The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.
Presently before the court is the Defendant'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.
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.
II. Plaintiff's Complaint
Plaintiffs claim of disability is based upon a hearing
impairment, referred to by her physician as a "severe bilateral
sensorineural hearing loss." Plaintiff has suffered from this
permanent impairment since she was approximately two years of
age. To understand what people are saying, Plaintiff utilizes a
hearing aid and reads lips.
Although she was hired by Taco Bell when suffering from her
hearing impairment, Miller alleges that she was denied a
promotion opportunity and ultimately terminated on account of
her alleged disability. She further alleges that certain Taco
Bell employees created a hostile working environment for her by
teasing her about her inability to hear. Plaintiff seeks
compensatory and punitive damages as well as an award of costs
and attorneys' fees.
Defendant seeks summary judgment dismissing Plaintiffs
complaint in its entirety. First, judgment is sought on the
ground that despite Plaintiffs hearing loss, she is not disabled
under the ADA. Assuming Plaintiff suffers from an ADA
disability, judgment is nonetheless sought on the ground that
Plaintiff has failed to allege facts in support of even a
minimal showing of discrimination. Even if such a showing has
been made, Defendant contends that it has demonstrated
legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for its employment
decisions with respect to Plaintiff and Plaintiff cannot show
that such reasons were pretextual.
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.
In cases alleging employment discrimination, where intent is
at issue, summary judgment is approached with caution.
Nonetheless, where an employer provides "convincing evidence
explaining its conduct, and the plaintiffs case rests on
conclusory allegations of discrimination, the court may properly
conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact and
grant summary judgment to the employer." Ralkin v. New York
City Transit Authority, 62 F. Supp.2d 989, 997 (E.D.N.Y. 1999);
see McLee, 38 F.3d at 68; see also Baluta v. Hicksville Union
Free School District, 2000 WL 335770 *3 (E.D.N.Y. March 15,
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
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
nondiscriminatory 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 plaintiff's 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. Heyman, 198 F.3d at 72; see Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing, 530 U.S. 133, 148, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147
L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).
C. Elements of an ADA Claim
To state a prima facie case of ADA discrimination, a
plaintiff must show: (1) that he is an individual with a
disability within the meaning of the statute; (2) that his
employer is subject to the ADA and had notice of the disability;
(3) that he was otherwise qualified to perform the essential
functions of his position, with or without reasonable
accommodation; and (4) that he was fired or suffered adverse
employment action because of the disability. Heyman, 198 F.3d
at 72; Ryan v. Grae & Rybicki, P.C., 135 F.3d 867, 869-70 (2d
Cir. 1998); Sacay v. Research Foundation of the City University
of New York, 44 F. Supp.2d 496, 500 (E.D.N.Y. 1999); see Parker
v. Columbia Pictures Indust., 204 F.3d 326, 332 (2d Cir. 2000).
i. Disability Within the Meaning of the ADA
The ADA defines disability as: (1) a physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits one or more of an
individual's major life activities; (2) a record of such an
impairment or (3) being perceived or regarded as having such an
impairment. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2); Sutton v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 527 U.S. 471, 478, 119 S.Ct. 2139, 144 L.Ed.2d 450;
Schaefer v. State Ins. Fund, 207 F.3d 139, 142 (2d Cir. 2000);
Ryan, 135 F.3d at 869; Zuppardo v. Suffolk County Vanderbilt
Museum, 19 F. Supp.2d 52, 54 (E.D.N.Y. 1998), affd,
173 F.3d 848 (2d Cir. 1999). Whether ...