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IDREES v. BETH ISRAEL HOSPITAL

October 18, 2004.

MOHAMMED IDREES, Plaintiff,
v.
BETH ISRAEL HOSPITAL, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENISE COTE, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Mohammed Idrees filed this pro se action in 2003, alleging that his former employer, Beth Israel Medical Center ("BIMC") discriminated against him on the basis of his religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., ("Title VII"). Idrees is a Muslim who was denied an educational leave of absence in April 1980 and resigned soon thereafter to attend medical school at the American University of the Caribbean ("AUC") in Montserrat, British West Indies. After the medical school failed to meet plaintiff's expectations, he returned to New York in June 1980, and states that he attempted without success to be rehired at BIMC.*fn1 The staleness of these events is at least partly explained by the fact that the EEOC only recently issued a right to sue letter based on Idrees's 1980 complaint to it.

  Following the conclusion of discovery, BIMC has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons below, BIMC's motion for summary judgment is denied.

  Background

  The following facts are undisputed or taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, unless otherwise noted.*fn2 In 1972, Mohammed Idrees was hired by Irving Pachtman, a supervisor in the BIMC pathology department, as a part-time chemistry laboratory technologist in that department, and was made a full-time employee approximately five months later. During his employment at BIMC, Idrees served as a delegate for the District 1199 union.

  Idrees's problems at BIMC date back to 1972, when two non-Muslim co-workers, both of whom were junior to Idrees, were promoted to full-time positions. When Idrees asked why he was not chosen, Pachtman replied that Muslims do not need jobs as they are very rich. Soon after, Carol Vorderer replaced Pachtman as manager of the chemistry laboratory, and together with Claire Stritmatter and Mattie Crougher, she oversaw Idrees's work.

  In June 1978, Idrees received a performance evaluation from Stritmatter, Crougher, and Vorderer that assessed his overall performance as excellent. While recommending that Mr. Idrees "further develop his productivity and ability to work independently of others," the evaluation deemed him to be "very capable of communicating effectively with co-workers and supervisors" and praised him for his interest in new technology and his imagination in dealing with its implementation.

  On April 30, 1979, Idrees requested vacation leave from June 28 through July 6, 1979 to attend an Islamic conference, but Vorderer denied his request. Idrees consequently filed a grievance and ultimately received approval for his vacation shortly before it was scheduled to begin. Upon his return, he felt that Vorderer was angry with him.

  In late June 1979, two Muslim co-workers of Idrees, Abdul Arafat and Ali Zaidi, were fired by Vorderer after Zaidi allegedly punched Arafat's time card. In his capacity as a union delegate, Idrees represented Zaidi and requested arbitration. Although Arafat was ultimately reinstated, Zaidi was not, and Zaidi called Vorderer to ask why. She replied that she did not make the decision. Instead, Vorderer reported to Zaidi that James Stark, BIMC's Director of Personnel, decided not to reinstate Zaidi because Stark does not like Muslims. Vorderer warned Zaidi that his friend Idrees would be next.

  The next month Idrees was assigned to work mandatory overtime on July 22, 1979. On July 20, after Idrees explained to Vorderer that he could not work on July 22, he was informed that there would be problems for him if he did not show up. Two other BIMC employees, Marie Lopez and Michael Napolitano, intervened, and Napolitano threatened to "fix" Idrees. As the argument escalated, Idrees vomited, went to BIMC's emergency room, and was ultimately sent home sick by the doctor who saw him. On July 21, Idrees visited another physician, who diagnosed Idrees with acute anxiety syndrome, acute gastritis, and vomiting, and advised a week's rest and close follow-up. Idrees then called in sick at 12:30 a.m. on July 22 and remained out of work through July 27.

  As the result of his July 22 absence, on July 30, 1979, BIMC suspended Idrees without pay for July 23 and 24. Both Idrees and his union delegate, Ed Johnson, refused to sign the notice, and the union grieved Idrees's suspension. The grievance was denied.

  In September 1979, Vorderer completed another performance evaluation of Idrees. Although Idrees's overall score still fell within the excellent range, Vorderer commented that Idrees had demonstrated a "regression in his total work performance" that was "most evident in his attitude." Idrees refused to sign this evaluation, and the document does not contain Stritmatter and Crougher's signatures.

  On January 22, 1980, Idrees received a second disciplinary notice and had his pay suspended for an alleged unauthorized absence from his work station. Idrees denies leaving his station. In an attempt to resolve both his earlier suspension and the January 22 disciplinary action, Idrees requested arbitration. On March 31, 1980, Idrees asked for personal leave to attend the arbitration, which was scheduled for April 4. However, Vorderer denied this request, and a new date for arbitration was never set.

  Idrees also requested a leave of absence on March 31 for sixteen months — from May 12, 1980 through September 18, 1981 — to attend medical school at AUC. At the same time, Idrees applied for a scholarship through the District 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund (the "Fund") but received no response to his application. On April 9, 1980, Stark sent Idrees a letter denying his request on the grounds that "the duration and purpose [of the requested leave] was determined to be unreasonable under the policy of the Medical Center and in view of the operational needs of your department." Idrees ...


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