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MONROE v. CORTLAND COUNTY

February 22, 1999

THOMAS E. MONROE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORTLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

Introduction

Plaintiff Thomas E. Monroe has been in the employ of Defendant Cortland County since 1982. Since the 1960s he has suffered from anal fissures, which is a chronic condition that can cause pain and rectal bleeding under certain circumstances. The County was unaware of Plaintiff's condition until late 1995, when Plaintiff worked as Recycling Foreman — a newly-created position that Plaintiff filled in 1993. In December 1995, it was discovered that due to Plaintiff's condition, he was unable to operate a skidsteer loader for extended periods of time on any given day. As a result, the County relieved him of his duties until such time as he could work without restriction. Plaintiff claims that this decision constitutes discrimination on the basis of an actual or a perceived disability. His complaint asserts causes of action against the County under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the New York Human Rights Law.

Presently before the Court are two motions. First is the County's motion for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiff cannot, as a matter of law, establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination. Second is Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

Discussion

As an initial matter, the Court notes that at the time the County's motion for summary judgment was filed, the County as the moving party was required to prepare a "short and concise statement of the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue, with specific citations to the record where such facts are set forth." Local Rule 7.1(f) (1998) (emphasis added).*fn1 The County's original statement contained no cites to the record. Plaintiff took note of this defect in his brief, and asked the Court to dismiss the motion. The County however, submitted a corrected version when it filed the complete summary judgment packet with the Clerk's office. For this reason, the Court will allow the motion to go forward.

I. Standard of Review

The standard for summary judgment is well known. Such motion will be granted only if the moving party can show that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Since Plaintiff carries the burden of proof in this case, the County can prevail on its motion only if it can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of Plaintiff's claims. See Consarc v. Marine Midland Bank, N.A., 996 F.2d 568, 572 (2d Cir. 1993). To defeat the County's motion, Plaintiff in turn must produce evidence in an admissible form to support his claims. See Weg v. Macchiarola, 995 F.2d 15, 18 (2d Cir. 1993). The evidence must be more than colorable, conclusory or speculative. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). For his own summary judgment motion to succeed, Plaintiff must show, as a matter of law, that he can establish all elements of his claim by a preponderance of the evidence and no questions of material fact exist for a jury to decide. When considering each motion, all reasonable inferences must be drawn and all ambiguities resolved in favor of the non-moving party. See Consarc, 996 F.2d at 572.

II. Elements of a Disability Discrimination Claim

To establish a prima facie case, Plaintiff must prove: (1) his employer is subject to the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act; (2) he is an individual with a disability; (3) he is otherwise qualified to perform the essential elements of his job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (4) he was subjected to discrimination because of his disability. See Reeves v. Johnson Controls World Serv., 140 F.3d 144, 149-50 (2d Cir. 1998) (ADA); Heilweil v. Mount Sinai Hosp., 32 F.3d 718, 722 (2d Cir. 1994) (Rehabilitation Act). The County argues primarily that Plaintiff cannot establish he is "disabled" within the meaning of the statutes.

A. Whether Plaintiff is an individual with a disability

A "disability" is defined under both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act to include:

  (A) a physical or mental impairment that
  substantially limits one or more of the major life
  functions of an individual;

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment.

42 U.S.C. § 12102(2); 29 U.S.C.A. § 705(20)(B) (West 1999) (formerly 29 U.S.C. § 706(2)(B)). Plaintiff argues that under either subsection (A) or (C), he qualifies as a person with a disability.

  1. Physical or Mental Impairment that Substantially Limits One
    or More Major Life Functions

The Second Circuit has emulated the three-step approach taken by the Supreme Court in Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624, 118 S.Ct. 2196, 141 L.Ed.2d 540 (1998), for purposes of determining whether an individual suffers from an impairment that substantially limits major life activities. See Colwell v. Suffolk County Police Dep't, 158 F.3d 635, 641 (2d Cir. 1998). First to be considered is whether a plaintiff suffers from a physical or mental impairment. See id. Second, the court is to identify the activity claimed to be impaired and determine whether it constitutes a "major life activity" under the statutes. See id. Finally, the plaintiff must show that his impairment "substantially limits" the major life activity identified in the previous step. See id. If a plaintiff fails to satisfy each of these elements, his discrimination claim must be dismissed. See id.

a. Physical or Mental Impairment

As noted earlier, Plaintiff suffers from chronic anal fissures. The County concedes Plaintiff has a physical impairment as defined under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. The question then becomes whether that impairment ...


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