Snell v. Suffolk County, No. 82 Civ. 4290 (JBW).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
Writing for the CourtWEINSTEIN
PartiesClement A. SNELL, et al., Plaintiffs, v. SUFFOLK COUNTY, etc., et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 82 Civ. 4290 (JBW).
Decision Date05 June 1985

611 F. Supp. 521

Clement A. SNELL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SUFFOLK COUNTY, etc., et al., Defendants.

No. 82 Civ. 4290 (JBW).

United States District Court, E.D. New York.

May 24, 1985.

Modified June 5, 1985.


611 F. Supp. 522

Baden, Kramer, Huffman & Brodsky, P.C., New York City, for plaintiffs; William M. Brodsky and Douglas Kramer, New York City, of counsel.

James M. Catterson, Jr., Port Jefferson, N.Y., Snitow & Pauley, New York City, for defendants; William H. Pauley, III, Scott M. Yaffe, New York City, of counsel.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

WEINSTEIN, Chief Judge:

Plaintiffs, sixteen Black and Hispanic employees of the Suffolk County Department of Sheriff, presently hold the titles of Correction Officer, Sergeant and Lieutenant. They contend they have been discriminated against on the basis of race, color and national origin in job assignments and employment conditions. They are suing the Sheriff and the County of Suffolk under federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, or national origin. See § 703(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. They also sue on the theory that the same defendants violated their civil rights. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1981, 1985(3).

Plaintiffs have not proved that they were assigned to duty or denied assignment, pay, or other conditions of employment because of their race, color, or national origin. They have proved that their conditions of employment have been inferior. They have regularly been defamed, harassed and demeaned because of their race, color and national origin by their co-employees; defendants have ignored or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent these abuses.

The Title VII issues were tried by the bench. Simultaneously, a jury tried the 1983 claims and found for three of the sixteen plaintiffs. This memorandum is directed to the Title VII claims.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Within 180 days of the occurrence of defendants' unlawful employment practices, four of the sixteen plaintiffs filed timely

611 F. Supp. 523
charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received right-to-sue letters. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 256-57, 101 S.Ct. 498, 503, 66 L.Ed.2d 431 (1980); Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 458, 95 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 44 L.Ed.2d 295 (1975). Plaintiffs' motion for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) was denied because the putative class was not so large that joinder of all plaintiffs would be impracticable. Defendants contend that the claims of plaintiffs who had not filed charges with the EEOC as required by Title VII should be barred

All plaintiffs need not file administrative charges as a prerequisite to suit so long as the claims of discrimination are sufficiently similar and "right to sue" letters have been issued for reasons applicable to all plaintiffs. See, e.g., Ezell v. Mobile Housing Bd., 709 F.2d 1376, 1381 (11th Cir.1983); DeMedina v. Reinhardt, 686 F.2d 997, 1012 (D.C.Cir.1982); Allen v. United States Steel Corp., 665 F.2d 689, 695 (5th Cir.1982); Allen v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788, 554 F.2d 876, 882-83 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 891, 98 S.Ct. 266, 54 L.Ed.2d 176 (1977); cf. Kirkland v. Buffalo Board of Education, 622 F.2d 1066, 1068 (2d Cir.1980) (no need for plaintiff to acquire "right to sue" letter for subsequent, related incident of discrimination); but see Schulte v. State of New York, 533 F.Supp. 31, 34 (E.D.N.Y.1981). The filing requirement is not jurisdictional. Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 397-98, 102 S.Ct. 1127, 1134, 71 L.Ed.2d 234 (1982).

The cases cited by defendant are unpersuasive. In Inda v. United Air Lines, Inc., 565 F.2d 554 (9th Cir.1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 1007, 98 S.Ct. 1877, 56 L.Ed.2d 388 (1978), the Ninth Circuit refused to invoke the single filing rule to benefit plaintiffs who had not filed with the EEOC and who sought to rely on prior filings in separate lawsuits. Hodge v. McLean Trucking Co., 607 F.2d 1118 (5th Cir.1979) (per curiam), involved would-be intervenors who had not filed with the EEOC and who sought to intervene in order to save the case of a plaintiff who failed to establish any discriminatory act within 180 days of filing. Schulte v. State, 533 F.Supp. 31 (E.D.N.Y.1981), while on point, did not discuss the relevant case law. Schulte is especially difficult to understand in light of the uncontroverted evidence that plaintiff had been told by the EEOC that filing separately would be unnecessary. Id. at 34.

