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ANDERSON v. DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER

June 6, 2005.

JANET C. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER, ALL SAINTS PARISH, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL TELESCA, Senior District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Janet Anderson ("Anderson") brings this action pursuant to Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq, ("ADA") and the New York State Human Rights Law claiming that she was discriminated against by the defendant on the basis of her alleged disability. Specifically, plaintiff claims that she was fired from her employment because she suffers or suffered from a liver disorder which necessitated a liver transplant, and kidney disease requiring dialysis.

  By motion dated October 8, 2004, defendant Diocese of Rochester (the "Diocese") moves for summary judgment against the plaintiff on grounds that the defendant was not plaintiff's employer, and therefore, cannot be held liable to her for employment discrimination. In support of this argument, defendant notes that the plaintiff worked at All Saints Parish, ("All Saints") and therefore All Saints, which is a separate corporate legal entity, distinct from the Diocese of Rochester, is plaintiff's employer. Plaintiff opposes the defendant's motion on grounds that the Diocese is either the plaintiff's employer or joint employer. In the alternative, plaintiff contends that the Diocese may be held liable because All Saints is so closely related to the Diocese and shares an identity of interest with it.

  For the reasons set forth below, I find that the defendant was not plaintiff's employer, and therefore may not be held liable to the plaintiff for a claim of employment discrimination.

  BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Janet C. Anderson was hired by St. Mary's Church as a church secretary in May, 1989. In 1997, Anderson was diagnosed with liver disease, and for much of 1998 and early 1999, was on medical leave, during which time she received a liver transplant. In 2001, St. Mary's, which had previously consolidated operations with other churches in the area, merged with those parishes to become a single corporate entity named All Saints Parish. Also in 2001, plaintiff was diagnosed with kidney disease, and was required to begin dialysis.

  In June, 2003, plaintiff's employment with All Saints was terminated. Plaintiff alleges that she was told by two of her supervisors that her employment was terminated because of her health condition. Defendant denies plaintiff's claim and contends that All Saints discontinued plaintiff's employment in an effort to reduce costs. Moreover, defendant contends that it can not be held liable to the plaintiff because the Diocese was not Anderson's employer. Defendant claims that it neither hired nor fired nor controlled plaintiff's employment, and therefore, it cannot be liable to her.

  Plaintiff filed an administrative complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights in July, 2003. Plaintiff named as the respondent in that action the "Diocese of Rochester, All Saints Parish." The Diocese responded to the administrative complaint by stating, inter alia, that All Saints Parish was the plaintiff's employer. The New York State Division of Human Rights investigated plaintiff's allegations and found no probable cause for the complaint. The EEOC adopted the findings of the New York State Division of Human Rights, and on May 14, 2004, issued to the plaintiff a right to sue letter. Thereafter, plaintiff filed the instant complaint.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

  Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith 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 judgment as a matter of law." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all inferences and ambiguities must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54 (2nd Cir. 1997). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. Annis v. County of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239, 247 (2nd Cir. 1998).

  II. The Defendant was not Plaintiff's Employer

  Defendant contends that it is not liable in this action because it was not the plaintiff's employer. It is axiomatic that only an employer may be liable for employment discrimination. In determining whether or not a party is an "employer" for purposes of ADA liability, courts consider: "whether the party had authority to hire or fire the plaintiff, supervise her work or conditions of employment, determine her rate or method of pay, ...


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