The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORETTA PRESKA, District Judge
Plaintiff Robert Vosatka, Ph.D., M.D. ("Vosatka"), commenced
this action on April 2, 2004, by filing a complaint against
Columbia University ("Columbia") alleging employment
discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act ("ADA") and various related state law claims (the
"Complaint"). Columbia now moves for summary judgment on all
claims. For the reasons set forth below, Columbia's motion is
I. Vosatka's Employment at Columbia University
Vosatka was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
at Columbia University in 1997. Def. 56.1 ¶ 2.*fn1 By virtue
of that appointment, Vosatka was a candidate for a tenured
position. Def. 56.1 ¶ 1, 2. Faculty holding tenure-track
positions are generally limited to a maximum of eight years of
full-time service unless they are granted tenure. Polin Decl.,*fn2 Ex. A at 44.*fn3
An eight-year term is not guaranteed, however, and "any full-time
appointment may be terminated at the end of its stated term, even
if eight years of service have not been completed, as long as the
officer is given adequate written notice." Polin Decl., Ex. A at
44. The Faculty Handbook requires a "Notice of Non-Renewal" to be
given at least twelve months before the end of an appointment
after two or more years of full-time service. Polin Decl., Ex. G
at 189.*fn4 Non-tenured faculty members may continue after
eight years if they are approved for clinical or practice
appointments. Polin Decl., Ex. A at 44. Clinical appointments
must be confirmed in writing and require the approval of various
University officials. Polin Decl., Ex. G at 188.
As an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Vosatka worked as a
research scientist and performed clinical duties. Pl. Aff. ¶
24.*fn5 While Vosatka claims that Dr. Richard Polin*fn6
orally assured him that he would be considered for a clinical
appointment if he were not granted tenure, Pl. Aff. ¶ 31,*fn7 Vosatka never received
such assurances in writing, Vos. Tr. A at 64.*fn8
In November 1999, Vosatka ruptured his Achilles tendon. Pl.
Aff. ¶ 4. In March 2001, Vosatka suffered from a related
infection and experienced complications that resulted in more
than seventeen surgeries. Vos. Tr. A at 105, 119. Vosatka was
granted a fully-paid medical leave from March 2001 until May
2002. Def. 56.1 ¶ 24. Although Vosatka is capable of walking
"completely alone without any unassisting [sic] devices except
for some support stockings," Vos. Tr. A at 113, Vosatka alleges
that he cannot walk "too far" and tends to sit with his foot
raised, Vos. Tr. A at 107, 115. In spite of his injury, Vosatka
attempts to exercise occasionally and tries to help repair around
the house. Vos. Tr. A at 115-16.
Before his medical leave, Vosatka received a fourth-year
review, in which it was determined that he was an unlikely
candidate for tenure. Polin Decl., Ex. B.*fn9 The reviewers
cited Vosatka's low productivity, which they recognized was
partially due to a laboratory fire and a medical problem, and his low national visibility in
the research community as reasons for their decision. Polin
Decl., Ex. B.
While Vosatka was on leave, Columbia assisted him in acquiring
a disability supplement to enable him to continue his research.
Def. 56.1 ¶ 26. Approximately $2,000 of the supplement funded
equipment to assist Vosatka in his work duties. Vos. Tr. A at
121.*fn10 Technicians were also assigned to help Vosatka
with his work because he "could no longer stand for long hours at
the bench." Vos. Tr. B at 316.*fn11 Additionally, Vosatka
requested an office adjacent to the laboratory to avoid walking
and taking the stairs, and his office was subsequently moved to a
location within the laboratory space. Vos. Tr. A at 142-44.
In 2002, upon his return to work, Vosatka informed Dr. Polin
that he had difficulty doing clinical work because of his injury
and requested that he not be assigned to that department. Vos.
Tr. B at 320. Vosatka was subsequently removed from most or all
of his clinical responsibilities after August or September 2002.
Def. 56.1 ¶ 29. Thereafter, Vosatka never communicated an
interest in returning to his clinical responsibilities or any
ability to do so. See Vos. Tr. B at 321. III. The NIH Training Grant
While Vosatka was on medical leave, he was assigned to assist
Dr. Polin and Dr. Raymond Stark*fn12 in drafting an NIH
Training Grant proposal. Def. 56.1 ¶ 34. The proposal was not
submitted in 2002 as planned, so Vosatka continued to work on it
to meet the 2003 deadline. Vos. Tr. B at 372, 375. In order for a
grant proposal to be submitted, the grant must be approved by
various University officials. Vos. Tr. B at 378. Vosatka informed
Dr. Polin that he believed a provision in the NIH Training Grant
would violate a provision in the New York Health Law because the
grant could require postgraduate fellows working under the grant
to work more hours than were permitted under the New York State
law. Pl. Aff. ¶ 32; Vos. Tr. B at 379. Vosatka asserts that Dr.
Polin planned to instruct the fellows only to record their
clinical hours but not their research hours in order to avoid
detection. Pl. Aff. ¶ 33. In or about January or February 2003,
Vosatka refused to work on the grant application further because
he believed that it would violate New York regulations. Vos. Tr.