Neither the Supreme Court nor the Second Circuit has addressed the issue. There is no point in requiring a wholly fruitless administrative application. The discrimination claims of plaintiffs who filed with the EEOC are sufficiently similar to those of plaintiffs who did not file to allow all plaintiffs to maintain an action under Title VII.

Defendants assert that plaintiffs cannot maintain actions under both Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The two statutory claims are not mutually exclusive. See, e.g., Daisernia v. State of New York, 582 F.Supp. 792, 795 (N.D.N.Y.1984); cf. Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 463, 95 S.Ct. 1716, 1720-21, 44 L.Ed.2d 295 (1975) (remedies available under Title VII and § 1981 separate, distinct and independent); but see Talley v. City of Desoto, 37 F.E.P. Cases 375 (N.D. Tex.1985).

Defendants are correct, however, that both causes of action could not be submitted to the jury for decision. Plaintiffs' claims under Title VII are equitable in nature and must be decided by the court. See, e.g., Lincoln v. Bd. of Regents, 697 F.2d 928, 934 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 104 S.Ct. 97, 78 L.Ed.2d 102 (1983); Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 936, 938 (5th Cir.1979); Cox v. Athena Cablevision, 558 F.Supp. 258, 260 (D.C.Tenn. 1982); Daniels v. Lord & Taylor, 542 F.Supp. 68, 69 (D.C.Ill.1982); Dadas v. Prescott, Ball & Turben, 529 F.Supp. 203, 204-05 (D.C. Ohio 1981); see also Great American Federal Savings & Loan v. Novotny,

611 F. Supp. 524
442 U.S. 366, 375 & n. 19, 99 S.Ct. 2345, 2350 & n. 19, 60 L.Ed.2d 957 (1979) (citing cases)

Plaintiffs' 1983 claims for damages to compensate for hurt feelings, stigma and humiliation resulting from violation of their constitutional rights were submitted to the jury after a three-week trial. For the reasons stated orally on the record, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. Applying a three-year statute of limitations, the jury was instructed to consider only those claims of discrimination based on incidents occurring after December 30, 1979. See, e.g., Wilson v. Garcia, ___ U.S. ___, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985) (applicable statute of limitations under section 1983 is state statute for personal injury suits). The jury found for some of the plaintiffs against defendants and awarded modest damages totaling $11,000.

The facts would have warranted a punitive damage instruction against the Sheriff, but not against the County. Cf. City of Newport v. Fact Concerns, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 271, 101 S.Ct. 2748, 2762, 69 L.Ed.2d 616 (1981). Plaintiffs, however, sought no punitive damages against the Sheriff. Nor did plaintiffs claim damages for racial harassment on the job under any state tort theory.

II. RECOVERY UNDER TITLE VII

Section 703(a) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination in "conditions ... of employment because of ... race, color ... or national origin." As codified in Section 2000e-2 of Title 42, United States Code, the statute provides in relevant part:

(a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer—
(i) ... to discriminate against any individual with respect to his ... terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(ii) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees ... in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

A. Job Assignments

The claimed violations of Title VII rest on two separate factual patterns: disparate treatment in job assignments and a racially hostile job environment. With respect to the first claim, Gilbert v. City of Little Rock, 722 F.2d 1390, 1395 (8th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 104 S.Ct. 2347, 80 L.Ed.2d 820 (1984), analyzed a similar problem—alleged disparate treatment of police officers in the imposition of disciplinary measures. As in that case, plaintiffs have not carried their burden of persuasion. The court finds that assignment to jobs are made on the basis of the officers' capacity and experience and the needs of the correction facility. See United States v. City of Buffalo, 457 F.Supp. 612, 635-36 (W.D.N.Y.1978), modified on other grounds and aff'd, 633 F.2d 643 (2d Cir.1980). There is no claim of discrimination in initial hiring or in promotions to higher rank.

