On June 18, 2002 the United States filed a lawsuit under Title VII in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, alleging that the Department of Parks and Recreation engaged in a pattern or practice of race and/or national origin discrimination in making promotion decisions. The United States sought remedial and injunctive relief.
Specifically, the United States contended that the Parks did not follow its stated policy in posting vacancy notices when a job opened for a managerial position. Furthermore, the United States alleged the defendant did not follow its stated EEOC policy of conducting panel interviews and using a prescribed rating system in promoting employees. Instead, Parks used its "Class Of" program in furtherance of its alleged pattern or practice of discrimination against black and Hispanic employees, creating a separate promotional track for white Class Of participants whom Parks recruited directly from college. In comparison to Parks' overall workforce, the composition of the Class Of program was disproportionately white and non-Hispanic. Class Of members who chose to continue their employment with Parks routinely and swiftly had been promoted into high level permanent positions throughout the agency over equally or more qualified black and Hispanic veteran employees. Parks promoted Class Of participants to management positions for which it never posted vacancy notices, sought applications, or conducted a formal interview process, and certain management positions were created specifically for Class Of recruits, so that it was impossible for anyone else to apply, interview, and be considered for the positions. The individual plaintiffs alleged that they were equally or more qualified than these whites and would've applied for the position had they been given the opportunity, and that they suffered retaliation after complaining of discrimination at the Department of Parks and Recreation.
In a related case Wright v. Stern begun in May 24, 2001, there were additional claims of discrimination. In addition to the claims stated above, the plaintiffs alleged that the DPR (Department of Parks and Recreation) engaged in disparate treatment by concentrating Black and Hispanic employees in neighborhoods with a predominantly minority population. Plaintiffs claimed to have been offered assignments only at DPR locations in minority populated areas and denied assignments in, or transfers to, predominantly "Caucasian" areas. Plaintiffs alleged that racial segregation also existed within administrative offices, such that "Caucasian" employees occupied perimeter offices while African-American and Hispanic employees were clustered at work stations in the middle of the floorspace. Plaintiffs also alleged that they were forced to work in a racially hostile environment in which employees made racially derogatory remarks and nooses were displayed in DPR facilities.
On January 14, 2003, plaintiffs' application to compel further discovery response from defendants was granted in its entirety. US Magistrate Judge Dolinger held that personnel files maintained by department's deputy commissioner were subject to disclosure, and deputy commissioner's business calendars and notebooks were subject to disclosure. On July 9, 2003, in the Southern District Court of New York (Judge Chin) granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification for present and former Parks and Recreation Hispanic and African-American employees. On June 8, 2005, the plaintiffs and the defendants agreed to enter into a consent decree and judgment in favor of United States of America against City of New York and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
On September 15, 2006, the defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part. Judge Chin dismissed plaintiffs' claims of racially hostile environment on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not present enough evidence from which a reasonable jury could find a systemic culture of racial harassment or that that harassment was standard operating procedure at Parks. Judge Chin also dismissed plaintiffs' claims of discriminatory assignment of employees (segregation) and underfunding on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence that it was Parks' standard operating procedure to make assignments based on race or engage in a policy, pattern, or practice of underfunding parks in predominantly African-American or Hispanic neighborhoods. However, defendants' motion to dismiss claims of discrimination in promotion and compensation, as well as retaliation, was denied.
On February 25, 2008, the parties finally reached a settlement agreement, which contained both injunctive and monetary relief. Among other things, it enjoined Parks from "unlawfully discriminating against any employee based on race, color or national origin with respect to salary, compensation, or in making compensation decisions." It also provided for the City to pay about 11 million dollars in settlement of all monetary claims.
On May 15, 2008, the Court (Judge Chin) finally approved the settlement agreement and the case was dismissed.Kunyi Zhang - 10/12/2010