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LEHMULLER v. INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF SAG HARBOR

November 11, 1996

LAURA R. LEHMULLER, Plaintiff, against INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF SAG HARBOR, AND THE SAG HARBOR VILLAGE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPATT

 SPATT, District Judge.

 The defendants, the Incorporated Village of Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Police Department (collectively the "Village" or the "defendants"), move pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 for summary judgment in their favor in this pregnancy discrimination action brought by the plaintiff Laura R. Lehmuller ("Lehmuller" or the "plaintiff") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(2), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k); the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296-a; the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ; and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the context of her First Amendment right to petition the government for redress.

 The plaintiff alleges that the defendants have discriminated against her because of her gender, her pregnancy, and her physical disability. In addition, Lehmuller claims that the Village took retaliatory action against her in response to her discrimination claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which she contends is her protected right to petition the government for a redress of grievances under the First Amendment.

 Presently before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 and plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment.

 I. Background

 A. The Parties

 The plaintiff Laura R. Lehmuller is a resident of New York State and is a female and full-time police officer who has been employed by the defendants since 1988. The defendants are the Incorporated Village of Sag Harbor, a municipality located in Suffolk County, and the Sag Harbor Village Police Department. The Police Department currently consists of ten officers and Chief Joseph J. Ialacci.

 B. Duties as a Village Police Officer

 Generally, all police officers within the Police Department are required to work rotating shifts and to perform all duties associated with police work. Patrol duty requires, among other things, that officers patrol the Village both on foot and in a police vehicle, respond to hazardous and medical calls, and perform routine after-hours door checks of commercial businesses. Patrol duty may require an officer to travel at high speeds in a police vehicle, to break up "bar fights" and domestic disputes, and to render assistance to the mentally infirm.

 In addition, Village police officers are required to carry weapons, wear bullet proof vests and gun belts that contain two sets of handcuffs, a radio, mace, and extra bullets.

 C. The Police Department's Disability Policy

 Since Chief Ialacci joined the Police Department in 1986, the Department has followed an unwritten policy whereby officers who become disabled due to illness or off-duty injury are required to use their sick leave, holidays, vacation days, or compensatory time for the period that they are unable to perform their normal patrol duties. Officers injured in the line of duty who are unable to conduct their patrol duties, but who can perform routine clerical tasks, are required to report for duty at headquarters as their physical condition permits. This policy purportedly stems from New York General Municipal Law § 207-c that mandates that officers injured in the line of duty receive full pay whether they work or not. According to the defendants, the policy is designed to insure that officers perform whatever work they can in exchange for their continued pay.

 When the plaintiff was hired as the first and only woman police officer, the Village had no established policy regarding light-duty for pregnant officers. When Lehmuller announced her pregnancy and as a result, requested light-duty, Chief Ialacci referred the matter to the Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village (the "Board"). Upon consideration of the light-duty policy, the Mayor and the Board decided that the Village would treat pregnancy as it did other non-job related injuries. Therefore, the plaintiff would be required to use her sick leave, holidays, vacation days, or compensatory time for the period that she would be unable to perform her normal patrol duties as a result of her pregnancy.

 II. The Complaint

 On October 22, 1993, Lehmuller filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that the Village discriminated against her because of her pregnancy in violation of Title VII, as a result of the denial of her request for light duty work. On April 6, 1995, the EEOC issued to the plaintiff a right-to-sue letter.

 On December 15, 1993, Chief Ialacci mailed a certified letter to Lehmuller asking that she submit to an examination by Dr. Reese at Suffolk County Headquarters to evaluate her back injury. Lehmuller complied with the Chief's request. Dr. Reese concluded, contrary to Lehmuller's personal doctor, that Lehmuller could perform light-duty work. The plaintiff was notified of the decision and subsequently returned to work on or about January 17, 1994. She was assigned to "Headquarters-schedule" light-duty with responsibilities that consisted of taking walk-in window complaints and assisting with clerical work as a result of her on-the-job injury.

 Lehmuller continued to work until she gave birth to her son on April 21, 1994 and used her holiday, sick, vacation, and personal time to remain at home until September 15, 1994 when she returned to work.

 Lehmuller filed this lawsuit alleging that the Village discriminated against her because of her pregnancy in violation of both Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. In addition, the plaintiff claims discrimination because of her back-injury disability in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Finally, the plaintiff maintains that the defendants deprived her of her federal right to free speech based on the alleged retaliation against her for filing the EEOC claim. Specifically, Lehmuller contends that the Village unlawfully required a second examination of her back injury that resulted in her return to work contrary to her own doctor's advice. Further, Lehmuller asserts that her EEOC claim is a protected right to petition the government for redress under the First Amendment and, therefore, the Village's alleged retaliatory actions violated her constitutional right.

 III. Discussion

 A. Standard for Summary Judgment

 A court may grant summary judgment "only if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, presents no genuine issue of material fact," Cable Science Corp. v. Rochdale Village, Inc., 920 F.2d 147, 151 (2d Cir. 1990), and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (summary judgment standard). The court must, however, resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Quaratino v. Tiffany Co., 71 F.3d 58, 64 (2d Cir. 1995); Twin Lab., Inc. v. Weider Health & Fitness, 900 F.2d 566, 568 (2d Cir. 1990); Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 932, 94 L. Ed. 2d 762, 107 S. Ct. 1570 (1987).

 According to the Second Circuit "summary judgment is a tool to winnow out from the trial calendar those cases whose facts predestine them to result in a directed verdict." United Nat'l Ins. Co. v. The Tunnel, Inc., 988 F.2d 351, 355 (2d Cir. 1993). Once a party moves for summary judgment, to avoid the granting of the motion, the non-movant must come forward with specific facts showing that a genuine issue for trial exists. See Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)); see also Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Turtur, 892 F.2d 199, 203 (2d Cir. 1989). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; see Vann v. New York City, 72 F.3d 1040, 1048 (2d Cir. 1995).

 Mere conclusory allegations, speculation or conjecture will not, however, avail a party resisting summary judgment. See Western World, 922 F.2d at 121. If there is evidence in the record as to any material fact from which an inference could be drawn in favor of the non-movant, summary judgment is unavailable. See United Nat'l, 988 F.2d at 354-55; Rattner v. Netburn, 930 F.2d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 1991). Finally, the court is charged with the function of "issue finding," not "issue resolution." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).

 It is within this framework that the Court addresses the grounds for the present motions ...


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