The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SPATT, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
This is a case brought by Charles J. Edwards ("Edwards" or the
"Plaintiff") against his former employer the Brookhaven Science
Associates, LLC ("BSA" or the "Defendant") under the Americans
with Disabilities Act ("ADA") alleging claims of hostile work
environment and retaliatory discharge. Presently before the Court
are motions by the Defendant for summary judgment and to strike the
Plaintiff's demand for compensatory damages and a jury trial.
The Brookhaven National Laboratory ("BNL") is a research
facility operated by BSA pursuant to a contract between the BSA
and the United States Department of Energy ("DOE"). Edwards was
employed by BSA as a Security Police Officer II ("SPO") at BNL.
SPOs are responsible for protecting the facility and the
interests of the DOE. In that capacity, the SPOs are trained and
required to carry a .38 caliber revolver and a MP5 machine gun as
part of their official duties. The weapons are kept at the BNL
armory and issued to the SPO each day when they start their
shift. In order to carry these weapons, the DOE requires that all
SPOs obtain and maintain a DOE-issued Firearm Authority Card
Edwards commenced employment as a SPO on March 26, 1990, and
remained in that position until the termination of his employment
on November 8, 2002. On July 11, 2001, Edwards was participating
in a routine training procedure at the BNL firing range called a
"stress course," which requires officers to run with their
equipment, stop, and then load and fire their weapon. During this
training exercise, Edwards' left hand slipped off the stock of
the MP5 and onto the hot vent and barrel of the weapon. As a
result, Edwards burned his left index finger. Edwards was taken
to a local hospital via ambulance and treated for his injuries. The firing range was
subsequently closed after this incident for an unknown period of
time and BSA conducted an investigation.
Edwards was medically cleared to return to work approximately
one week after the injury and BSA permitted Edwards to perform
clerical work in the security building. As a result of the
investigation that followed, Edwards was not disciplined for the
incident, but it was recommended that he undergo re-training on
the MP5 and .38 caliber revolver. Edwards participated in and
completed a retraining course for every procedure on both weapons
and he was also re-certified in connection with his annual
qualifications for maintaining his FAC.
During the period of his retraining, Edwards claims that he was
continually harassed by Training Specialist in Safeguards and
Security Kathleen Walker ("Walker") and by Training Captain
Michael Delph ("Captain Delph"). The harassment consisted of
threats of retaliation for having caused the range to be closed;
repeatedly asking the Plaintiff to see his finger; changes in his
work schedule; publicly displayed BSA safety bulletins referring
to the July 11, 2001 incident; and at least one incident where
Captain Delph placed a rubber finger in a petri dish on a table
in the cafeteria while a number of employees were present.
Captain Delph allegedly made comments such as, "Let me see your
finger. You closed my range. You are going to get more training."
As a result of these incidents, on November 20, 2001, Edwards
filed a charge of disability discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights
and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
On October 16, 2002, Edwards was involved in an accidental
discharge of his MP5 while he was being issued his weapon at the
BNL armory. When SPOs obtain their weapons from the armory, they
are required to point the unloaded gun into a clearing barrel,
rack it, remove the safety, pull the trigger, and place the
magazine in the gun. A clearing barrel is a 55-gallon drum filled
with sand that is intended to function as a repository in the
event of an accidental discharge. Edwards acknowledged that he
had made a human error in loading his weapon, which caused the
After the incident, Edwards continued to work for BSA but was
not permitted to carry a weapon. The BSA's Firearm Safety
Committee ("FSC") met to investigate the accidental discharge.
The investigation into the accidental discharge was the first
investigation that the FSC had conducted regarding an accidental
discharge since 1988. After the investigation, the FSC concluded
that the accidental discharge was due to human error and
recommended that Edwards' authority to carry a firearm at BNL be
rescinded. That recommendation was forwarded to BSA management,
who concurred. The recommendation was eventually forwarded to the
DOE, the entity charged with issuing the weapons permit, for
consideration. On November 4, 2002, the DOE issued an order
revoking Edwards' FAC. Once revoked, Edwards could not carry a
firearm as required to perform his duties as a SPO. At the time,
there were only two positions in the BSA police organization that did not require a FAC and both
of the positions were filled. On November 8, 2002, Edwards'
employment was terminated. BSA advised Edwards that his
employment was terminated because he had two incidents with his
MP5 in a sixteen month period and the DOE had revoked his FAC.
In this lawsuit Edwards contends that his termination was in
retaliation for the previous filing of a complaint of disability
discrimination. In his complaint in this action, he seeks
compensatory damages and pleads two federal claims under the ADA:
(1) a disability-based hostile work environment claim under
42 U.S.C. § 12112(a); and (2) a retaliatory discharge claim under
42 U.S.C. § 12203. The Defendant moves pursuant to Rule 56 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R.Civ.P.") for summary
judgment dismissing the complaint and, in the alternative, to
strike the Plaintiff's demand for compensatory damages and a jury
trial relating to the retaliatory discharge claim.
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.
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 ...