United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
Vincent L. Briccetti United States District Judge
Mindy Watton brings this action against defendant the County
of Rockland, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”) and the New York State Human Rights
Law (“NYSHRL”). Plaintiff also brings a
Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim under 42 U.S.C.
pending before the Court is the County's motion for
summary judgment. (Doc. #42).
following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1367.
parties have submitted briefs, declarations with exhibits,
and statements of material fact pursuant to Local Civil Rule
56.1, which reflect the following factual background.
County Clerk's Office
worked in the County Clerk's Office from February 1994
through approximately November 2011. On July 19, 2011, the
County issued plaintiff a disciplinary charge of Gross
Misconduct for “dereliction of duty and
insubordination.” (Weissman Decl. Ex. P at ¶
The County suspended plaintiff, effective the following day.
Plaintiff and the County entered into a stipulation in which
plaintiff consented to a temporary assignment in the County
Department of Social Services (“DSS”), with the
intention of establishing her as a permanent employee there
pursuant to a future legislative resolution. Pursuant to the
stipulation, plaintiff did not admit or deny the validity of
the disciplinary charges, and the County agreed to withdraw
the charges with prejudice. The County also put plaintiff on
probation for one year.
began working as a Principal Records Clerk in the Cash
Management System (“CAMS”) Unit at the County DSS
in January 2012. The CAMS Unit, which was responsible for
recovering money owed to DSS, consisted of Bruce Machlis, the
Collections Assistant; plaintiff; and Lewis Jefferies, the
Director of Compliance and Resource Recovery and
Machlis's and plaintiff's supervisor. Carol Barbash,
Machlis's ex-wife, was DSS's Director of Legal
Services and Deputy Commissioner of Social Services.
Beginning in December 2012, plaintiff and Machlis shared an
29, 2013, plaintiff attended a Rockland Boulders minor league
baseball game with her husband and their son. Machlis and his
wife also separately attended the Boulders game. Machlis,
plaintiff, and their spouses became involved in a
confrontation. Machlis chronicled the incident in a letter to
Jefferies the following week. In the letter, Machlis claimed
plaintiff told his wife he “kissed her in the
office” and said she would “tell [Barbash]
whatever she had to tell her to hurt [Machlis], and would, in
effect, cause of [sic] [Machlis] to lose [his] job.”
(Weissman Decl. Ex. KK at ¶ 53) Plaintiff, on the other
hand, testified Machlis was “talking inappropriately to
[her]” and “groping [her]” while in line at
the concession stand. (Gould Aff. Ex. 5 (“Pl. Dep.,
dated Nov. 10, 2016”), at 62-63). Plaintiff testified
she told Machlis “if he did not stop [she] would report
him to [Barbash].” (Id. at 62). Plaintiff also
testified she told Machlis's wife “that [her]
husband has been sexually harassing [her] at work and just
did the same thing to [her] at the concession stand.”
(Id. at 73).
called Barbash after the incident, while still at the
stadium, and Barbash informed Jefferies the next workday.
Monday, July 1, 2013-two days after the incident at the
baseball game-Jefferies testified he had to move plaintiff
out of the office she shared with Machlis to ensure plaintiff
“was not exposed to anything further.” (Gould
Aff. Ex. 10 at 54). As plaintiff was not in the office,
Jefferies “remov[ed] her belongings from the office so
that she wouldn't have to go back there.”
(Id. at 54).
addition, Jefferies, after consulting with Barbash and June
Gray, a DSS Personnel Administrator, decided to transfer
plaintiff to the DSS Family Law Division “to work on a
special project.” (Weissman Decl. Ex. QQ (the
“Gray Memo”) at ¶ 444). According to
Barbash, they reasoned Machlis's skill-set was
better-suited to remaining in CAMS and plaintiff's skills
and title were more transferable. Plaintiff returned to work
on July 2, 2013, to find her desk at CAMS cleared off.
Plaintiff then met with Jefferies and Gray twice on the same
first meeting, Jefferies and Gray informed plaintiff they
were relocating her to the DSS Family Law Division. According
to Gray, plaintiff “was not pleased, ” and
“left the meeting stating that she wanted to call the
union regarding harassment charges against [Machlis] and . .
. to call her husband.” (Gray Memo at ¶ 444).
plaintiff and her husband attended the second meeting with
Jefferies and Gray. According to Gray, plaintiff and her
husband stated plaintiff and Machlis had a “consensual
and short-lived” relationship, “they wanted to
put it in the past, ” and felt plaintiff could continue
to work with Machlis. (Gray Memo at ¶ 444). Jefferies
likewise testified that plaintiff's husband said
plaintiff and Machlis had an affair. Plaintiff's husband,
however, later testified that plaintiff said at the second
meeting she should be able to keep her job and Machlis should
be the one transferred. Moreover, both Machlis and plaintiff
later testified that they did not have an affair or sexual
and Gray did not investigate further plaintiff's claim of
sexual harassment, and plaintiff was transferred to the
Family Law Unit with the same title, pay, and benefits.
Family Law Unit
worked in the Family Law Unit for over eight months without
incident. Then, on March 21, 2014, plaintiff sent Machlis an
email, without a subject, writing:
Hi Bruce, how is cams doing? I really miss it. I really want
to come back. If you really care about me the way you have
said you do, you will speak to [Barbash] about getting my
position back and telling her what a great asset I was to the
department. We worked so well together and cams was our
domain. Please make it happen. I know you can. P.S. maybe we
can meet for lunch today to discuss things.
(Weissman Decl. Ex. SS (the “March 21 E-Mail”) at
on July 9, 2014, plaintiff filled out a leave report (the
“Leave Report”) seeking permission to use sick
leave from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Plaintiff submitted the
Leave Report to Jefferies, who approved it. Plaintiff
subsequently altered the Leave Report so that it falsely
indicated plaintiff was at work from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
According to plaintiff, she believed she had permission to
alter the Leave Report.
next day, Jefferies, Barbash, and Gray met with plaintiff and
presented her with a Letter of Reprimand, which plaintiff
refused to sign. Plaintiff told them she was going to
“make a complaint” or “bring harassment
charges, ” which Jefferies and Barbash understood to
refer to the incidents involving Machlis the previous summer.
(Gould Aff. Ex. 6 at 9, Ex. 10 at 141).
OERR Investigation and Report
August 1, 2014, plaintiff met with investigators from the
County Office of Employee Rights and Relations (the
“OERR”), a division of the County Department of
Personnel, where Joan Silvestri was the Commissioner.
Plaintiff alleged Machlis had sexually harassed her while
working in the CAMS Unit. Plaintiff also identified Ileen
Stainback, a CAMS employee at the time, as a possible
witness, stating Machlis had engaged in flirtatious behavior
about August 7, 2014, plaintiff filed an Equal Employment
Opportunity (“EEO”) Complaint with the OERR
against Jefferies, Barbash, and Machlis, alleging Machlis
sexually harassed her; Jefferies and Gray failed to
investigate the matter; and Barbash and Jefferies issued the