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SANZO v. UNIONDALE UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT

August 8, 2005.

NICHOLAS SANZO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIONDALE UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, GRAND AVENUE SCHOOL, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SPATT, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

On February 26, 2002, Nicholas Sanzo ("Sanzo" or the "plaintiff") filed a complaint against his former employer, Uniondale Union Free School District ("District") and Grand Avenue School ("School") (collectively the "defendants") alleging that the defendants terminated his employment at the School because of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12117 (2005), and the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301 (2005). Presently before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R.Civ.P.").

I. BACKGROUND

  The following facts are not in dispute, except where otherwise indicated. On August 19, 1998, the defendants hired Sanzo as head custodian of the Grand Avenue School. His main responsibilities included the maintenance, safety, and cleanliness of the entire building and the direct supervision of four custodians. During his six month probationary period, the plaintiff was disciplined in writing by the School's Principal for falling asleep on the job. In February 1999 his probationary period concluded, at which time the Principal recommended that the plaintiff be given a permanent appointment as head custodian. That recommendation was accepted, and on February 5, 1999, the plaintiff was appointed head custodian.

  On August 3, 2000, the plaintiff's physician, Dr. Frank J. Amico, provided a letter to the School stating that "[Sanzo] is currently under treatment for narcolepsy. He is also being worked up for sleep apnea." On August 11, 2000, the School's Assistant Superintendant, Gene Levenstein responded to Dr. Amico's letter by inquiring about "the full extent of his problem as it is imperative that I have a record of how his illness may affect his job performance." On August 17, 2000, Dr. Amico responded that Sanzo would need to be evaluated by a sleep disorders clinic before the full extent of his illness could be known. On September 13, 2000, Mr. Levenstein again wrote to further inquire about Sanzo's condition and his ability "to perform the essential functions of his job as a head custodian (i.e., lifting and moving various equipment), with or without reasonable accommodation." On October 3, 2000, Dr. Amico responded and stated that Sanzo could perform his duties as head custodian.

  On December 12, 2000, the District's Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Cannie, initiated disciplinary charges against the plaintiff pursuant to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law. The disciplinary charges included nineteen specifications of poor performance and misconduct, none of which stated that the plaintiff slept on the job. According to the defendants, Dr. Cannie was not aware that the plaintiff fell asleep on the job or was otherwise being treated for a sleeping disorder.

  In February 2001, an independent hearing officer, Valerie Marvin, Esq., held a hearing with regard to the disciplinary charges preferred against the plaintiff. At the hearing, the plaintiff was represented by a union attorney. During the four-day hearing a transcript of 495 pages was recorded; twelve witnesses testified; the District introduced twenty-two exhibits; and the plaintiff introduced ten exhibits. After the hearing, the plaintiff submitted a forty-three page post-hearing brief and the District submitted a forty-nine page post-hearing brief.

  On March 28, 2001, Hearing Officer Marvin issued a twenty-seven page report (the "Marvin Report") in which she found the plaintiff guilty of fifteen of the nineteen specifications. In particular, specification one related to an incident on October 8, 1999 where Sanzo failed to properly respond to and address sparks flying from an outlet that caused a plug to melt down and char the wall. Other specifications related to incidents of misconduct and incompetence. As a penalty the Hearing Officer recommended that Sanzo be terminated from his employment at the School. On April 2, 2001, the District's Board of Education accepted the recommendation and terminated the plaintiff's employment effective April 4, 2001.

  On or about July 9, 2001, Sanzo filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). After an investigation, on December 19, 2001, the EEOC found no probable cause of discrimination.

  At or about the time of the disciplinary hearings, Sanzo attended a sleep disorder clinic. In August 2001, the plaintiff claims he was formally diagnosed with narcolepsy, a disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable attacks of deep sleep. The parties dispute the actual date of the formal diagnosis.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. The Summary Judgment Standard

  Summary judgment is appropriate if the record "shows 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." Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2550 (1986); Wilkinson v. Russell, 182 F.3d 89 (2d Cir. 1999); Turner v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 180 F.3d 451 (2d Cir. 1999); In Re Blackwood Associates, L.P., 153 F.3d 61, 67 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the district court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the opposing party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 155, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513-14 (1986); Amato v. City of Saratoga Springs, 170 F.3d 311, 322 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Skubel v. Fuoroli, 113 F. 3d 330, 334 (2d Cir. 1997)); Castle Rock Entm't, Inc. v. Carol Pub. Group, Inc., 150 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Garza v. Marine Transp. Lines, Inc., 861 F.2d 23, 26 (2d Cir. 1988)). Disputed facts that are not material to the issue at hand will not defeat summary judgment. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S. Ct. at 2610. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of judgment." Id. A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. If there is evidence in the record, including affidavits, exhibits, interrogatory answers, and depositions, as to any material fact from which an inference could be drawn in favor of the non-movant, summary judgment is unavailable. See Lane v. New York State Electric & Gas Corp., 18 F.3d 172, 176 (2d Cir. 1994).

  Notably, "the trial court's task at the summary judgment motion state of litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to decide them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding, it does not extend to issue resolution." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs. Ltd., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994); see Donohue v. Windsor Locks Board of Fire Commissioners, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987) (holding that on a ...


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