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Collins v. Potter

August 29, 2008

JAMES M.S. COLLINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco United States District Judge

ORDER

JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge

Plaintiff James M.S. Collins ("Collins" or "plaintiff") brought this action against his employer, defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General ("defendant"), alleging employment discrimination on the basis of plaintiff's disability pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq. (the "Rehabilitation Act").*fn1 Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant (1) took adverse action against plaintiff because of his allegedly disabled wrist -- namely, the assignment of plaintiff to perform heavy labor on defendant's loading platform; (2) failed to accommodate plaintiff's modified work assignment by assigning plaintiff to such labor; and (3) assigned plaintiff to the loading dock in retaliation for plaintiff's filing several workers' compensation claims and a federal lawsuit against defendant.*fn2 On January 24, 2008, defendant moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff submitted his opposition on March 13, 2008. Defendant submitted his reply on June 4, 2008. The Court held oral argument on June 20, 2008. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is denied in its entirety.*fn3

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standards for summary judgment are well settled. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a court may not grant a motion for summary judgment unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Globecon Group, LLC v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 434 F.3d 165, 170 (2d Cir. 2006). The moving party bears the burden of showing that he or she is entitled to summary judgment. See Huminski v. Corsones, 396 F.3d 53, 69 (2d Cir. 2005). The court "is not to weigh the evidence but is instead required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party, and to eschew credibility assessments." Amnesty Am. v. Town of W. Hartford, 361 F.3d 113, 122 (2d Cir. 2004); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (holding that summary judgment is unwarranted if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party").

Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . [T]he nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Caldarola v. Calabrese, 298 F.3d 156, 160 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)). As the Supreme Court stated in Anderson, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Indeed, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties" alone will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247-48. Thus, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere conclusory allegations or denials, but must set forth "concrete particulars" showing that a trial is needed. R.G. Group, Inc. v. Horn & Hardart Co., 751 F.2d 69, 77 (2d Cir. 1984) (internal quotations omitted); Tufariello v. Long Island R.R., 364 F. Supp. 2d 252, 256 (E.D.N.Y. 2005). Accordingly, it is insufficient for a party opposing summary judgment "merely to assert a conclusion without supplying supporting arguments or facts." BellSouth Telecomms., Inc. v. W.R. Grace & Co., 77 F.3d 603, 615 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotations omitted).

In addition, the Second Circuit has provided specific guidance regarding summary judgment motions in discrimination cases:

We have sometimes noted that an extra measure of caution is merited in affirming summary judgment in a discrimination action because direct evidence of discriminatory intent is rare and such intent often must be inferred from circumstantial evidence found in affidavits and depositions. See, e.g. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994). Nonetheless, "summary judgment remains available for the dismissal of discrimination claims in cases lacking genuine issues of material fact." McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 135 (2d Cir. 1997); see also Abdu-Brisson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 239 F.3d 456, 466 (2d Cir. 2001) ("It is now beyond cavil that summary judgment may be appropriate even in the fact-intensive context of discrimination cases.").

Schiano v. Quality Payroll Sys., 445 F.3d 597, 603 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir. 2001)).

III. DISCUSSION

(1) Employment Discrimination Claim

a. Legal Standard

The ADA prohibits discrimination against "any qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to [employment]." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). Claims of employment discrimination under the ADA are evaluated under the three-part burden-shifting analysis set forth by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05 (1973). "A plaintiff must establish a prima facie case; the employer must offer through the introduction of admissible evidence a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the [adverse employment action]; and the plaintiff must then produce evidence and carry the burden of persuasion that the proffered reason is a pretext." Sista v. CDC Ixis North America, Inc., 445 F.3d 161, 169 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing Heyman v. Queens Vill. Comm. for Mental Health for Jamaica Cmty. Adolescent Program, 198 F.3d 68, 72 (2d Cir. 1999)).

In order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must show that: (1) his employer is subject to the ADA; (2) he suffers from a disability within the meaning of the ADA; (3) he was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (4) he suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability. Shannon v. N.Y. City Transit Auth., 332 F.3d 95, 99 (2d Cir. 2003); Ryan v. Grae & Rybicki, P.C., 135 F.3d 867, 869-70 (2d Cir. 1998). The Second Circuit has characterized the evidence necessary for the ...


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