Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

WHEELER v. NATALE

March 23, 2001

AMY WHEELER, PLAINTIFF,
V.
JOSEPH NATALE, WARWICK VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Plaintiff Amy Wheeler brings this civil rights action against Joseph Natale, Superintendent of the Warwick Valley Central School District, in his individual capacity, and against the Warwick Valley Central School District ("the School District") for violation of her First Amendment rights to speech and association under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1988. Defendants move to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff began working for the defendant School District in 1995-1996 as a substitute support staff member and clerical worker. On July 1, 1998, plaintiff was appointed on a provisional basis as a part-time switchboard operator.

In early 1999, plaintiff failed the second part of a two-part, County-administered civil service examination for the position of switchboard operator. Plaintiffs colleague, Nanette Susskraut, also failed the examination.

In May 1999, plaintiff began co-hosting a radio program with Mel Cohen, also known as "Uncle Mel." The program was broadcast live each weekday on a local radio station situated within the School District. Before starting to co-host the program, plaintiff told her direct supervisor, Tom Gustainis, of the opportunity, and promised not to reveal any District confidences.

According to plaintiff, defendant Natale asked his staff to listen to the program for anything adverse which plaintiff or Cohen might say about him or the District. Plaintiff contends that Cohen broadcast opinions critical of the District, which angered Natale.

In November 1999, plaintiff informed her supervisor that she was going to be out of work for a number of weeks for breast surgery. The next day, Gustainis told plaintiff that defendants were terminating her employment (along with that of Susskraut) effective December 24, 1999. Gustainis told plaintiff that she and Susskraut were fired because they failed the Civil Service Examination for switchboard operator.

The District hired a telephone receptionist from the list of people who passed the Civil Service Exam. The School District also created a position of telephone receptionist/typist requiring less than 20 hours per week, thus making the part-time position outside the scope of civil service rules. The District hired Susskraut for this position.

DISCUSSION

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The standard of review on a motion to dismiss is heavily weighted in favor of the plaintiff. The Court is required to read a complaint generously, drawing all reasonable inferences from the complaint's allegations. California Motor Transport Co. v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U.S. 508, 515, 92 S.Ct. 609, 30 L.Ed.2d 642 (1972). "In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court is required to accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true." Frasier v. General Electric Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir. 1991). The Court must deny the motion "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Stewart v. Jackson & Nash, 976 F.2d 86, 87 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 4546, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)).

The Supreme Court has held that "a public employee does not relinquish First Amendment rights to comment on matters of public interest by virtue of government employment." Pickering v. Board of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568, 88 S.Ct. 1731, 20 L.Ed.2d 811 (1968); Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 140, 103 S.Ct. 1684, 75 L.Ed.2d 708 (1983); Morris v. Lindau, 196 F.3d 102, 109 (2d Cir. 1999). In order to state a First Amendment retaliation claim under ยง 1983, plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the speech was constitutionally protected; (2) she suffered an adverse employment decision; and (3) there was a causal connection between the speech and the adverse employment determination against her, so that it can be said that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.