Westlaw News

NYC lawyer discrimination suit survives motion to dismiss

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday refused to throw out a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the city of New York by an African American lawyer in the municipal law department.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken, however, granted the city’s motion to dismiss four of 16 causes of action in the lawsuit by Robert Gordon, allowing the rest of the complaint to go forward, according to the opinion and order.

Gordon, 45, who was hired by the city of New York Law Department in 2004, sued in August alleging among other complaints disparate treatment, hostile work environment, retaliation and conspiracy.

He said the problems began in 2005 when he wrote a critical evaluation of the Manhattan trial unit to his supervisor, claiming that tort division chief Fay Leoussis gave him a poor performance evaluation in retaliation and participated in a “smear campaign” against him. In 2006 Gordon filed a formal written complaint of racial discrimination under the federal Equal Employment Opportunity law.

He received above-average or high evaluation scores for the next four years but failed to be promoted to a higher-paying senior counsel position while two lesser qualified white attorneys were, according to the lawsuit.

Gordon complained that in 2011 his evaluation score was reduced in a conspiracy against him that included Leoussis and others, according to the lawsuit. He filed a second EEO complaint over the evaluation.

In his order, Judge Oetken excluded Gordon’s complaints of conspiracy and failure to prevent conspiracy, which he said did not apply to a group of employees acting within the scope of their employment.

The judge also rejected Gordon’s claim that law department’s evaluation system particularly hurt African Americans’ chances for promotion. Rather, he said, the alleged manipulation of the system in Gordon’s evaluation, rather than the system itself, is at issue.

Gordon, who continues to work as a trial attorney in the Bronx tort division, said he had not yet had a chance to review the order.

“I’m glad it (the lawsuit) will go forward. I thought their opposition was a bit frivolous so I’m surprised some of the complaints were dismissed,” Gordon said.

Besides the city, Gordon named six white supervisors, including Leoussis, in the complaint.

“We are pleased that the Court dismissed a number of claims, and as to the remaining claims - the Court has not made any finding other than that a more complete factual record is necessary,” said law department spokesman Nick Paolucci in an emailed statement on behalf of the city and employees.

The case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is Gordon v. City of New York, Marc Andes, Mark Palomino, Gayle Sanders, Fay Leoussis, Michael Cardozo, David Santoro, and John and Jane Does, No. 14-6115.

For the plaintiff: Robert Gordon pro se

For the defendants: Bruce Rosenbaum of the City of New York Law Department