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Krinsky v. Abrams

May 25, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Townes, United States District Judge


Plaintiff, Richard Krinsky ("Plaintiff" or "Krinsky"), brings this action pro se*fn1 against Sandra Abrams, Sheila Hanley, Joyce Coppin and the New York City Department of Education ("Defendants"), alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Plaintiff also alleges analogous state and city law violations under the New York State Human Rights Law and the Administrative Code of the City of New York. In addition, Plaintiff asserts state law claims of harassment, defamation and slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.


A. Plaintiff's Classroom Performance Evaluations

Krinsky commenced employment at James A. Madison High School ("Madison") in February 1994, and he received tenure on February 3, 1998. In 1997, Sheila Hanley was appointed Assistant Principal for Social Studies ("AP") at Madison, and she became Plaintiff's supervisor. The Department of Education ("DOE") requires all teachers to receive a written evaluation by their supervisors at the end of the school year. The year-end rating is based on several factors, including the rating received by teachers throughout the year in classroom observations. Classroom observations, as well as overall year performance, are either rated as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

On May 9, 1998, after Plaintiff had received tenure in his position, AP Hanley evaluated one of Plaintiff's lessons. Krinsky's lesson received an unsatisfactory evaluation. On December 14, 1998, AP Hanley evaluated another lesson given by Plaintiff as unsatisfactory. AP Hanley also observed Krinsky's lessons in March, May, and June of 1999, and these were rated satisfactory. Plaintiff received a satisfactory rating for the 1998-1999 school year.

No classroom observation was performed for the September 1999 through January 2000 school term because Plaintiff was reassigned to Sheepshead Bay High School from November 5, 1999, until the commencement of the February 2000 school term. On May 18 and 19, 2000, AP Hanley observed Plaintiff's lessons and rated the lessons unsatisfactory. However, although Plaintiff received an unsatisfactory rating for one classroom observation, he was rated satisfactory overall for the 1999-2000 school year.

AP Hanley observed as Plaintiff administered a test on November 22, 2000, and an examination on January 31, 2001. She rated his performance unsatisfactory on each occasion. Her March 23, 2001, observation of Plaintiff teaching a lesson resulted in an unsatisfactory rating as well. On March 29, 2001, Plaintiff, his union representative, and AP Hanley met for a post-observation conference to discuss the March 23, 2001 lesson, but the conference could not proceed because of comments made by Plaintiff against AP Hanley. Plaintiff was advised that further comments could lead to disciplinary action. On May 10, 2001, Plaintiff, his union representative, AP Hanley, and Dr. Abrams, principal of Madison at that time, met to discuss Plaintiff's lack of attendance at the weekly work sessions designed to help improve his work performance. Dr. Abrams advised Plaintiff that this could lead to further disciplinary action, including an unsatisfactory rating for the year.

Pursuant to UFT contract, because Plaintiff had received unsatisfactory classroom observations and was in danger of receiving an unsatisfactory evaluation for the year, his performance needed to be rated by a representative of the Office of the Superintendent of Brooklyn High Schools. Accordingly, Mr. Robert Haberski was sent as a representative from the Superintendent's office to observe Plaintiff's May 30, 2001, lesson. AP Hanley and Dr. Abrams were also present. In a report dated May 31, 2001, Mr. Haberski rated the lesson unsatisfactory. Based on his performance during the 2001-2002 school year, Plaintiff received an unsatisfactory evaluation for the 2000-2001 school year.*fn3

Plaintiff alleges that these negative evaluations were given to him because of discriminatory animus on the part of AP Hanley and Defendants towards male teachers at Madison. However, Defendants allege that during the time Dr. Abrams served as principal, many teachers, both men and women, received unsatisfactory ratings on individual classroom observations. Moreover, Defendants allege that several untenured female teachers received unsatisfactory ratings and were not rehired at Madison for subsequent terms. Defendants also allege that a tenured female teacher, Phyllis Fink, received an unsatisfactory year-end evaluation from Dr. Abrams for two successive school years, and the teacher was then terminated.

In addition to the unsatisfactory ratings, Krinsky alleges he was subject to other unfair and discriminatory practices, such as denials of his teaching requests. Each semester teachers were allowed to rank the classes they wanted to teach in order of preference. Plaintiff indicated his top three preferences for classes each semester. He always asked to teach law classes, with his first preference being the sophomore law class. Every semester at Madison from 1998 through 2002, Plaintiff was given the opportunity to teach the sophomore law class. His other classes were assigned with regard to union rules and rotations. Despite being given his first choice of the sophomore law classes, Plaintiff complained about also being given a Global Studies class that did not end with a Regents examination. He also complained that non-law classes were being scheduled in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Courtroom ("Courtroom"), a fancy new classroom, which he claimed had been specifically built for the law classes. He was upset that female teachers who taught non-law classes were being scheduled to use the Courtroom.

