comptroller George Maragos (“Maragos”) and Deputy County Executive Robert Walker (“Walker”). For the reasons set forth below, and subject to the restrictions herein the motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

          I. Procedural History

         As noted above, this action was commenced on November 14, 2016. On January 24, 2017, this Court held an initial conference, wherein the parties' proposed discovery plan was so ordered, and discovery was scheduled to complete by November 7, 2017. DE 13, 14. On May 25, 2017, this Court held a status conference, at which time Plaintiff was directed to depose County witnesses by August 30, 2017. DE 19. The parties were further directed to submit a joint status report to this Court on August 14, 2017. DE 19. On August 31, 2017, the parties filed their joint status letter. In the letter, Plaintiff advised the Court that the Defendants denied her request to depose George Maragos (the Nassau County Comptroller) and Robert Walker (Chief Deputy County Executive for Nassau County). Plaintiff further advised the Court of her intent to compel the depositions of such individuals. DE 21. On October 13, 2017, the parties submitted a further joint status letter to this Court. DE 22. In the letter, Plaintiff once again advised the Court that Defendants were denying Plaintiff's requests to take the depositions of Maragos and Walker. DE 22. As Plaintiff had yet to move to compel, this Court directed counsel to confer with regard to the two depositions, and further directed them to submit a proposed briefing schedule if an agreement could not be reached. See Electronic Order dated October 23, 2017. A proposed briefing schedule was submitted for Defendants' motion to quash, which this Court so ordered. DE 23. On November 29, 2017, Defendants' fully briefed motion to quash (styled as a motion to strike deposition notices) was filed. DE 24, 25, 26. As such the motion is now ripe for decision.

         II. Relevant Background Information

          Lozada is a Hispanic female and single mother who has been employed by the Nassau County as an administrative aide from 2010 until 2016. Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶ 9, DE 1. During a partially overlapping period of time, Lozada was also a volunteer at Elmont Fire Department from 2006 to 2013. Id. In or around 2011, Lozada filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (“NYSDHR”). The complaint alleged that she was subjected to harassment and discrimination based upon her status as a Hispanic female and single mother while serving as a volunteer with Elmont Fire Department. Compl. ¶ 11.

         According to Lozada, around the time that she filed her complaint with the NYSDHR, she also secured a position with the County. Lozada claims that the County was unaware of her pending NYSDHR claim at the time she was offered the position. She alleges that after disclosing information about her complaint to Herbert Flores (“Flores”), a long time County employee, she was asked to write down the names of her family members who lived in Nassau County. After producing the list to Flores, Flores is stated to have relayed the information to Brian Nevin, counsel for the County Executive. Flores then is stated to have told Lozada that he would not help her with her complaints of discrimination. Compl. ¶ 16.

         Lozada prevailed at the NYSDHR hearing. She was awarded $60, 000 in compensatory damages, and the Fire Department was fined $20, 000.[1] Compl. ¶ 17. Various media outlets publicized Plaintiff's award. Lozada claims that the public attention she received resulted in her becoming a target of threats and intimidation. Compl. ¶ 18.

         Lozada alleges, based upon information and belief, that on or about March of 2013, the County became aware of Plaintiff's complaint with the NYSDHR. Compl. ¶ 19. She states that she was thereafter subjected to a pattern of retaliatory behavior, including being referring to as “the problem child of Nassau County, ” trying to freeze her out of the workplace, and receiving threats against her and her daughter's physical safety. Compl. ¶ 20-22. Lozada sought assistance from the Nassau County Police Department and the Nassau District Attorney's Office. Compl. ¶ 23.

         In or around 2013, Lozada uncovered that the Fire Department was illegally misappropriating monies from pension funds by fabricating call response sheets. Compl. ¶ 24. Lozada attempted to inform County Executive Mangano of the Fire Department's illegal conduct; however, she was never given a chance to meet with Mangano. Compl. ¶ 25. On or about March 24, 2016, Plaintiff brought her concerns to the then acting Special Assistant to the County Executive, Anne De Michael (“De Michael”). Compl. ¶ 26. Lozada claims that her attempts to shed light on the illegal situation were met with hostility, and that De Michael instructed Lozada to “shut her mouth, ” and additionally threatened Lozada's well-being and the well-being of her family. Compl. ¶ 26. Thereafter, Lozada's supervisor at the County, Eldia Gonzalez, warned Lozada to “lay off” Elmont, “as both the town and the County are parts of the same Republican machinery, and that she would never rise within the ranks if she continued to make waves.” Compl. ¶ 27.

         Despite such warnings and threats, Lozada avers that she continued to illuminate the Fire Department's wrongdoings. Compl. ¶ 29. She claims that she complained to the Captain of the Fire Department and the District Attorney's Office. According to Lozada, neither complaint effectuated change; instead, the Captain met her with hostility, and the District Attorney's Office lost her first complaint. Lozada further claims that her endeavors to bring attention to the Fire Department's conduct resulted in Defendants' attempts to sabotage her career.

         Of particular relevance to the present motion are Plaintiff's claims that she was promised a particular position and was denied that position in retaliation for the expression of her First Amendment rights. The allegedly promised position was working directly with Maragos, as his “right hand man.” Lozada claims that she met directly with Maragos who offered her the position at her requested annual salary of $80, 000. The offer of employment with Maragos is alleged to have been confirmed by Maragos and other County employees, including Walker. Compl. ¶ 33. Plaintiff testified as to these facts at her deposition. Lozada claims that after the County learned of her complaint of discrimination, the offer to work for Maragos was rescinded. Plaintiff claims other acts of retaliation which are not relevant to the present motion and with therefore not be outlined herein. See Compl. ¶ 36-44. On February 26, 2016, Lozada was terminated from her position. Compl. ¶ 45.

         DISPOSITION OF THE MOTION

          I. The ...


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