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RAGGI v. WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS

December 12, 1991

DARLENE E. RAGGI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS, INC., JAMES KELLMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MANAGER (SUPERVISOR) WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Telesca, Chief Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The defendants now move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, on the grounds that both Ms. Raggi's Rehabilitation Act claim and her State Human Rights claim are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Additionally, defendants argue that the State Human Rights claim is barred because plaintiff elected to pursue an administrative remedy instead of a judicial remedy. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed by Wegmans for approximately fifteen years as an Accounting Office Manager, until she was terminated on June 11, 1986. At the time she was fired, she was thirty-four years old. From approximately 1982 until 1986, plaintiff underwent various surgical procedures, including two operations to remove sections of her stomach. Plaintiff alleges that despite her health problems, she remained able to perform her job responsibilities, that she is handicapped within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act, and that the defendants were aware of her handicap.

She further alleges that prior to her termination, several of defendant's employees made remarks that demonstrate their discriminatory intent. For example, she alleges that defendant James Kellman, the manager of the store in which she worked, remarked that Wegmans was footing the bill for the plaintiff's surgery, that she was a detriment to the company, and that Wegmans could reduce its payroll by firing plaintiff and hiring someone half her age.

Shortly after she was terminated, plaintiff filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights, charging the defendants with discriminatory employment practices. The Division made a finding of probable cause and commenced hearings on the charges, which continued until August 17, 1989. The Administrative Law Judge issued his recommended findings and decision on April 10, 1991. He dismissed plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that the defendants did not discriminate against plaintiff on the basis of either her age or disability. Plaintiff filed objections, and on May 29, 1991, the Commissioner issued a Notice of Order after Hearing, dismissing plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff filed this action on July 26, 1991.

DISCUSSION

A.  The Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act Claim:
1.  The Most Appropriate Statute of Limitations:

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, provides that

  [n]o otherwise qualified handicapped individual
  in the United States . . . shall, solely by
  reason of his handicap, be excluded from the
  participation in, be denied the benefits of, or
  be subjected to discrimination under any program
  or activity receiving Federal financial
  assistance. . . .

29 U.S.C. § 794. The Rehabilitation Act does not, however, provide its own statute of limitations for actions brought pursuant to § 504. Under such circumstances, the court must "borrow" the most appropriate state statute of limitations. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1942, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985); Marin v. New York State Department of Labor, 512 F. Supp. 353, 355 (S.D.N.Y. 1981); Andrews v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 831 F.2d 678, 683 (7th Cir. 1987). Both parties agree that the court must look to New York State law to determine the ...


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