Plaintiff also alleges he was denied certain House Coordinator and other compensatory positions. Madison consists of six major houses within a large building environment and each house has a coordinator to provide for the smooth functioning of the house. The position of house coordinator is treated as a job for which compensatory time is earned. According to the rules of the UFT, teachers apply for the coordinator position, which is awarded based on seniority and to those who have the least amount of compensatory time. Plaintiff alleges that these positions were only given to women. Defendants note, however, that at least one of these positions was held by a man, Mr. Evan Schwartz, during the time period at issue. According to Defendants, Plaintiff was never assigned as a coordinator because he never applied for the positions that were posted. Plaintiff, however, alleges that he did apply for them. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that he was denied "per-session" positions that offered additional salary and pension credit, although copies of the hourly Professional Personnel Time Reports for the years 1998-2001 show that Plaintiff received per-session payments for his work with the Mock Trial Club.

Prior to 2001, Plaintiff notes that he was always granted the right to attend three-day conferences sponsored by The New York State Department of Education and The New York State Bar Associations's Law, Youth and Citizenship Committee. He alleges, however, that in 2001 he was no longer given permission to attend the conferences.

Plaintiff alleges other discriminatory practices on the part of Defendants, including limitation of his and his male colleagues' access to the bookroom where necessary supplies such as maps and workbooks were kept. Females, on the other hand, had unrestricted access to the bookroom. Plaintiff accuses AP Hanley of creating a gender rift at Madison, alleging that her animosity towards males was due to the fact that she was sexually harassed by a senior male colleague at a previous job.

B. Plaintiff's Request for an Accommodation

In May 1999, Plaintiff notified Defendants that he was diagnosed with severe allergies to dust and pollen. By letter dated September 13, 1999, Plaintiff requested an accommodation for his alleged disability caused by allergies. Specifically, Plaintiff asked for a different classroom, air conditioning and a white marker board instead of a chalk board. Plaintiff indicated that he believed that the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Courtroom "might be the only room that could possibly comply" with the mandate to reasonably accommodate his disability.

In response, by letter dated October 5, 1999, Dr. Abrams requested of Superintendent Coppin that a medical examination be conducted of Plaintiff to determine the appropriateness of a "reasonable accommodation." Superintendent Coppin requested that, pursuant to Education Law § 2568, a medical examination of Plaintiff be conducted. After reviewing the medical information, the DOE advised Plaintiff that his needs would be accommodated. The Medical Bureau advised Plaintiff that he was entitled to a well-ventilated room but that his request for air-conditioning was denied.

In order to comply with the Medical Bureau's directive, Plaintiff was assigned to Room 512B at Madison. According to Defendant, the room was well-ventilated and a dry erase board was placed in the classroom. However, Plaintiff alleges the room was moldy and dirty, and he thought the room aggravated his allergies. He alleges he was diagnosed with asthma in May 2000, in part because of the conditions of the classroom. Plaintiff filed a grievance claiming his assignment to Room 512B was a violation of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This grievance was subsequently denied by Superintendent Coppin.

Because Plaintiff complained about the air quality of room 512B, and at Plaintiff's request, Plaintiff's union hired Olmstead Environmental Services, Inc. ("Olmstead") to perform a safety and health inspection to determine both the air quality of Room 512B and the feasibility of assigning Plaintiff to the Courtroom at Madison. An inspection was performed by Olmstead on November 2, 2000. Olmstead found that Room 512B met the requirements listed in the Board of Education accommodation guidelines and that the Courtroom was inappropriate for Plaintiff's allergies and asthma because it had carpeting. The Olmstead report recommended four steps Madison could take to remove any possible cause of Plaintiff's allergic reactions. Defendants allege these recommendations were implemented by the school custodian to meet the requirements for Plaintiff's accommodation. Plaintiff claims they were not.

C. Plaintiff's Disciplinary Problems and Transfer to Sheepshead Bay High School

On or about November 3, 1999, a teacher submitted to Dr. Abrams a statement containing remarks made by Plaintiff to the students about shooting certain people at the school. On or about the same date, Plaintiff sent a letter to AP Hanley, in which he addressed her as "Mein Fuhrer," referred to her as a "snooperviser," and referred to himself as "an indentured subject of her sick experiment." Plaintiff claims the letter was in response to AP Hanley's verbal threat to give Plaintiff a poor evaluation. Prior to November 5, 1999, Plaintiff sent two handwritten letters to AP Hanley in which he was very disrespectful and very critical of her. On November 5, 1999, numerous inappropriate posters were displayed on several locations in Plaintiff's classroom. Because of the content of these posters and letters, Dr. Abrams believed that Plaintiff represented a threat to the ...

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