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TAYLOR v. MCI

August 1, 2002

ALEXANDER TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
V.
MCI, INTL., TEAMSTER LOCAL 111, ACA, UNUM LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se Alexander Taylor ("plaintiff") brings the above-captioned action against MCI International ("MCI"), Local 111, International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 111"), and Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("UNUM") (collectively, "defendants"). Plaintiff alleges that defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his race, age, and mental disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the New York City Human Rights Law, 792 NYC 8-31-91, and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12102 et seq. Plaintiff further alleges discriminatory acts in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"). Following plaintiffs submission of a second amended complaint, defendants made a pre-answer motion to dismiss all claims pursuant to rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

MCI employed plaintiff as a General Operator I from 1968 to 1993. Throughout his employment, plaintiff continually suffered from psychiatric symptoms and received sporadic treatment at Gracie Square Hospital. Additionally, plaintiff was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsillar region in July 1995. The tonsillar cancer, combined with side effects of radiation therapy, aggravated Taylor's long-standing psychiatric illness rendering him "functionally significantly impaired." See Taylor Opposition to UNUM America's Brief In Support of Motion To Dismiss dated February 28, 2002, Exh. H. Plaintiff claims that his disability, coupled with his employer's discriminatory practices, forced him to retire on or about September 27, 1995. See Amended Complaint dated March 13, 2002 ("Amended Complaint") at ¶ 10.

At an unspecified date thereafter, plaintiff applied to UNUM for disability benefits. See Amended Complaint at ¶ 5. According to plaintiff, UNUM made disability payments for a period ranging from seventeen (17) to twenty-four (24) months between 1993 and 1995. See Amended Complaint at ¶¶ 8, 10-11, 17. In 1995, UNUM cancelled plaintiffs disability benefits.

On January 17, 1995, plaintiff filed charges with both the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the EEOC against Local 111 and union representative Walter Matthies claiming violations of Title VII and the ADA based on his alleged disability. See Plaintiffs Amended Complaint dated July 12, 1996, Taylor v. Local 111, MCI International, Inc. and UNUM Life Insurance of America, 96 Civ. 0614 (S.D.N.Y. June 22, 2000) (JES) ("Taylor I"). On November 1, 1995, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter with respect to plaintiffs Title VII and ADA claims against Local 111. Neither the charge nor the right to sue letter mentioned MCI or UNUM. The EEOC informed plaintiff that he had ninety (90) days from the date of receipt to file a private action in U.S. District Court.

On or about January 4, 1996, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Pro Se Office of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("Pro Se Office"), alleging that Local 111 violated Title, VII and ADA. On July 12, 1996, plaintiff filed an amended complaint with the Pro Se Office naming MCI as a new defendant. On or about September 5, 1996, fifty-six (56) days after filing his Taylor I complaint against MCI, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC against MCI. The EEOC complaint alleged discrimination based on petitioner's disability and in violation of ADA. The EEOC dismissed plaintiffs charge as untimely.*fn1 See Affidavit of Amy W. Schulman dated April 28, 1999 ("Schulman Affidavit"), Exh. N.

On or about October 16, 1998, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against Local 111, MCI, and UNUM*fn2 alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII based on his race and disability. He also alleged violations of the ADA and Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). Plaintiff had not made race discrimination or ADEA charges in his initial EEOC claim and was never issued a right to sue letter for these causes of action. Defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment in Taylor I.