B at 376; Pl. Aff. ¶ 34. No fellows have worked in connection
with the NIH Training Grant at Columbia because it has neither
been submitted nor funded to date. Polin Decl. ¶ 19. IV. Vosatka's Conduct Toward Women*fn13
Vosatka shared his laboratory space with other researchers,
fellows, and technicians. Vos. Tr. A at 189-93. In 2003, several
of Vosatka's female subordinates and colleagues complained about
his behavior in the lab. Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 43, 52-53. In one incident,
Vosatka "had a couple of beers with friends" at a conference in
California and sent an e-mail at 4:21 a.m. to Ms. Taylor, a
female postdoctoral fellow who was a subordinate of his in the
lab. Vos. Tr. A at 192-93, 201-202. The subject of the e-mail was
"is thi [sic] you?," and, in the text, Vosatka included two links
to sexually explicit websites and asked "or is this you?" Garland
Decl.,*fn14 Ex. A.*fn15 Vosatka had "Googled" Ms.
Taylor's name in an effort to find her e-mail address and was
directed to several explicit websites of other women with the
same name who appeared to be selling sexual services. Vos. Tr. A
at 200-203; Garland Decl., Ex. A. Although Vosatka knew that the
women in those websites were not the same Ms. Taylor as the one
with whom he worked, Vosatka thought it was amusing to send Ms.
Taylor the links. Vos. Tr. A at 205. Dr. Marianne Garland, the senior female faculty member in the
lab, received complaints from several female employees of the lab
who had seen the e-mail and found it offensive. Def. 56.1 ¶¶
51-52; Garland Decl. ¶ 4. Additionally, the females in the lab
complained to Dr. Garland that Vosatka made a number of sexual
comments and offensive jokes that made them uncomfortable.
Garland Decl. ¶ 5. They told Dr. Garland that Plaintiff treated
his female subordinates poorly and did not interact with them in
a respectful manner. For example, Vosatka once told the younger
female employees that he lost ten pounds by circumcision. Garland
Decl. ¶ 5.
Dr. Garland and Dr. Michael Myers*fn16 arranged a meeting
between Vosatka and the female lab employees to resolve their
problems. Garland Decl. ¶ 7. The women thereafter reported to Dr.
Garland that they were further offended by Vosatka's comments
during the meeting that "women's menstrual cycles become
synchronized when they work together." Def. 56.1 ¶ 58; Vos. Tr. A
at 223-24. Vosatka also mentioned during the meeting that perhaps
the women were complaining because they were "all simultaneously
having Pre-Menstrual Syndrome." Def. 56.1 ¶ 59. Perhaps not
surprisingly, Dr. Myers and the female employees did not feel
that the meeting was successful, Vos. Tr. B at 246-47, so they
notified Dr. Polin of the problems between Vosatka and the female
employees in the lab, Garland Decl. ¶ 10. Dr. Polin asked Vosatka
to stay at home while the Dean of Academic Affairs investigated the complaints. Pl. Aff. ¶ 12. After the Dean
determined that Vosatka had not violated any University rules,
Pl. Aff. ¶ 16, Dr. Polin arranged a meeting among Vosatka, Dr.
Garland, and the University Ombudsperson to mediate a resolution
that would permit Vosatka to return to work in the lab, Def. 56.1
¶¶ 64-65. During that meeting, Vosatka accused Dr. Stark of
committing physical assault against Dr. Garland, which Dr.
Garland denied. Vos. Tr. B at 272; Garland Decl. ¶ 15. He also
claimed that Dr. Stark "told both [Vosatka and Dr. Garland] that
he had taken morphine from the laboratory" and "used it to inject
his neighbor who was dying. . . . He did mention that it was the
dose that, in his experience in doing this, would be sufficient
to terminate his life." Vos. Tr. B at 272, 273-75, 277. Dr.
Garland denied hearing this information, and Vosatka offered no
evidence to support his allegations. Vos. Tr. B at 281.
V. Psychiatric Evaluation
After Dr. Polin was informed of Vosatka's "erratic behavior"
and "bizarre allegations" during his meeting with the
Ombudsperson, Dr. Polin put Vosatka on medical leave and required
Vosatka to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine his
fitness to return to work. Def. 56.1 ¶ 69. The Faculty Handbook
allows the University to require an officer of instruction to
"undergo a medical examination by a physician . . . in any case
in which a question of medical disability arises." Polin Decl.,
Ex. G at 190. Dr. Owens, a psychiatrist, determined that Vosatka
showed indications of personality problems that likely
contributed to his conflicts with co-workers. Polin Decl., Ex. J.*fn17 Dr. Owens indicated
that Vosatka "lack[s] awareness of the impact of his actions on
others" and is "relatively impervious to objective criticism."
Polin Decl., Ex. J. Although Dr. Owens concluded that Vosatka was
"not impaired by any major mental illness, and he is cognitively
and emotionally able to return to work," he suggested that
Vosatka not continue to work with the people with whom he had
conflicted. Polin Decl., Ex. J. Dr. Rosenfeld, a clinical
psychologist, determined that Vosatka has a "tendency to feel
unfairly treated [which] is likely to lead to problems in work
environments." Polin Decl., Ex. J. Dr. Rosenfeld also believed
that Vosatka's personality traits were likely to "significantly
hinder his interpersonal functioning both at work and in social
relationships." Polin Decl., ...