You are on page 1of 9

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 1 of 9

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Mark Karam,

16 Civ.

( )(

Plaintiff,
- against -

Complaint and Jury Demand

New York Power Authority, Christine Schmitt, James


Muscatello and Richard Douglass,
Defendants.
Plaintiff, by his attorney, Michael G. O'Neill, complains against defendants as follows:
1.

This is an action alleging discrimination in employment based upon a multi-year

campaign against plaintiff based on his Middle Eastern and Hispanic heritage, subjecting
plaintiff to racist remarks such as spic and tent nigger. This campaign was carried on with
the knowledge and approval of his supervisors and employer the New York Power Authority.
2.

The Court has jurisdiction under 28 USC 1331, 28 USC 1343, 28 USC 1367,

42 USC 1983, and 42 USC 2000e et seq.


3.

Venue is proper because defendant New York Power Authority is a resident of

the Southern District of New York and plaintiff's employment records are kept in White Plains,
New York.
4.

Plaintiff Mark Karam (Karam or plaintiff) is an individual of Lebanese and

Hispanic ethnicity who has been employed by the New York Power Authority during all
relevant times.
5.

Plaintiff works for the New York Power Authority in its Utica office. New York

Power Authority's workforce is 98% caucasian.

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 2 of 9


6.

Defendant New York Power Authority (Power Authority) is a quasi-Municipal

corporation formed under the laws of the State of New York.


7.

Defendant Christine Schmitt (Schmitt) is a caucasian individual and was

plaintiff's supervisor for part of the relevant time period.


8.

Defendant James Muscatello (Muscatello) is a caucasian individual and was

plaintiff's supervisor for part of the relevant time period.


9.

Defendant Richard Douglass (Douglass) is a caucasian individual and was an

employee of defendant Power Authority during all relevant times.


10.

On or about April, 2003, plaintiff became employed by Power Authority as an

economist.
11.

At all times plaintiff's attendance and work performance met or exceeded the

objectively reasonable expectations of Power Authority.


12.

In about 2010, Douglass made threats in plaintiff's presence to bring a gun to

work to take care of some problems.


13.

Douglas made similar threats in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

14.

The Power Authority was aware of Douglas's threats to use his firearm to take

care of problems at the workplace, but it took no action in response thereto.


15.

Starting in about 2012 and continuing to the present, Douglass began a

campaign of harassment against plaintiff, based in whole or in part on plaintiff's race and
ethnicity.
16.

Douglass turned off plaintiff's computer several times a day. This often caused

plaintiff to lose work, which he would then have to do over again.


17.

Several times a week, Douglass vandalized plaintiff's workstation by messing up

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 3 of 9


the items on his desk, removing items from his office, spitting on plaintiff's keyboard and
applying sticky foreign substances to plaintiff's keyboard and mouse.
18.

Plaintiff understood that his race and ethnicity were motivating factors for

Douglass's conduct, because Douglass occasionally addressed plaintiff with racial epithets
such as tent nigger or spic.
19.

Plaintiff informed Muscatello of Douglass's harassment, but Muscatello refused

to take any action to stop Douglass's conduct.


20.

When plaintiff told Muscatello that he intended to contact Human Resources,

Muscatello warned plaintiff that it could have bad consequences for him if he did so.
21.

Muscatello must have directly observed Douglass's continuous harassment

because it was happening in close promixity to Muscatello's workstation. Still, Muscatello


refused to take any action.
22.

Muscatello is friendly with Douglass and the two would frequently socialize

during lunch.
23.

Eventually, plaintiff did complain to Human Resources about Douglass, but no

action was taken against Douglass, and the conduct continued unabated.
24.

On or about July 20, 2015, plaintiff set up a video camera in his work area to

obtain concrete proof of Douglass's conduct.


25.

That very day, the video camera recorded Douglass vandalizing plaintiff's desk

and computer.
26.

When plaintiff showed Human Resources the video of Douglass vandalizing his

desk, plaintiff was assured that Douglass would be fired.


27.

The Power Authority purported to conduct an investigation of Douglass.

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 4 of 9


28.

Pending the investigation, Douglass was removed from the workplace for a few

days and made to work from home.


29.

Upon information and belief, no tangible employment action was taken against

Douglass.
30.

Instead, plaintiff's supervisor Schmitt informed plaintiff that she was moving

plaintiff's workstation to be directly adjacent to that of Douglass.


31.

When plaintiff saw that instead of being disciplined Douglass was returned to

work, he became physically and emotionally ill and unable to work.


32.

Plaintiff was required to seek medical treatment for the physical and emotional

injuries caused by Douglass and the Power Authority's unwillingness to take any action against
Douglass.
33.

Plaintiff went out on leave on or about November 9, 2015.

34.

While plaintiff was on leave, he retained attorneys to demand that the Power

Authority provide plaintiff with a work environment free of race based harassment.
35.

The Power Authority did nothing.

36.

Plaintiff returned to work on or about December 18, 2015, and the harassment

continued.
37.