In a summary order dated June 15, 2000 ("the summary order"), this Court dismissed all of plaintiffs federal claims against Local 111. These claims were dismissed for a number of reasons. First, plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his Title VII race discrimination claim and his age discrimination claim by not alleging facts to support those claims before the EEOC. See Schulman Affidavit, Exh. H, EEOC charge against Local 111; Butts v. City of New York Dep't of Housing Pres. and Dev., 990 F.2d 1397, 1401 (2d Cir. 1993). Second, plaintiff presented no evidence to show that Local 111 breached its duty of fair representation and therefore discriminated against him based on his disability. A union may not arbitrarily ignore a meritorious grievance or process it in a perfunctory fashion; however, individual employees do not have an absolute right to arbitration. Quite simply, when a union, after a good faith investigation of the merits of the grievance, concludes that the claim is unsubstantial, and refuses to encumber further its grievance channels by continuing to process an nonmeritorious claim, its duty of fair representation is satisfied and no claim against it may be brought. See Nweke v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 25 F. Supp.2d 203, 220 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Plaintiff brought forth no evidence to show that Local 111 deviated from this standard. After conducting it's own investigation, Local 111 determined that plaintiffs claims were meritless. To counter this claim, plaintiff provided only conclusory statements that Local 111 acted arbitrarily, discrimatorily or in bad faith. Moreover, because plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that Local 111 treated him differently than similarly situated individuals due to his race, age, or disability, his Title VII claim was also dismissed.

The summary order also granted summary judgment in favor of MCI. Plaintiffs claims against his former employer were also insufficient in a number of ways. First, plaintiffs failure to file a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC rendered all of his claims against MCI time-barred. See Butts, 990 F.2d at 1401. Moreover, plaintiffs timely filing of an EEOC complaint against Local 111 was not sufficient to render his claims against MCI timely, because there was no "identity of interest" between those two (2) defendants. In other words, the four (4) factor test used to determine if an "identity of interest" exists did not warrant a finding of timeliness. Under this test the court considers: (1) whether the role of the unnamed party could, through reasonable effort by the complainant, be ascertained at the time of the filing of the EEOC complaint; (2) whether, under the circumstances, the interests of a named party are so similar to the interests of the unnamed party's that for the purpose of obtaining voluntary conciliation and compliance it would be necessary to include the unnamed party in the EEOC proceedings; (3) whether the absence of the unnamed party from the EEOC proceedings resulted in actual prejudice to that party's interests; and (4) whether the unnamed party has in some way represented to the complainant that its relationship with the complainant is to be through the named party. See Johnson v. Palma, 931 F.2d 203, 209 (2d Cir. 1991).

Plaintiff, has failed to meet any part of this test. MCI was neither named as a respondent in the charge plaintiff filed with the EEOC against Local 111 nor in the right to sue letter the EEOC issued against Local 111. MCI's identity was not a mystery to the plaintiff as it was his employer for approximately twenty-seven (27) years. Plaintiffs history of prior proceedings demonstrated that he was aware that a preliminary filing with the EEOC was necessary. It was also clear that the interests of MCI, as plaintiffs employer, and Local 111, as his union, were sufficiently dissimilar to preclude the application of the "identity of interest" doctrine, nor could MCI's interests have been prejudiced by the fact that they were not a party to the proceedings. Therefore, the Court dismissed all federal claims against MCI in Taylor I.

The Court similarly dismissed all of plaintiffs federal claims in Taylor I against UNUM because: (1) plaintiff failed to file a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC, see Butts, 990 F.2d at 1401; (2) plaintiff offered no evidence to support an equitable tolling of the limitations period; (3) UNUM could not be sued under the ADA, Title VII, or the N.Y. Human Rights Law because UNUM was not plaintiffs employer; and (4) the distinction between benefits for physical and mental disabilities in UNUM's policy did not violate the ADA, even if that act was applicable. See EEOC v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 1998 WL 851605 (S.D.N.Y. December 7, 1998).

The Court also dismissed plaintiffs state claims without prejudice to being renewed in an appropriate state court proceeding.

Plaintiff subsequently initiated the instant action in state court on August 8, 2000, alleging violations identical to those made in his first action; plaintiff added to these claims an alleged ERISA violation. Defendant properly removed the case to Federal District Court. On or about June 6, 2001, plaintiff filed an amended complaint in Federal District Court alleging violations of ADA, Title VII, and ERISA. See Amended Complaint at ¶ 1. The instant complaint, like the previous complaint in Taylor I, asserts that Union representative Mr. Matthies discriminated against plaintiff because of his disability by subjecting him to disparaging treatment, "including but not limited to refusing to represent plaintiff on his mental illness disability claims against his employer." See Amended Complaint at ΒΆΒΆ 21-24, 34. Plaintiff seeks five ...


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