115 F.3d 116 (2nd Cir. 1997), 623, Fields v. New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities

Docket Nº:623, Docket 96-7523.
Citation:115 F.3d 116
Party Name:Nathan FIELDS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARDATION AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES; Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center; Michael Cser; John Mangione, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:May 23, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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115 F.3d 116 (2nd Cir. 1997)

Nathan FIELDS, Plaintiff-Appellant,




Developmental Center; Michael Cser;

John Mangione, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 623, Docket 96-7523.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

May 23, 1997

Argued Dec. 2, 1996.

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Gerald H. Katzman, Pattison, Sampson, Ginsberg & Griffin, Troy, NY, for plaintiff-appellant.

Victor Paladino, Asst. Atty. Gen., Albany, NY (Dennis C. Vacco, NY State Atty. Gen., Peter H. Schiff, Deputy Solicitor Gen., Nancy A. Spiegel, Asst. Atty. Gen., Albany, NY, on the brief), for defendants-appellees.

Before: NEWMAN, Chief Judge, OAKES and WINTER, Circuit Judges.

JON O. NEWMAN, Chief Judge:

This appeal presents several issues concerning the framing of jury instructions in cases governed by the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Specifically, the issues are (i) whether a plaintiff in a Title VII case may prevail by proving that discrimination was a motivating factor, without proving that the defendant's proffered reason was a pretext, (ii) whether the distinction between so-called "pretext" cases and "dual motivation" cases has survived the 1991 amendments to Title VII, and (iii) if so, under what circumstances is a plaintiff entitled to have the jury instructed on the defendant-employer's "dual motivation" affirmative defense. These issues arise on an appeal by plaintiff Nathan Fields from the July 31, 1996, amended judgment of the District Court for the Northern District of New York (Gustave J. DiBianco, Magistrate Judge) entered after a jury verdict in favor of defendants New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities ("OMRDD"), Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center ("Heck"), Michael Cser, and John Mangione. We conclude that a Title VII plaintiff need not always prove pretext, though it must always prove that discrimination was a motivating factor, and that an instruction on the affirmative defense of dual motivation is not required in all cases and was not required on the evidence in this case. We therefore affirm the amended judgment of the District Court.


Fields, a Black male, was hired by the OMRDD in 1985 as a "Grade 8" maintenance assistant (electrical) in the electrical shop at Heck. He was promoted to Grade 9 in 1986. In 1989, Fields joined the Navy and went on military leave without pay from the OMRDD. In 1992, he was discharged from the Navy and returned to work at Heck. All events giving rise to the present suit occurred after plaintiff's 1992 reinstatement.

Fields's direct supervisor at Heck was defendant Cser, an electrician and Grade 14 maintenance supervisor. Cser supervised all of Heck's maintenance work-force, which included between 20 to 40 employees divided among the electrical, plumbing, and building shops. The electrical shop had five employees: two Grade 12 electricians (McCray, a Black male, and Kohler, a White male), two Grade 9 maintenance assistants specializing in electrical work (Fields and Ayoub, a male of Egyptian descent), and one Grade 9 maintenance assistant (Montenaro, a White male). The maintenance department is one of six departments under the supervision of defendant Mangione, the plant superintendent at Heck.

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Fields complains of disparate treatment on the basis of race in various aspects of his employment at Heck. His allegations can be divided into seven categories: denial of promotion; unfair discipline; discriminatory work shift assignment; discriminatory overtime assignment; discriminatory job task assignment; pairing of workers by race; and general harassment. A brief summary of the testimony and evidence offered at trial follows.

First, Fields claimed that he twice applied for Grade 12 positions, but failed to receive any promotions since his 1992 reinstatement. In December 1993, for instance, plaintiff applied for a Grade 12 general mechanic position at a community residence project sponsored by the OMRDD. The qualifications for this position included experience in carpentry, a valid New York driver's license, and good time, attendance, and performance records. Fields contended that several of these requirements were specifically added to disqualify him for this promotion, though he offered no support for this allegation. Moreover, Fields conceded that he has little experience in carpentry and has accumulated poor time, attendance, and performance records during his tenure at Heck. Additionally, Fields admitted that he failed to follow through with his application for the promotion. Although requested by Mangione to provide proper documentation of his qualifications for the promotion, plaintiff submitted nothing beyond an undated, handwritten note to support his candidacy. The three persons eventually selected for promotion were White males. Each possessed the requisite qualifications and documentation.

Second, Fields testified that he was discriminatorily selected to receive a notice of discipline based on his time and attendance records, whereas a White employee who also missed much time from work was not similarly disciplined. Fields conceded, however, that while he had accumulated over 500 hours of vacation, sick, and personal leave credits during 1994, the White employee had accumulated only slightly more than 100 hours of leave credits during the same period. The White employee, moreover, had a legitimate excuse: He was suffering from a prolonged illness during that year.

Third, Fields stated that when he returned from the Navy in 1992, he was assigned to work the disfavored Tuesday to Saturday shift, but that a White employee with less seniority was allowed to work the standard Monday to Friday shift. Plaintiff claimed that this violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between his union and the OMRDD, and constituted evidence of racial discrimination. However, plaintiff conceded that he had worked the Tuesday to Saturday shift prior to his departure for the Navy, and that he had initially agreed to work this shift upon his return in 1992. Moreover, plaintiff failed to rebut the defendants' testimony that it was the general practice at Heck to assign shifts to returning veterans based on the facility's needs and not to displace a current employee from his shift in order to accommodate a returning veteran.

Fourth, Fields complained that Cser did not fairly distribute unscheduled overtime (i.e., overtime earned on emergency assignments) among electrical shop employees. Plaintiff admitted, however, that he was unaware of the skills generally required in emergency overtime situations. Cser testified that he assigned unscheduled overtime based on the nature of the work, the location of the emergency, the availability of employees, their qualifications, and their proximity to the emergency work site. He also estimated that approximately 80 percent of emergency overtime involved plumbing tasks. Fields did not deny that he has little experience in plumbing work. Cser's testimony that Fields was often difficult to locate, or otherwise unavailable, during his off hours was also unrebutted.

Fifth, Fields testified that Cser disproportionately assigned the tedious and difficult "ballast" work to minority employees in the electrical shop. Plaintiff offered the testimony of a statistician who analyzed the assignment of ballast work and concluded that such assignments were not random in the statistical sense: minority employees performed a disproportionate amount of this unpleasant work. Cser testified that he assigned all work, including ballast work, based on a consideration

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of numerous factors, including the nature of the work, its priority, the availability of employees, and an employee's job-grade level and qualifications. Fields's expert acknowledged that he did not factor any of these elements into his analysis, which took into account solely the employee's race.

Sixth, Fields contended...

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