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Goldvekht v. United Federation of Teachers

January 20, 2009

SIMON GOLDVEKHT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, DEFENDANT.



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

FOR ONLINE PUBLICATION ONLY

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Simon Goldvekht brings this pro se action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Age Discrimination and Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") alleging that the United Federation of Teachers ("UFT") failed to properly represent him in a dispute with his employer, the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York ("Board"), because of Goldvekht's age and his national origin. For the reasons stated below, I deny the defendant's motion to dismiss Goldvekht's claims.

BACKGROUND

Goldvekht, who was born on March 4, 1950, is a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union. He works as a paraprofessional at Public School 254 ("P.S. 254") in Brooklyn, New York. On August 20, 2008, Goldvekht filed a form complaint, supplemented by numerous attachments. In the space on the form complaint for indicating the statute(s) under which the plaintiff wishes to sue, Goldvekht put a check mark next to Title VII. In the space for indicating the type of discriminatory conduct alleged, Goldvekht put a check mark next to "Other acts" and wrote the following: "Negligence of U.F.T. to investigate my allegations and provide me with the service that I deserve (I consider this negligence/ignoring as descrimination [sic]) (However, it's not clear to me what are the grounds for the discrimination, which persists to this day.) The reason U.F.T. discriminates against me is unclear." Compl. 3. Goldvekht did not check any boxes indicating the basis (race, religion, age, etc.) of the alleged discrimination.

The documents attached to the form complaint describe an incident involving Goldvekht and a student that occurred on April 7, 2006. The student claimed that Goldvekht physically abused her by pulling her arm in an attempt to take her to a school counselor following an incident of disruptive behavior in class. On April 12, 2006, Goldvekht, accompanied by his union representative, met with principal Linda Alhonote to discuss the incident. In a written statement dated April 15, 2006, Goldvekht claimed that the complaining student and another student who witnessed the incident had submitted false statements, and that a third student had been coached into making false statements by the complaining student. Alhonote then drafted a disciplinary letter, dated April 28, 2006, concluding that Goldvekht had pulled the student's arm in violation of Chancellor's Regulation A-420. On May 18, 2006, Goldvekht signed a copy of the letter indicating that he had received it and understood that a copy would be placed in his file.

Following this incident, Goldvekht sent three letters to Randi Weingarten, UFT's president, complaining that Alhonote's decision was biased and failed to consider Goldvekht's account of the incident and requesting that UFT investigate the incident.

In a July 6, 2006 letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Goldvekht stated that he received no response to his first two letters to UFT President Weingarten, and that when he personally delivered the third letter to her office, he was told to contact UFT's District 22 Representative, Fred Gross. Goldvekht says that he met with Gross on June 28 and was told that UFT would not investigate the incident because Goldvekht had not lost his job as a result of it. Goldvekht opined that Alhonote had a "biased opinion" of him and his performance, as indicated by the June 2006 End Term Evalution he attached to his letter. Jul. 6, 2006 Letter 2. In this evaluation, Alhonote described Goldvekht's attendance and punctuality as satisfactory, and his performance in all other categories, as well as his overall performance, as "good." Id. (unpaginated exhibit). Goldvekht signed the evaluation on June 26, 2006, but wrote that he disagreed with it, specifically noting that he took only one personal day during the 2005-2006 school year and had never been late.

On September 19, 2006, Goldvekht wrote a letter to Gross, attaching the documents related to his case and asking Gross to tell him "when the case will be reviewed again." Sept. 19 Letter 1. This letter states that Gross and Goldvekht had a conversation about the matter on September 18. On October 15, 2006, Goldvekht again wrote to Gross, this time to file "an official grievance" against Alhonote for her handling of the April 7 incident and to demand that Alhonote remove the disciplinary letter from her file. Oct. 15, 2006 Letter 1.

In December 2007, Goldvekht wrote nearly identical letters to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), Human Rights Watch, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. These letters state that

While I received no official reply [to the October 15 grievance], I did receive a visit from Mr. Gross on November 27, 2006, when he was at P.S. 254 to discuss the new union contract. Mr. Gross informed me that the internal investigation proved my innocence, but that Ms. Alhonote still refused to remove the letter of disciplinary action against me from my work file; that he could do nothing further; and that the official response to me from the union was not forthcoming.

Dec. 10, 2007 Letter to EEOC 2. Goldvekht also stated that he met with Gross and union chapter leader Eva Dilfanian on October 3, 2007. At this meeting, Gross allegedly denied receiving Goldvekht's grievance, and stated that since there was no "paper trail" to indicate that Goldvekht had requested an investigation, there would be no written response from UFT. Id. at 3. Goldvekht also claimed that Alhonote informed him that she had been "specifically instructed" by Gross not to conduct a reinvestigation. Id.

These letters also state that Alhonote "holds a biased opinion" of Goldvekht and his performance. Id. at 2. When he complained to her that the disciplinary letter had prevented him from getting a job elsewhere, she openly stated that the reason I would not get a job elsewhere was not my record, but rather my Jewish-Russian accent. Prior to this statement, principal Alhonote on a number of occasions has made fun of, and some derogatory remarks [sic] regarding my accent, although she ...


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