B. Racial Hostility

It is well settled that a "working environment dominated by racial hostility and harassment constitutes a violation of Title VII, regardless of any other tangible job detriment to minority employees." Gilbert v. City of Little Rock, 722 F.2d 1390, 1394 (8th Cir.1983), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 104 S.Ct. 2347, 80 L.Ed.2d 820 (1984); see also Rogers v. EEOC, 454 F.2d 234, 238 (5th Cir.1971), cert. denied, 406 U.S. 957, 92 S.Ct. 2058, 32 L.Ed.2d 343 (1972).

1. Elements of Claim

To make out a violation of Title VII based on racial harassment, two conditions must be met—a pattern and failure of the employer to take reasonable steps to stop the abuse. EEOC v. Murphy Motor Freight Lines, Inc., 488 F.Supp. 381, 384-85 (D.Minn.1980).

611 F. Supp. 525

a. Pattern of Discriminating Conditions

Plaintiffs must show that more than a...

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20 practice notes
  • Harris v. Marsh, No. 81-60-CIV-3
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • December 28, 1987
    ...encouraged similar attitudes among our citizens which have persisted long after state policy has been reversed. Snell v. Suffolk County, 611 F.Supp. 521, 530-31 (E.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 782 F.2d 1094 (2d Cir.1986). Many claims of discrimination today deal with systemic, subtle and stereotypi......
  • Aguilar v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, Inc, RENT-A-CAR
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 21, 1996
    ...relief for frequent racist remarks made to or about black employees by manager and coworkers]; Snell v. Suffolk County (D.C.N.Y.1985) 611 F.Supp. 521, 532 [injunction requiring employer to prohibit employees from using specified racial and ethnic epithets]; cf. Robinson v. Jacksonville Ship......
  • Rodriguez v. Chandler, No. 86 Civ. 9749 (EW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • August 11, 1986
    ...621 F.Supp. 476, 479 (S.D.N.Y.1985); Ladson v. New York City Police Dep't, 614 F.Supp. 878, 879 (S.D.N.Y.1985); Snell v. Suffolk County, 611 F.Supp. 521, 524 (E.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 782 F.2d 1094 (2d Cir.1986); Williams v. Allen, 616 F.Supp. 653, 655 (E.D.N.Y. 1985); Rodrigues v. Village of......
  • Keller v. Prince George's County, No. 86-3876
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 26, 1987
    ...also rejected the claim that Title VII preempts an action for intentional discrimination under Sec. 1983. See Snell v. Suffolk County, 611 F.Supp. 521, 523 (E.D.N.Y.1985); Green v. Illinois Dep't of Transp., 609 F.Supp. 1021, 1027 (N.D.Ill.1985); Meyett v. Coleman, 613 F.Supp. 39 (W.D.Wis.1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Harris v. Marsh, No. 81-60-CIV-3
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • December 28, 1987
    ...encouraged similar attitudes among our citizens which have persisted long after state policy has been reversed. Snell v. Suffolk County, 611 F.Supp. 521, 530-31 (E.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 782 F.2d 1094 (2d Cir.1986). Many claims of discrimination today deal with systemic, subtle and stereotypi......
  • Aguilar v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, Inc, RENT-A-CAR
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 21, 1996
    ...relief for frequent racist remarks made to or about black employees by manager and coworkers]; Snell v. Suffolk County (D.C.N.Y.1985) 611 F.Supp. 521, 532 [injunction requiring employer to prohibit employees from using specified racial and ethnic epithets]; cf. Robinson v. Jacksonville Ship......
  • Rodriguez v. Chandler, No. 86 Civ. 9749 (EW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • August 11, 1986
    ...621 F.Supp. 476, 479 (S.D.N.Y.1985); Ladson v. New York City Police Dep't, 614 F.Supp. 878, 879 (S.D.N.Y.1985); Snell v. Suffolk County, 611 F.Supp. 521, 524 (E.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 782 F.2d 1094 (2d Cir.1986); Williams v. Allen, 616 F.Supp. 653, 655 (E.D.N.Y. 1985); Rodrigues v. Village of......
  • Keller v. Prince George's County, No. 86-3876
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 26, 1987
    ...also rejected the claim that Title VII preempts an action for intentional discrimination under Sec. 1983. See Snell v. Suffolk County, 611 F.Supp. 521, 523 (E.D.N.Y.1985); Green v. Illinois Dep't of Transp., 609 F.Supp. 1021, 1027 (N.D.Ill.1985); Meyett v. Coleman, 613 F.Supp. 39 (W.D.Wis.1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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