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Chin v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

October 17, 2011, Argued; July 10, 2012, Decided

Nos. 10-1904-cv(L), 10-2031-cv(XAP)


 [*140]  Livingston, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-appellees, eleven Asian Americans currently or formerly employed as police officers by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority"), sued the Port Authority  [**3] under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging that they were passed over for promotions because of their race. The plaintiffs asserted three theories of liability for discrimination: individual disparate treatment, pattern-or-practice disparate treatment, and disparate impact. After a nine-day trial, a unanimous jury found the Port Authority liable for discrimination against seven of the plaintiffs under all three theories and awarded back pay and compensatory damages  [*141]  to each of those seven plaintiffs. The district court (Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, Judge) also granted equitable relief to certain of the prevailing plaintiffs in the form of retroactive promotions, seniority benefits, and salary and pension adjustments corresponding with the hypothetical promotion dates that the jury apparently selected as a basis for calculating these plaintiffs' back pay awards.

On appeal, the Port Authority argues: (1) that evidence predating the onset of the statute of limitations should not have been admitted; (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict with respect to each of the plaintiffs' theories; and (3) that the damages and equitable  [**4] relief were premised on time-barred claims and were otherwise excessive. With regard to the plaintiffs' individual disparate treatment allegations, we hold that the district court properly admitted background evidence predating the onset of the limitations period and that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to conclude that the Port Authority discriminated against the seven prevailing plaintiffs within the limitations period. The district court erred, however, in: (1) submitting the pattern-or-practice disparate treatment theory to the jury in this private, nonclass action; and (2) concluding that the "continuing violation" doctrine applied to the plaintiffs' disparate impact theory so that the jury could award back pay and compensatory damages for harms predating the onset of the statute of limitations. We therefore vacate the back pay for four of the plaintiffs, whose awards correspond with hypothetical promotion dates beyond the limitations period, as well as the injunctive relief for three of the same plaintiffs, and we also vacate the award of compensatory damages for all seven prevailing plaintiffs. We remand for a new trial on damages as to all seven prevailing  [**5] plaintiffs and for reconsideration of equitable relief to the extent such relief was premised on failures to promote occurring outside the limitations period.

The four plaintiffs who did not prevail at trial cross-appeal, arguing that the district court erred by excluding expert testimony from an industrial psychologist. One of these plaintiffs, cross-appellant Howard Chin, further argues that the district court erred in denying the plaintiffs' motion for sanctions in the form of an adverse inference instruction due to the Port Authority's destruction of promotion records. Finding no abuse of discretion in the district court's determinations as to these matters, we affirm.

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685 F.3d 135 *; 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 14088 **; 115 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 720; 95 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P44,555; 2012 WL 2760776


Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Eng v. Port Auth. of Ny & NJ, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 2647 (U.S., Apr. 1, 2013)

Prior History:  [**1] Defendant-appellant the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Inc. ("Port Authority") and plaintiff-appellants Howard Chin, Richard Wong, Sanrit Booncome, and Michael Chung appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, Judge) holding, after a jury trial, that the Port Authority violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to promote seven plaintiffs, and awarding plaintiffs-appellees Christian Eng, Nicholas Yum, Alan Lew, David Lim, George Martinez, Stanley Chin, and Milton Fong back pay, compensatory damages, and equitable relief. We conclude that the pattern-orpractice method of proving liability was not available to plaintiffs in this private, nonclass action and so REVERSE as to the submission of this theory of liability to the jury. We also REVERSE with respect to the district court's determination that pursuant to the plaintiffs' disparate impact theory, the "continuing violation" doctrine permitted the award of damages and equitable relief in connection with conduct predating the statute of limitations. We therefore VACATE the back pay awards to Eng, Lew, Stanley Chin, and Fong;  [**2] VACATE the jury's compensatory damage awards with respect to Eng, Yum, Lew, Lim, Martinez, Stanley Chin, and Fong; VACATE the retroactive promotion of Lew; VACATE the salary and pension adjustments for Lew, Stanley Chin, and Fong; and REMAND to the district court for a new trial on damages as to these plaintiffs and for reconsideration of the equitable relief afforded to them to the extent such relief was premised on failures to promote occurring outside the statute of limitations. With respect to all other issues raised by the parties on appeal, we AFFIRM.

Port Auth. Police Asian Jade Soc'y of N.Y. & N.J., Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 601 F. Supp. 2d 566, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24841 (S.D.N.Y., 2009)Port Auth. Police Asian Jade Soc'y of N.Y. & N.J., Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 681 F. Supp. 2d 456, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2900 (S.D.N.Y., 2010)


promotion, district court, plaintiffs', disparate impact, awards, limitations period, discriminatory, disparate treatment, statistical, argues, damages, backpay, pattern-or-practice, statute of limitations, discrete act, recommended, disparity, vacate, equitable relief, employment practice, compensatory damages, method of proof, new trial, adverse inference, police officer, qualifications, premised, continuing violation, eligibility, hiring

Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Disparate Treatment, Exhaustion of Remedies, Civil Actions, Exhaustion of Remedies, Right to Sue Letters, Evidence, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, General Overview, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Motions for New Trials, De Novo Review, Filing of Charges, Questions of Fact & Law, Title VII Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Employment Practices, Pattern & Practice, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Adverse Employment Actions, Remedies, Burdens of Proof, Ultimate Burden of Persuasion, Disparate Impact, Statistical Evidence, Statute of Limitations, Retaliation, Weight & Sufficiency, Burden Shifting, Racial Discrimination, Employee Burdens of Proof, Statute of Limitations, Begins to Run, Continuing Violations, Time Limitations, Demotions & Promotions, Remedies, Damages, Remands, Reversible Errors, Procedural Matters, Rulings on Evidence, Judicial Officers, Judges, Discretionary Powers, Allocation, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, Requests for Instructions, Relevance, Preservation of Relevant Evidence, Spoliation, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery