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KRAMER v. UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS

May 20, 2003

MARK J. KRAMER, PLAINTIFF, AGAINST UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS-OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL, DEFENDANT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Douglas F. Eaton, United States Magistrate Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

In 2002, pro se plaintiff Mark J. Kramer brought a Title VII charge of discrimination, and then this Title VII lawsuit, against his union, the United Federation of Teachers ("UFT's or "the Union"). In his Complaint, he alleges that various supervisors discriminated against him because of his religion (Jewish) and then fired him in 1994, and that the Union did not do enough to help him. On March 7, 2003, the Union moved to dismiss the Complaint on various grounds. I find that the case is time-barred by the 300-day statute of limitations governing Title VII actions.

BACKGROUND

The following allegations are set forth in Kramer's 4-page addendum to his Complaint, which is entitled "Facts of the Case" and annexes several exhibits.

Kramer has masters degrees in education and mathematics from Queens College and Long Island University. He also has dual New York City licenses to teach elementary and middle school mathematics.

From September 1988 through June 1989, Kramer worked as a math teacher at JHS 162K middle school. He claims that he was given a satisfactory "S" for a final evaluation, but that he was not officially appointed because Jack Zatt, the assistant principal and plaintiff's math supervisor, "took a dislike to me immediately, as he was anti-Semitic and saw me as an adversary." Kramer alleges that he asked the Union for help, but it "did not do anything."

In September. 1989, Kramer was appointed to a new position as an elementary teacher at IS 75K. However, the Principal, Ivy Causo, fired him two months later, after she met with Zatt. Kramer claims that he "went to the Brooklyn UFT, but they did not do anything to help me rectify the situation.

Kramer says: "I worked in many districts earning credits toward my probation time in teaching. In 1990 I applied and received Jarema Credit (the 2 of 3 years credit needed for probation completion.)" In August 1990, he was assigned to IS 126 as a mathematics teacher under Principal Mildred Vogt and a math supervisor named Mr. Bader. Kramer alleges:

This was to be my final year of probation toward completing the required 3 years. Tenure was to be granted at the end of the completion — June 1991. As the year neared its end, Ms. Vogt inquired, through Mr. Bader, as to what religion I was. He asked me and I told him, thinking no harm. Soon after, Principal Vogt went out on sick leave for six weeks. Barbara Embriano came in as assistant principal and my math supervisor. She was put in by Superintendent Gimonda who had found out that I was Jewish and was up for tenure. Mr. Bader told me that Ms. Embriano "gets rid of people." Prior to her leaving for sick leave, Ms. Vogt had told me and the UFT rep that I would receive tenure a Satisfactory rating on my final performance evaluation.
Before Ms. Vogt left for sick leave, I was a homeroom teacher taking daily attendance in the morning. A few times I noticed that the daily absence sheets were being changed upon their return to me. I questioned Ms. Vogt about it and before I knew it, she had taken the daily attendance job away from me. . . . While Ms. Embriano was in the position of supervising me, she told me, "Even if you did do well, I'm going to say you did badly . . ." . . . I spoke to the UFT's rep downtown, Larry Leftig, and he said he'd get someone to visit me in the school. However, no one ever did come to check out the situation.
Upon Ms. Vogt's return to school in June, she gave me a final Satisfactory evaluation. However, it was then fraudulently altered by Ms. Embriano. I observed Ms. Embriano physically force Ms. Vogt's hand to "white out" the final and overall "S" in the bottom of the sheet and change it to a "U" despite all the categories that were satisfactory. . . .
The UFT did not step in to help me. They should have definitely acknowledged that I was tenured and informed Superintendent Gimonda that he could not commit fraud in altering an official document or forcing an assistant principal to do so.
From September 1991 through June 1992, Kramer tried to get various teaching jobs, but to no avail. He hired an attorney, who filed an Article 78 proceeding against the New York City Board of Education and its Chancellor, attacking the "U" rating. The case was resolved with a September 1999 Stipulation of Settlement, which is annexed to the Complaint. The Stipulation of Settlement provided that Kramer was restored to the position of probationary teacher as of September 8, 1992 for one year; Kramer agreed to "deliver a signed release to respondents", releasing the Board of Education "from any and all liability . . . in any way related to, in whole or in part, the subject matter of the above mentioned action."

In September 1992, Kramer was assigned to JHS 141. He says:

A few days into my job at JHS 141, the Union rep, Metzger, who shared my homeroom, told me that the administration was going to give me an Unsatisfactory rating for no reason. . . . As time progressed into the second month of school, I was constantly being called in, on my lunch periods, to meet with [Assistant Principal] Petrocelli about petty questions. At one point I overheard . . . Petrocelli talking on the phone to the Superintendent. He came storming out of the office screaming, "He can't threaten my pension!" He then looked at me and called me a "dirty Jew" and said "Things are going to change as I'm fed up with you. It will end here with no chances of you working again." [Petrocelli] never observed me for the Professional Performance Review and still [he] gave me the Unsatisfactory rating. . . . I filed a grievance against Principal Tomaselli who had also been "harassing" me. . . . I tried to file a grievance against the Superintendent but the UFT wouldn't allow me to. Again I called the union rep of the district, Jeff Zahler, but he was not able to help. He even told my wife that a person working in that district should have a name ending in "I" or "O" only.
Kramer's April 28, 2003 letter to me rephrases this last comment as follows:
The Union Representative, Jeffrey Zahler, had told my wife that if your name ends in "i" or "o" you would have a permanent job in that district.
If Zahler did make such a comment, it was clearly sympathetic to Kramer, and not antagonistic to Kramer's Jewish religion.

From November 1992 through January 1993, Kramer became physically ill and stayed home. In January 1993, Superintendent Gimonda advised him that the Community School Board planned to meet in February to have him dismissed. Kramer says:

The UFT put in for another Chancellor's Hearing. It was scheduled for a year later! In January 1994. The Union knew that I had to work and needed a job. They had me wait a whole year to get a hearing. . . . The UFT rep tried to have me win by default, but the head Union people wouldn't let him do that. The "hearing" was finally held in March 1994. In attendance were personnel director Barrish, Assistant Princpal Petrocelli, Principal Tomaselli of 141, a union rep, 3 peer reps plus myself. . . . The hearing was not tape recorded as [the] ...

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