The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD HOLWELL, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Maida Cruz ("Cruz") brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants New York City Housing
Authority ("NYCHA"), Emanuel Sandi, Isaac Riley, Alverista Hall,
and Madelyn Oliva (collectively "defendants"). In her complaint,
plaintiff alleges that defendants violated her procedural due
process rights by demoting her from one civil service position to
another without a hearing. Plaintiff also alleges that
defendants' deliberate indifference to her safety and health
during her employment effected a violation of the Equal
Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal of
the entire complaint. For the reasons set forth below,
defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in full. FACTS
The following facts, unless otherwise noted, are either
undisputed or interpreted most favorably to plaintiff. NYHCA is a
public benefit corporation created by the New York State Public
Housing Law for the purpose of providing "safe, decent,
affordable housing for low-income residents within the five
boroughs" of New York City. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 1 (citing N.Y. Pub.
Hous. Law §§ 2, 401 (McKinney 1989))). All of the named
defendants hold managerial and/or human resources positions
Cruz began her employment with NYCHA in 1991 as a
Caretaker.*fn2 (Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. ¶
3). New York Civil Service Law classifies this position as a
"Labor Class" title. (Oliva Decl. Ex. B ¶ 1). The job description
for Caretaker provides that the employee is "[u]nder direct
supervision, maintains the grounds, buildings and public spaces
of public housing projects in proper condition." (Id.).
On April 28, 1998, the NYCHA and City Employees Union, Local
237, International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("CEU") entered into
a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") effective April 1, 1995
through March 31, 2000, which covered the rights of several
employees including Caretaker and Chief Caretaker. (Niederhoffer
Decl. Ex. A). A Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") executed
between NYCHA and CEU on March 7, 2002, extended the CBA to
present. (Id. at Ex. B). On May 28, 2002, Cruz was appointed to the position of Chief
Caretaker at Union Consolidated Houses located in the Bronx.
(Oliva Decl. ¶ 2). Under New York law, this position is
classified as "noncompetitive," as opposed to "labor." As Chief
Caretaker, Cruz earned a "level A" salary of $34,857.00 per year.
(Id.). The general statement of duties and responsibilities
provides that the employee is "[u]nder general supervision,
serves as resident caretaker, performing routine janitorial work
and maintenance work of varying degrees of difficulty at
scattered-site developments" of the NYCHA. (Id. at Ex. E). As
resident caretaker, Cruz was entitled to occupy an apartment in
the building at a reduced rental rate of $194 a month. (Pl.'s
Mem. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 3).
After becoming Chief Caretaker, Cruz alleges that she became
subject to harassment and threats of physical violence from Tonya
Johnson, one of the residents in the building, in February of
2002. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 3). Although Cruz complained to Sandi,
Riley, Hall, and Oliva about Johnson, these defendants simply
advised Cruz to file a police complaint pursuant to NYCHA's
policy and custom. (Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. ¶
3). Consequently, Cruz filed Incident Information Slips regarding
Johnson's actions on February and 27, 2003, and March 15, 2003.
(Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 3).
On March 27, 2003, Johnson filed an allegedly false complaint
with the police and the NYCHA claiming that on March 14, 2003,
Cruz threatened her physically with a baseball bat. (Pl.'s Mem.
in Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 4). Shortly thereafter, Cruz was
demoted from the Chief Caretaker title on April 1, 2003 and
reassigned to the Caretaker title without a prior hearing.
(Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 2). No reason was given for Cruz's demotion or
reassignment. (Oliva Decl. Ex. F ¶ 1). Cruz alleges that in
addition to being "essentially demoted to the role of a janitor,"
she has lost approximately $4,000 in salary and benefits. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 4). Moreover, Cruz must quit the
subsidized apartment she now occupies. (Waterson Affirmation in
Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 6 ¶ 1).
On April 16, 2003, Oliva sent Cruz an official letter charging
her with incompetency or misconduct regarding the March 14, 2003
incident. (Id. at Ex. 4 ¶ 1). Specifically, the letter alleged
that Crux "threatened to strike resident Tonia [sic] Johnson with
a baseball bat," "improperly brandished the bat in her
direction," and "directed profane, abusive or threatening
language towards Ms. Johnson." (Niederhoffer Supplemental Decl.
Ex. A ¶ 1). A disciplinary hearing was held on these charges on
May 6 and 19, 2003. (Id.) Cruz and Johnson gave conflicting
testimony as to who threatened whom. (Id. ¶¶ 1-3, 7-9).
The hearing officer concluded that Johnson's testimony was "not
persuasive" and failed to establish that Cruz threatened to
strike Johnson and brandished a bat in her direction. (Id. ¶
10). However, the hearing officer found that "[d]espite Tonya's
aggressive behavior, [Cruz], as an employee, had the obligation
to avoid conflict with Tonya, a resident." (Id.). Based on this
finding, the hearing officer determined that Cruz's behavior
"amounted to a failure to conform to the ordinary standards of
behavior that the [NYCHA], as an employer, had a right to expect,
and violated [NYCHA's] policy against violence and threats of
violence in the workplace." (Id.)
As a result of these hearings, Cruz faced a 30-day suspension,
ten days of lost wages, and an eviction from her subsidized
apartment because she was no longer Chief Caretaker. (Pl.'s
Compl. ¶ 6). Cruz nevertheless maintains that her performance as
Chief Caretaker has been "fully satisfactory at all relevant
times," (Id. ¶ 2), and for the purposes of the instant motion, the Court must assume this to be so.
Moreover, it is undisputed that Cruz was demoted from the Chief
Caretaker title prior to the disciplinary hearings.
Based on these facts, Cruz has asserted two causes of action:
that her demotion prior to the hearing was a violation of her
procedural due process rights; and that the NYCHA's failure to
protect her from a belligerent tenant was a violation of her
substantive due process and equal protection rights.
I. The Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate "if 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
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
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)). In
reviewing the record, the district court must assess the evidence
in "the light most favorable to the non-moving party," resolve
all ambiguities, and "draw all reasonable inferences" in its
favor. Am. Cas. Co. ...