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MANZ v. GAFFNEY

May 6, 2002

DOUGLAS W. MANZ, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ROBERT J. GAFFNEY, IN HIS PROFESSIONAL CAPACITY, COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, JOHN B. WINGATE, COMMISSIONER, SUFFOLK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND PROFESSIONAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



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

    MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the court is the County's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted and the case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The facts upon which the court relies are those set forth in Plaintiffs complaint as well as in the various depositions and uncontroverted documents submitted to the court in support of and in opposition to the motion.

Plaintiff was hired by the County in 1995 pursuant to Section 55-a of the New York State Civil Service Law ("Section 55-a"). That section, entitled "Employment of persons with disabilities by municipalities," authorized entities, like Suffolk County, to set aside a number of positions with duties that can be performed by qualified physically or mentally disabled persons. Individuals hired under Section 55-a must be certified either by the New York State Department of Social Services Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped as blind, or by the State Education Department as otherwise physically or mentally disabled. Section 55-a allows counties to extend the same opportunities for promotion to employees hired pursuant to that section as afforded other employees. Plaintiff was hired for the position of "Examiner I" after being certified by the New York State Commission for the Blind.

In 1997, Plaintiff was tested for a promotion to the position of "caseworker trainee." The complaint alleges that Manz scored a 95 out of a possible 100 points on the promotion examination. Manz's complaint states that he interviewed for the caseworker trainee position on several occasions between November of 1997 and March of 1999. Although Plaintiff was never offered the promotion, he asserts that during the time period that he interviewed for the job, the County hired fifty caseworker trainees. Plaintiff asserts that the failure to promote him was based upon his disability.

Plaintiff filed a Notice of Claim against the County in May of 1998. In June of 1998, Plaintiff asked his supervisor for leave time so that he could attend a meeting with a county attorney to discuss his claim of disability discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that after the June 1998 meeting, he received a poor performance evaluation. According to Plaintiff, this evaluation, as well as the refusals to promote Plaintiff that followed the filing of the Notice of Claim and the June 1998 meeting, were acts taken in retaliation for the making of a claim of disability discrimination.

II. Plaintiff's Complaint

III. The Motion to Dismiss

Prior to seeking summary judgment, Defendants sought dismissal of all claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the context of that motion, the County argued that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA. In support of this position it was argued: (1) that Plaintiff did not suffer from a physical impairment and (2) that Plaintiff suffered no substantial limitation in the performance of any major life activity. In this regard it was argued that driving has been rejected as constituting a "major life activity" within the meaning of the ADA.

The County sought dismissal of the "record of a disability" claim on the ground that the hiring of Plaintiff pursuant to Section 55-a did not constitute a "record of a disability" within the meaning of the ADA. In a similar vein, the County argued that the claim of perceived disability must fail because Manz was never perceived as having a disability within the meaning of the ADA. Finally, dismissal of Plaintiff's claim for retaliation was sought on the ground that Plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to show a causal connection between any protected activities and adverse employment action.

This court granted the motion to dismiss only to the extent of precluding Plaintiff from relying on driving as a major life activity within the meaning of the ADA. The remainder of the motion was denied as premature in light of the lack of discovery.

IV. The Current Motion

Having completed discovery and armed with deposition testimony and documentary evidence, the County again seeks dismissal of the complaint — this time in the form of a motion for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Principles

A. Standards For Summary Judgement

A motion for summary judgement is properly granted only if the court determines that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FRCP 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The party seeking judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no issue of fact exists. McLee v. Chrysler Corp. 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 1997). However, when the nonmoving party fails to make a showing on an essential elements of its case with respect to which it bears the burden of proof, summary judgment will be granted. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The party resisting summary judgment must not only show a disputed issue of fact, but it must also be a material fact in light of substantive law. Only disputed facts that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

B. Burden Shifting Analysis

Claims of employment discrimination brought pursuant to the ADA are subject to the burden shifting analysis set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973); see Heyman v. Queens Village Committee for Mental Health, 198 F.3d 68, 72 (2d Cir. 1999); Rivera v. Apple Industrial Corp., 148 F. Supp.2d 202, 211 (E.D.N.Y. 2001).

Under the McDonnell Douglas analysis, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden of production then shifts to defendant to offer a non-discriminatory reason for the employment action. Thereafter, it is for the plaintiff to show that the reason offered by defendant is a pretext for discrimination. The plaintiffs final burden is satisfied either by the introduction of additional evidence or by reliance on the evidence submitted in support of the prima facie case of ...


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