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SCOTT v. MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER

February 28, 2002

HYACINTH BRODERICK SCOTT, PLAINTIFF,
V.
MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER, DEFENDANT.



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

  MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff, Hyacinth Broderick Scott ("plaintiff" or "Scott"), has sued defendant Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center ("defendant" or "Memorial"), alleging that defendant failed to make a reasonable accommodation for her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. She also claims that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and race, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and on the basis of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., by creating a hostile work environment and by firing her in retaliation for complaints she made about her supervisor. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons discussed below, defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff first began working for defendant in July 1984 as a secretary before being promoted in 1986 to senior administrative secretary and again in 1988 to administrative assistant. In 1990, plaintiff voluntarily resigned from Memorial but returned in 1995. She was promoted to Administrative Coordinator in 1998 and given a pay increase. Memorial reimbursed plaintiff for her full tuition and fees for the cost of completing a doctorate in healthcare education, which she attained in September 1999.*fn1

Plaintiff alleges that her November 15 return to work was contrary to her doctor's instruction and was prompted by Dr. Bertino's November 8 threat to fire her if she did not return by the 15th. She alleges that Dr. Bertino complained about her absences and threatened to fire her when she did not work a full day, all the while constantly pressing her to voluntarily resign. Plaintiff also alleges that, in November 1999, Dr. Bertino gave her a "Below Expectation" job evaluation, but that he changed it to "Clearly Outstanding" after plaintiff confronted him. In February 2000, after Dr. Bertino threatened to give her a negative reference, plaintiff reported him to the Employee Relations Department. Plaintiff also alleges that Dr. Bertino threatened to re-staff plaintiffs position as early as November 1999, with a younger white female. Memorial has stated that the staffing request filed in November, which was never filled, was for an "overlap" employee, not a replacement. Plaintiffs position was not actually filled until July 31, 2000, and then by a 47 year-old female.

On February 14, 2000, plaintiff went on short-term disability leave again because of severe back and leg pain. Memorial informed plaintiff on March 28, 2000, that she would reach the maximum 26 weeks of disability leave allowable in a 52 week period on June 30, 2000, and that plaintiff could apply for long-term disability benefits. Plaintiff applied for long-term disability benefits from defendant's provider, First UNUM Life Insurance Company on April 10, 2000. On that application, she stated that she was in excruciating pain but that she expected to return to work full-time on April 17, 2000. Plaintiff did return to work on that date, but she worked for only one week before going back onto short-term disability leave. On June 23, 2000, First UNUM denied plaintiffs application for long-term disability benefits because she had not demonstrated that she was totally disabled and unable to work. Plaintiff appealed the decision and, on June 23, 2000, informed Memorial that she was moving back to Florida on June 30, 2000, to continue her recovery.

Memorial states that its practice is to terminate employees who do not return to work upon the expiration of their short-term leave unless the employee requests some type of accommodation. This practice was not included in the March 28 letter sent to plaintiff.*fn2 On May 16, 2000, Memorial sent plaintiff a letter stating that her short-term disability benefits would expire on July 6, 2000.

When plaintiffs short-term disability benefits expired on July 6, 2000, Memorial administratively terminated plaintiff. On July 30, 2000, Memorial sent plaintiff a final check to account for her accumulated vacation days. On August 4, 2000, First UNUM informed Memorial that it had denied plaintiffs request for long-term benefits, but plaintiff declined to permit the insurance company to provide the details of its denial to Memorial.

On September 1, 2000, Memorial sent plaintiff a letter reiterating that her employment had been terminated as of July 6, 2000, and that it was discontinuing plaintiffs medical, prescription, and dental benefits because plaintiff had been denied long-term disability benefits. This letter was sent to 7606 Harbour Boulevard, rather plaintiffs proper address, which was 7607 Harbour Boulevard. Plaintiff claims never to have received this letter. On September 18, 2000, plaintiff sent a letter to Memorial requesting that defendants provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability under the ADA, although she did not suggest any particular accommodation. On October 4, 2000, Memorial sent plaintiff a fax stating that she had been terminated as of July 6, 2000.

Plaintiff filed her complaint in this action on August 8, 2001. At an initial pretrial conference held on October 5, 2001, plaintiffs counsel revealed that plaintiff had been unable to work since she was terminated and had only begun to look for a new job in the last three to four months, beginning approximately in June or July of 2001. Based on the state of the record at the time of the conference, defendant made this motion for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs claims.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is properly granted where the "`pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The court may not make any credibility determinations or weigh the evidence and must make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Lytle v. Household Mfg. Inc., 494 U.S. 545, 554-55, 110 S.Ct. 1331, 108 L.Ed.2d 504 (1990). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate the entry of summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the ...


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