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WILLIAMS v. SALVATION ARMY

July 31, 2000

MAURICE WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE SALVATION ARMY, DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER

On or about February 16, 1998. Plaintiff, Maurice Williams ("Williams" or "Plaintiff"), filed this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. claiming that he was terminated from his employment as a child care worker at defendant The Salvation Army Brooklyn Group Home ("Home" or "Defendant" or "Salvation Army"), retaliated against, and treated unequally because of his race and disability. (See Complaint ("Compl.").) Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ.P.") arguing that, among other things, 1) Plaintiff was terminated for disciplinary reasons, and 2) Plaintiff's alleged injury does not qualify as a disability. For the following reasons Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted and the complaint is dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed by the Salvation Army from May 1993 until August 17, 1995. (Williams Affidavit "Aff." ¶ 2.) During that time, Plaintiff worked as a child care worker at The Salvation Army Brooklyn Group Home where residents, ages 12-21, were placed (often by court order) with the objective of developing their social skills.*fn1 (Hart Aff. ¶¶ 2-3.) A child care worker's job requirements include: "[h]igh [s]chool education and [c]ollege credits" and "[r]elated experience or applicable training." (Appendix to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Appendix" or "App.") Exhibit ("Ex.") T.) Plaintiff's May 13, 1993 job application inaccurately reflected that he had attended Collins High School.*fn2 In addition, Plaintiff listed College of New Paltz, New Paltz, New York; Bachelor of Arts; Major: Early Childhood Education on his resume. (App.Ex. V.) In fact, the record includes evidence that Plaintiff spent the years which he attributed on his job application and resume to his high school and college education incarcerated at Attica Prison and Collins Correctional Facility for an armed robbery offense. (App. Exs. W-Y; App. Ex. N at 17-30; Opp'n Mem. at 4.)

A May 19, 1995 evaluation report, prepared by Plaintiffs supervisor, Douglas Hart ("Hart") and signed by both the group home director and associate executive director, assessed Plaintiffs job performance in nineteen categories. (Williams Aff. Ex. B.) Williams received ten "satisfactory" and nine "needs improvement" evaluations (i.e., from categories of outstanding, good, satisfactory, and needs improvement). (Id.) During Plaintiff's employment at the Salvation Army, he received ten employee warning notices (App.Exs.1-10), and four suspensions (Id.)

On July 30, 1995, an incident occurred between Plaintiff and one of the residents at the Home, during which Plaintiff and the resident engaged in "a very loud argument" and two co-workers "came between" Plaintiff and the resident in order to physically separate them. (App.Ex. 9.) Immediately following the incident, Williams and his supervisor (Hart) completed a "Special Behavior Incident Report," after which Hart permitted Plaintiff to leave the premises. (Hart Aff. ¶ 6.) Hart stated to Williams that he would recommend that Plaintiff be terminated and would schedule a "termination meeting." (Hart Aff. ¶¶ 5-6; Williams Aff. ¶ 6.) On that same date, July 30, 1995, Hart completed a ninth employee warning notice (App.Ex. 9) and on that form checked off the box recommending "Dismissal."

Following the July 30, 1995 incident Plaintiff did not return to work until August 10, 1995. (Hart Aff. ¶¶ 8-9; App. Ex. G.) Upon his return, Plaintiff submitted a note from Dr. Michael Molaei, a gynecologist and specialist in reproductive medicine stating, in part, "pt underwent surgery at this office . . . pt is advised to return to reg activity by Monday 8-8-95." (App.Ex. F.)

On August 12, 1995, a 3/8" piece of ceiling plaster apparently hit Williams on the head while he was at work. (Williams Aff. ¶ 7; App. Ex. H.) According to Plaintiffs supervisor, Plaintiff asked that Emergency Medical Services be called. (Hart Aff. ¶ 12.) The Emergency Medical Service report described the object which presumably struck Plaintiff as "small" and indicates that Plaintiff was removed sitting up in a wheelchair, showing no signs of neurological or strength deficit. (Id.) As Plaintiff recollects, hospital medical personnel examined him and "They only gave me aspirins and sent me home." (App. Ex. N, at 15 — 16.) On Wednesday, August 16, 1995, Plaintiff visited Dr. Carolyn A. Martin. (Williams Aff. Ex. C.) Plaintiff reported "a little dizziness, nausea and a little ringing in his ears. He did not get sick on the train coming here. No other symptoms. He doubts something is seriously wrong. He is feeling a lot better." (Id.) (Emphasis added. .) Dr. Martin stated: "No work till post Electroencephalogram on Friday. . . . Post the Electroencephalogram if normal he is cleared to return to work. If abnl. he will need a CT of the head." (Id.) Plaintiff has submitted no medical evidence as to any additional medical treatment.

On Friday, August 17, 1995, Plaintiff returned to work. (Hart Aff. ¶ 13.) At that time, Plaintiff, Plaintiff's supervisor (Hart), Hart's supervisor (Joseph Glover), and the senior child care worker (Alvin Dawson), convened a "termination proceeding." (Hart Aff. ¶ 17.) The parties discussed the July 30, 1995 altercation between Plaintiff and the Group Home resident, as well as other disciplinary issues. (Id.) All of the supervisory personnel present concurred in Hart's recommendation that Plaintiff be terminated. (Hart Aff. ¶ 17.) According to Hart, "the sole reason Williams was terminated was because of his disciplinary history and repeated failure to conduct himself properly with the children in the Home." (Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges that "the true reason for my termination was racial discrimination and/or discrimination based on disability."*fn3 (Williams Aff. ¶ 9.)

On September 4, 1995, Plaintiff filed a New York State Worker's Compensation Board ("WCB") claim for disability compensation. (App.Ex. J.) On the complaint, Williams stated that the injury did not keep him from work; that he returned to work two days after his injury; that he was no longer under medical care; and that he was not presently in need of medical care. (Id.) On February 14, 1996, the WCB dismissed Plaintiff's claim. (Id.)

On or about September 4, 1995, Plaintiff also filed a (separate) Discharge or Discrimination Complaint with the New York State Worker's Compensation Board alleging that he was "being unduly harassed by [his] supervisors." (App.Ex. K.) Following hearings, the Compensation Board issued a Memorandum of Decision, dated September 17, 1996, concluding that claimant "has no credibility" and "there were valid reasons to terminate the claimant from employment." (App.Ex. K.)

On September 6, 1995, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("DHR"), claiming that The Salvation Army terminated his employment because he is "an African American of dark skinned complexion." (App.Ex. O.) On May 22, 1997, following an investigation, the Division found "NO PROBABLE CAUSE to believe that the said respondent has engaged in or is engaging in the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of." (App.Ex. P.) (Emphasis included in original.) On August 20, 1996, Plaintiff filed another complaint with the DHR claiming that Defendant was retaliating against him by refusing to provide an employment reference. (App.Ex. Q.) On May 28, 1997, the DHR issued an opinion finding no probable cause for the complaint. (App.Ex. R.)

Plaintiff also filed a claim with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging a violation of Title VII by the Salvation Army. (App. Ex. S.) In a July 2, 1997 letter, the EEOC determined "that the evidence obtained during the investigation does not establish violations of the statutes."*fn4 (Id.) Plaintiff states that "[a]lthough the letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission granting me the right to file a private action in Federal Court was dated June 2, 1997, I did not receive the letter until [picking it up personally from the New York District Office of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on] December 22, 1997." (Williams Aff. ΒΆ 10; ...


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