In this case, defendants first argue that plaintiffs had no rights to continued employment and maintain that even if it is determined that plaintiffs have such rights, Commissioners only action was to adopt a resolution which authorized department directors to eliminate positions in an effort to promote economic efficiency. Defendants maintain that Commissioners' conduct was objectively reasonable in that they had reason to believe that their actions were not violating any employee contract or property rights since neither PA policies nor resolutions vested such rights in plaintiffs, as was determined by the Appellate Division.
Given the different rulings in Faillace, Kadushin, and Williams, it seems that the law in this area has not been 'clearly established.' Since the law with respect to rights vested in PA employees is not clearly defined and established, it is objectively reasonable to conclude that it was not the Commissioners' understanding that plaintiffs were vested with any contractual, property, or procedural rights with regards to their employment' or that the Commissioners knowingly violated said rights, if any. Therefore, the court finds that the doctrine of qualified immunity applies to the Commissioners and that the Commissioners are exempted from personal liability with respect to the breach of contract claim asserted against the Commissioners in their personal capacities.
The court therefore grants defendants partial summary judgment motion.
2. Respondeat Superior
Defendants argue that plaintiffs claims pursuant to § 1983
should be dismissed against the Commissioner due to their lack of personal involvement in the decision to terminate the particular plaintiffs. Where damages are sought in a § 1983, the defendant being sued in his official capacity must be responsible for the alleged constitutional deprivation. Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1034 (2d Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1033, 38 L. Ed. 2d 324, 94 S. Ct. 462 (1973); Ayers v. Coughlin, 780 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1985) (per curiam) (plaintiff must demonstrate personal involvement); Al-Jundi v. Estate of Rockefeller, 885 F.2d 1060, 1066 (1989) (personal involvement necessary but not direct participation).
The general rule of this Circuit is that the doctrine of respondeat superior is inapplicable to actions brought under § 1983 because a showing of personal responsibility of the defendant is required. see, Johnson, 481 F.2d at 1034; see also, Turpin v. Mailet, 579 F.2d 152, 167 (2d Cir. 1978) (in banc) ("notions of respondeat superior have not been incorporated into § 1983 to permit the imposition of liability in damages upon supervisory personnel for the wrongs of their subordinates"), vacated, 439 U.S. 988, 58 L. Ed. 2d 645, 99 S. Ct. 554 (1978). To determine personal responsibility, the court must evaluate the actual conduct of the defendant to assess whether defendant authorized the alleged unlawful conduct.
Defendants, in this case, maintain that the Commissioners only action was the adoption of the 1995 Resolution authorizing department heads to terminate various positions. Defendants argue that since the Commissioners were not involved in the decision to terminate any particular position or employee, their actions did not rise to the level of personal responsibility required by § 1983. Defendants point to the Al-Jundi case where the Second Circuit found that defendant Governor (who played a role in formulating and implementing a plan to retake Attica following prison riots but did not play a role in or authorize the brutalities alleged) was not sufficiently involved in or related to the alleged unlawful conduct to render him personally responsible for the alleged § 1983 violations. The court noted that the defendant's actions were limited to his ratification of the decision to abandon negotiations and to his ordering of the state police to formulate a plan to regain control of the prison, actions that were not unlawful or alleged to be unlawful.
Since the court has already determined that plaintiffs were not entitled to a hearing prior to their termination pursuant to the Due Process Clause, the court now makes a determination only as to whether the Commissioners' actions were sufficiently related to the alleged deprivation of plaintiffs' rights based on age and sex. In viewing the facts in plaintiffs' favor, the court finds that defendant Commissioners were not involved in the decision on the termination of particular employees; therefore, they were not sufficiently involved in the alleged wrongful conduct of discrimination based on age and sex to render them liable. In their complaint, plaintiffs, themselves allege that it was their supervisors and department heads that targeted and fired them based on their gender, age, and sex, not the Commissioners. The court therefore grants defendants' partial summary judgment on the § 1983 claims asserted against the Commissioners in their official capacity due to the inapplicability of the respondeat superior doctrine and the lack of personal involvement in the firing of plaintiffs.
For the reasons set forth herein, the court grants defendants' partial summary judgment motion as a matter of law with respect to the § 1983 deprivation of due process claims, the claims asserted against defendant Commissioners in their personal capacities, and the § 1983 claims asserted against defendant Commissioners in their official capacities.
New York, New York
September 4, 1997
Constance Baker Motley
U.S. District Judge