The opinion of the court was delivered by: KAPLAN
LEWIS A. KAPLAN, District Judge.
In this employment discrimination action, N. Eric Naftchi, Ph.D., a tenured professor of rehabilitation medicine at the New York University Medical Center ("NYUMC"), alleges that defendants, motivated by age animus, have deprived him of raises, laboratory space, office space, certain travel and office supply funds, and access to certain research funds, all in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the "ADEA") and comparable state and local laws.
Dr. Naftchi argues also that some of these actions were taken in retaliation against him for filing a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and for filing this lawsuit. In addition to his disparate treatment and retaliation claims, Dr. Naftchi argues that defendants have a policy of conditioning certain benefits upon success in receiving research grants from the National Institutes of Health ("NIH") and that this policy has a disparate impact based on age. Finally, Dr. Naftchi asserts several state law claims including breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations, and tortious interference with prospective contractual relations.
Defendants seek summary judgment dismissing Dr. Naftchi's claims. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Dr. Naftchi at all relevant times has been a faculty member in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine ("DRM"), a part of the New York University School of Medicine (the "Medical School"). The defendants in this lawsuit are a number of institutions and individuals associated in various ways with the medical arm of defendant New York University ("NYU"), a private university chartered by the Regents of the State of New York and located in New York City. The NYUMC at all relevant times was an administrative unit of NYU,
and the Howard Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine ("Rusk Institute") was a subdivision of the NYUMC.
Among the researchers at the Rusk Institute were faculty members of the Medical School, another component of the NYUMC, including DRM members.
The three individual defendants each hold, or held, administrative positions within the Medical School. Saul J. Farber, M.D. is an 81-year old professor who served as Dean and Provost of the Medical School from 1986 until August 31, 1997.
David S. Scotch, M.D. is a 59-year old instructor who has served as Associate Dean of the Medical School since 1972.
Mathew H. M. Lee, M.D. is a 66-year old professor who has taught at the NYUMC since 1965 and served since 1986 as Acting Chairman for the DRM and as Medical Director of the Rusk Institute.
The plaintiff, Dr. Naftchi, is a 69- or 70-year old
man who joined the faculty of the DRM as an associate professor in 1968
and was made head of a "laboratory of biochemical pharmacology" engaged in the investigation of spinal cord injuries.
In the ensuing years, he gained access to and control over several additional lab rooms and storage areas. In 1979, however, two of his laboratory rooms were taken away,
and a third laboratory was reallocated to other uses in 1980 or 1981.
The first visible collision between Dr. Naftchi and the Medical School administration was precipitated by the August 1982 publication of an article in the journal Science by Dr. Naftchi describing his findings concerning the use of certain pharmaceuticals in the treatment of spinal trauma.
The article received considerable publicity and, apparently in response to that publicity, Dr. Farber
convened a panel of six members of the Medical School's faculty to evaluate the quality of Dr. Naftchi's research.
The panel's report, issued on October 12, 1982, concluded that "Dr. Naftchi's data do not support the conclusions reached in his paper in Science nor are they adequate to allow one to draw any conclusion whatsoever about the efficacy of clonidine in treatment of spinal trauma."
After considering Dr. Naftchi's response to the panel's report,
Dr. Farber informed Dr. Naftchi of his decision to appoint "an appropriate outside committee . . . to review this matter and to advise [him] with respect to the scientific and academic competence with which the research in question was conducted and any other matters upon which, after examination, the Committee feels obliged to comment."
Dr. Farber stated also that he would "instruct appropriate personnel that no further grant applications are to be approved for submission unless they are accompanied by a copy of the October 12th report, your response to it, and this letter."
It is not clear whether the outside consulting committee ever actually was formed,
and Dr. Farber's instructions regarding grant applications have not been in force since 1989.
In 1983, in the wake of the Science incident, Dr. Naftchi lost control of three additional laboratory rooms, a storage room, and a walk-in refrigerator/freezer.
An additional laboratory room was taken away in 1984.
Several years later, in response to severe space shortages across the Medical School, the Dean formed a Research Space Committee for the Medical School (the "Space Committee") to "identify the least productively used and funded research space at NYU, with the added objective of finding from 20,000 to 30,000 square feet that might be better used by the University for other endeavors."
The Space Committee met with each department chairman to discuss the research being conducted in each laboratory, measuring the significance of that research in terms of federal funding.
Among the Space Committee's recommendations was the suggestion that the 7th and 8th floors of the Rusk Institute, at the time occupied by the DRM, be given to another department.
The Space Committee concluded also that since not all faculty displaced by the shifting of resources among departments could be given alternative space, such space should be allocated to faculty with outside funding.
For faculty without outside funding, "the policy of the Medical School . . . was that if they obtained NIH or similar external grant funding for their research . . . their circumstances would be re-evaluated, the priorities set by the Space Committee reassessed, and appropriate additional space allocated for each researcher as soon as practicable."
In the midst of this space shortage, Dr. Naftchi found himself down to his final lab room. Despite this, in June 1991, Dr. Naftchi applied and was approved for an NIH grant.
In July 1991, however, Dr. Naftchi's final lab room was reallocated to another researcher whose research already had been funded.
Dr. Naftchi's NIH grant, although approved, never was funded.
Later in 1991, Dr. Naftchi unsuccessfully requested new laboratory space in a letter to Dr. Farber.
Dr. Naftchi then requested a Grievance Committee.
The Grievance Committee Report, issued June 17, 1992, recommended
"that Dr. Naftchi be given a laboratory and a limited sum, we suggest about $ 30,000, toward supplies and technical help for a period of 2 years. This would permit him to obtain preliminary results so important for grant applications and would be beneficial to both the grievant and the Medical Center. . . . Dr. Naftchi should be encouraged to apply very quickly for grants. His performance should be reviewed at the end of this 2-year period. The future availability of laboratory space should be contingent on his obtaining a grant or at least priority scores within reach of funding. Significant publications in refereed journals should also be taken into account."
In response to this recommendation, Dr. Scotch wrote to Dr. Naftchi, explaining that prior to providing him with scarce laboratory resources and internal funding, the Medical Center would require him to submit "a detailed proposal."
Dr. Naftchi submitted the requested proposal and budget in July 1992, but it was rejected on the ground that it "was essentially the same project Dr. Naftchi submitted previously to NIH and which subsequently was rejected by that agency.
The Events Underlying Dr. Naftchi's Remaining Allegations
Dr. Naftchi alleges that he was discriminated against on account of his age when he was denied salary increases for the years 1994 onward.
In addition, Dr. Naftchi complains of the loss or absence of various resources: In February of 1995, for example, Dr. Naftchi made verbal and written requests for the use of a vacant laboratory room, but these requests were not approved and he has remained without lab space at all times relevant to this suit.
In March 1995, Dr. Naftchi was transferred from his former office to a smaller one
and then, in October 1997, even this space was taken away.
In addition, Dr. Naftchi ...