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GERMANO v. CORNELL UNIVERSITY

August 17, 2005.

THOMAS J. GERMANO, Plaintiff,
v.
CORNELL UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK STATE SCHOOL OF INDUSTRIAL AND LABOR RELATIONS, EDWAR J. LAWLER, RONALD SEEBER, and ANN W. MARTIN, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBORAH BATTS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Thomas J. Germano commenced this action against the above-named Defendants, claiming that they discriminated against him on the basis of age in the course of his employment and termination thereof, and that the Defendants' termination of his employment was a breach of contract. Plaintiff asserts claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"); as well as for common law breach of contract and breach of implied-in-fact contract. Defendants Cornell University, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations ("ILR School"), Edward J. Lawler, Ronald Seeber, and Ann W. Martin move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss Plaintiff's NYCHRL, contract, and implied contract claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants also move to dismiss Plaintiff's New York City Human Rights Law claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(1). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

  II.

  A. Plaintiff's Employment at the ILR School

  Plaintiff began working at the ILR School on October 7, 1976. (Compl. ¶ 1).*fn1 The ILR School, a division of Defendant Cornell University, offers the nation's only four-year undergraduate program in industrial and labor relations. The school has several extension offices in the State of New York, including Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Ithaca, New York City, and Long Island, which is where Plaintiff worked as the Director for the entire duration of his employment from October 7, 1976 until his termination on January 13, 2003. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 12)

  Plaintiff began his employment at the ILR School as an Extension Associate I, which is how the ILR School refers to instructors who work at its Extension offices. (Compl. ¶ 13). Extension associates have professional qualifications comparable to those of professors and associate professors at Cornell. (Id.). In 1988, Plaintiff "was promoted to Senior Extension Associate II, which was the ILR School Extension's version of "tenure." (Id. ¶ 14). At that time, ILR School Associate Deans Lois Gray and Ronald Seeber told him that "once Cornell and the ILR School appointed him a Senior Extension Associate II, he had the equivalent of tenure, and, accordingly, could not be fired other than for cause or budgetary exigencies whereby the school was unable to continue paying his salary. (Id. ¶ 16).

  B. Harassment and Termination of Plaintiff

  Beginning in 2000, Cornell, the ILR School, and Defendant Ann Martin, associate Dean of the ILR School until Cornell terminated her position in December 2002,*fn2 allegedly tried for two and half years to force him to retire by constant pressure, threats, and harassment regarding his age. (Compl. ¶ 20). For example, Martin first suggested that Plaintiff retire during a meeting on November 2, 2000, and allegedly repeated several times at this meeting that he should consider retiring and that "it's time" for him to retire. (Id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff next saw Martin at a meeting in New York City on February 6, 2001, where she allegedly asked him if he was considering her suggestion to retire. (Id. ¶ 22). Subsequently, Plaintiff ate dinner in Manhattan with Martin on April 18, 2001 where she again allegedly asked Plaintiff if he planned on retiring. Moreover, at that same dinner, she supposedly "threatened to find someone else to do his work and that he should begin some serious retirement planning." (Id. ¶ 23).

  Thereafter, at a District Directors meeting in New York City on December 5, 2001, Martin announced that a committee would meet the next day to discuss the future of the Long Island office and allegedly told Plaintiff specifically that his attendance was not necessary, although he had been the Director of that Office for nearly 25 years. (Compl. ¶ 26). On December 18th, Martin and Plaintiff met at JFK Airport where she allegedly told Plaintiff his office would have to produce savings or increased income in the amount of $20,000 to $25,000 by June 2002 and function with one less employee. Additionally, Plaintiff claims Martin "threatened to break the lease and close the Long Island Office either partially or completely." (Id. ¶ 27).

  From January to June 2002, Plaintiff reduced the Long Island office's operating costs by approximately $25,000 while working with one less employee. (Id. ¶ 28). Meanwhile, on January 23, 2002, Martin allegedly told Plaintiff that if he would relinquish the position of Director she would stop harassing him to retire. (Id. ¶ 30).

  On October 4, 2002, Martin met with Plaintiff at the Long Island office and informed him that Defendant Edward Lawler, Dean of the ILR School, had decided to close the Long Island Office to save money. (Id. ¶ 31). She allegedly stressed that the decision to close the Office was not made as a result of poor performance, and that in fact the office "was overachieving despite being understaffed." (Id.). Thereafter, during a conference call between ILR School Deans and Directors on October 9, Lawler allegedly told Plaintiff that ILR needed to save $500,000 and that some people might need to retire. (Id. ¶ 32). During this conversation, Martin supposedly said, "I know Tom Germano is sitting quietly in a great deal of pain, and I thank you for that, Tom. I'm sure others are feeling for you as I am." (Id.).

  On October 24, 2002, Plaintiff allegedly received a letter from Lawler stating that Plaintiff's employment had been terminated for financial reasons effective July 1, 2002. (Id. ¶ 33). The letter did not mention performance or managerial problems. (Id.). The only other employee at the Long Island Extension office whose employment was terminated was a woman over 70 years old with only 2½ years service to Cornell while the other employees, all junior and younger than Plaintiff, were allegedly offered employment with the ILR School's New York City district office. (Id. ¶ 34). However, after the Long Island Federation of Labor and the Long Island Labor Advisory Board threatened to lobby for an alternative provider of labor education in Long Island, the Long Island Office remained open and Plaintiff kept his job as Director. (Id. ¶ 39-40).

  On December 23, 2002, Plaintiff sent an email to Lawler seeking confirmation that the Long Island office's current level of staffing would be retained and that a vacant labor studies support position could be filled. (Compl. ¶ 47). According to Jack Caffey, the President of the Long Island Federation of Labor, Plaintiff allegedly had the authority to hire up to the current level of staff working at the Long Island Office at that time, plus fill the labor studies support position that had been vacant. (Id. ¶ 48). On December 24, 2002, Plaintiff sent a letter to Margaret Sipser Leibowitz, an ILR School employee who was teaching ILR classes in Ithaca in the fall of 2002, and called Tina Hament "to see if either or both would fill the one vacant position and one soon-to-be vacant position in the Long Island Office, respectively." (Id. ¶ 49). Plaintiff claims ...


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