The very day that plaintiff returned to work, Douglass followed plaintiff into

the bathroom seven times. As soon as Douglass entered the bathroom, plaintiff would exit,
and Douglass would follow him out, which showed that Douglass did not intend to use the
restroom.
38.

In some ways, the harassment became worse.

39.

Douglass is popular among many of the employees in the workplace, and some

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 5 of 9


of his friends and allies have joined in on the harassment of plaintiff.
40.

Plaintiff's supervisor Schmitt is friendly with Douglass.

41.

When plaintiff returned to work, Schmitt took plaintiff's work away and

assigned work to plaintiff that nobody else wanted to do and which plaintiff could not do
without the cooperation of others, which he could not obtain.
42.

Schmitt subjected plaintiff to hyper-supervision, micromanagement and

unwarranted criticism.
43.

The fact that Schmitt assigned plaintiff work no one else wanted to do and then

criticized him was to relatiate against plaintiff for his complaint against Douglass.
44.

Schmitt's disparate treatment of plaintiff was in stark contrast to the treatment

of other employees of defendant generally. The large majority of employees of defendant New
York Power are entrenched bureaucrats whose mediocre work performance is tolerated.
Employees are rarely, if ever, disciplined for poor work performance or unprofessionalism in
the workplace. For example, the woman in the workstation next to plaintiff sells eggs out of
her cubicle.
45.

Although Douglass was transferred to another floor, Douglass continued to

frequent plaintiff's floor.


46.

As of the filing of this lawsuit, Douglass frequently comes to plaintiff's floor to

socialize with the woman next to plaintiff (the egg woman), and the frequent sight of Douglass
causes plaintiff much anxiety and fear.
47.

When plaintiff requested the Power Authority to instruct Douglass not to come

to plaintiff's floor, he was told that Douglass had a right to come to plaintiff's floor, and
there was nothing that it could do.

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 6 of 9


48.

In July of this year, the woman next to plaintiff who is good friends with

Douglass (the egg woman) was recorded on videotape spraying a foreign substance into
plaintiff's workstation.
49.

The Power Authority has ratified Douglass's conduct, because it has

intentionally refused to take any action against him with the full knowledge of his guilty
conduct.
50.

On or about February 16, 2016, plaintiff filed a complaint with the State

Division of Human Rights alleging employment discrimination on the basis of national origin
and race and retaliation. His complaint was cross filed with the EEOC.
51.

On or about May 6, 2016, plaintiff's State Division of Human Rights complaint

was dismissed on the basis of administrative convenience.


52.

On or about May 19, 2016, plaintiff received a right to sue letter from the

53.

This action has been filed within 90 days of plaintiff's receipt of that letter.

54.

All conditions precedent to this lawsuit have been met.

EEOC.

First Claim
55.

Defendant New York Power Authority violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

of 1964 (Title VII) by subjecting plaintiff to a hostile work environment on the basis of his
race.

Second Claim
56.

Defendants New York Power Authority and Richard Douglass subjected plaintiff

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 7 of 9


to a hostile work environment in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law
(NYSHRL).

Third Claim
57.

Defendant Christine Schmidt retaliated against plaintiff because of plaintiff's

complaint of racial harassment, in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law
(NYSHRL).

Fourth Claim
58.

Defendant James Muscatello aided and abetted defendants New York Power

Authority and Richard Douglass when they subjected plaintiff to a hostile work environment.
59.

Defendant James Muscatello is liable to plaintiff under the New York State

Human Rights Law (NYSHRL).

Fifth Claim
60.

Defendant Richard Douglass violated plaintiff's constitutional rights under the

Fourteenth Amendment to be free from discrimination on the basis of his race.


61.

Defendant Richard Douglass is a state employee and was acting under the color

of law when he discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race.


62.

Defendant Richard Douglass is liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands judgment for all relief permitted under the
applicable Statutes, ordinances and law, including but not limited to:
a

Awarding plaintiff a money judgment for his damages, including but not

limited to lost wages, lost benefits, front pay, other economic damages, shame,

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 8 of 9


humiliation, embarrassment and mental distress;
b

Awarding plaintiff punitive damages against New York Power Authority

under the first claim;


c

Awarding plaintiff a statutory attorneys fee ;

Awarding pre-verdict, post-verdict and prejudgment interest and costs;

Granting such further and additional relief as the Court deems just and

appropriate under the circumstances.


Dated: New York, New York
August 9, 2016
LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL G. ONEILL

___________________________
Benjamin L. Federici (BF1952)
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
30 Vesey Street, Third Floor
New York, New York 10007
(212) 581-0990

Case 7:16-cv-06286 Document 1 Filed 08/09/16 Page 9 of 9

Jury Demand
Plaintiff demands trial by jury on all issues.
Dated: New York, New York
August 9, 2016
LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL G. ONEILL

___________________________
Benjamin L. Federici (BF1952)
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
30 Vesey Street, Third Floor
New York, New York 10007
(212) 581-0990