On December 27, 1976, plaintiffs, present and former female police department employees and a rejected female applicant ("the White plaintiffs"), filed a lawsuit asserting that the Nassau County Police Department's hiring practices constituted unlawful employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, filed this case in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated. They sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages.
The White plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendants from hiring any additional police officers pending the lawsuit, which the district court (Judge George C. Pratt) granted on January 11, 1977. White v. Nassau County Police Department, No. 76-1869, 1977 WL 15366 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 1977). On May 17, 1977 the court (Judge Pratt) granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification and defined the class as all women who are or have been employed by the police department from January 1, 1966 to present. White v. Nassau County Police Department, No. 76-1869, 1977 WL 15367 (E.D.N.Y. May 17, 1977).
At about the same time, on September 21, 1977, the United States filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, under Title VII against Nassau County and the Nassau County Police Department. The United States alleged defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against women, African Americans, and Hispanics. In addition, an individual plaintiff, Durkin, also filed a lawsuit against Nassau County and the Nassau County Police Department under Title VII in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Ms. Durkin, represented by private counsel, sought damages and injunctive relief. All three cases were heard by the same district judge.
On April 21, 1982, the United States and defendants entered into a consent decree ("USA decree") whereby the defendants denied a pattern or practice of discrimination, but agreed to: (1) take steps regarding its selection and qualification criteria and its future recruitment and appointment of police officers; (2) accommodate female officers who wished to transfer to other positions; and (3) provide remedial relief to women who the challenged examination as part of their application to the police department. The White plaintiffs also entered into a consent decree ("White decree") with the defendants in 1982 whereby defendants agreed not to engage in sex discrimination or retaliation and to pay class members stipulated lump sums. Defendants also agreed to reinstate Durkin effective August 20, 1982 and provided Durkin her original seniority date.
White males whose examination scores were reduced as part of Nassau County's compliance with the White and USA consent decrees sought to intervene in the USA law suit seeking that their original scores stand or that they receive an appointment to the police department. The district court (Judge Jacob Mishler) denied the motion to intervene, holding the motion was untimely and the prospective interveners' interest in the underlying factual issues of the suit was limited. United States v. Nassau County, No. 77-1881, 1990 WL 145596 (E.D.N.Y. May 22, 1990). On February 6, 1991, an appeal was dismissed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. United States v. Nassau County, 930 F.2d 909 (2d Cir. 1991).
In July 2002, Durkin brought a lawsuit to enforce the consent decree. Specifically, Durkin alleged defendants violated the White decree by: (1) failing to give her leave benefits; (2) failing to give her separation benefits upon retirement; and (3) failure to allow her to participate in the police department's retirement program. Similarly, a group of plaintiffs claiming to be beneficiaries ("USA appellants") under the USA decree alleged defendants failed violated the USA decree by failing to give them the appropriate benefits. The district court (Judge Joanna Seybert) held that the Durkin's claims were all barred by the statute of limitations and laches. The court further held the USA appellants lacked standing.
On appeal, the Second Circuit (Judges Ellsworth Alfred Van Graafeiland, Barrington Daniels Parker, Jr., and Richard M. Berman) held that it was inappropriate for the district court to apply a statute of limitations analysis to an equitable claim. The court remanded the case for analysis only under the doctrine of laches. The court further held that the USA appellants had standing and remanded the case for the district court to analyze under the ripeness doctrine. United States v. Nassau County, 352 F.3d 60 (2d Cir. 2003).
On July 20, 2004, the district court (Judge Seybert) again denied the plaintiffs motion to enforce these consent decrees holding their claims were barred by laches. On March 30, 2006, the Second Circuit (Judges Wilfred Feinberg and Robert A. Katzmann) issued a Summary Order affirming the district court. The court of appeals held that the plaintiffs had been aware defendants were not crediting them with the appropriate benefits since the early 1980s. Durkin v. Nassau County Police Department, No. 04-4281, 2006 WL 897826 (2d Cir. Mar. 30, 2006). The docket ends on May 30, 2006 with a notice of that Court of Appeals decision. Emilee Baker - 09/05/2007