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Ignatti v. Webster Central School District

April 15, 2009

LOUIS IGNATTI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEBSTER CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Louis Ignatti ("Ignatti") brings this action against the Webster Central School District and its Transportation Department (collectively "the District") alleging that the District terminated his employment in retaliation for his participation in a proceeding before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§290 et seq. ("NYHRL").

The District now moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint (Dkt. #10). For the reasons that follow, the District's motion for summary judgment is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Ignatti was initially hired by the District in October 1997 as an on-call bus driver. He became a full-time bus driver for the District on May 21, 1998.

As a brief summary of the salient facts indicates, Ignatti's tenure with the District was a troubled one. In 1998, a note was placed in Ignatti's personnel file, relating to a complaint that he had left a student alone on a running bus. In 1999, Ignatti was reprimanded on several occasions for making inappropriate comments to a student, speeding, holding students on the bus for an extended period, leaving the bus in the school parking lot with the engine running, and failing to disclose a prior traffic violation to the District. In 2000, Ignatti was warned about unsafe behavior after his bus became stuck in a snowdrift, and was seen by a fellow bus driver dropping off a student at an unauthorized bus stop. In 2002, Ignatti received warnings and admonishments for using inappropriate language in the bus garage, failing to timely arrive to pick up a boys' soccer team, and making an unauthorized copy of an ignition key for one of the buses.

In 2003, Ignatti sent a profanity-laced e-mail to a superior and was required by the District to attend sensitivity training. In 2004, Ignatti was criticized for poor judgment after making a wrong turn on his route and attempting a three-point turn which resulted in the rear bumper of the bus becoming stuck on a bridge embankment. On December 14, 2004, Ignatti was suspended for 20 days without pay for cumulative incidents of unsafe driving, conducting union business at work, making an unauthorized stop, and on several occasions, speeding while driving a school bus.

In 2005, Ignatti was instructed to disclose to the District a medication he was taking which could make him drowsy. From the beginning of 2005 until September 2006, Ignatti was out of work for health reasons. During this time, he was convicted of a traffic violation.

In early March 2006, one of Ignatti's co-workers filed a charge with the EEOC, accusing her supervisor of sexual harassment. The EEOC notified the District of the charge on or about March 23, 2006. The same day, Ignatti signed an affidavit in support of his co-worker's complaint, which was submitted to the EEOC. (Dkt. #12, Att. 7, Exh. 31).

After returning to work in September 2006, Ignatti was admonished for failure to replace bus keys in the appropriate place, make required entries in the log book, or conduct proper pre-trip checks of the bus.

On October 3, 2006, a police officer was called to investigate a citizen's complaint that a "pervert," armed with a camera, was hiding in the bushes near R. L. Thomas High School. The officer found Ignatti, who had "called in sick" for his employment with the District, hiding in nearby shrubbery on private property, videotaping the buses coming and going. Ignatti identified himself to the officer, and explained that he believed he was being harassed by the District for not performing a proper pre-check before departing on bus routes, and was attempting to prove that other drivers were committing similar infractions. A few days later, Ignatti was admonished for being disrespectful to a District administrator, and for missing a meeting.

On or about October 20, 2006, Ignatti was suspended without pay. The grounds for the suspension included several enumerated prior performance issues and incidents of unsafe and/or unusual behavior, including the videotaping incident. On November 2, 2006, District Superintendent Adele Bovard recommended, and the Board approved, Ignatti's termination from employment, based upon the same grounds. Ignatti was informed of that action the following day.

Ignatti filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on November 21, 2006, alleging retaliation based upon his participation as a witness in support of an unidentified co-worker's EEOC charge, and received a notice of right to sue from the EEOC on November 30, 2006.

On February 26, 2007, Ignatti commenced the instant action, alleging that his termination had occurred in retaliation for making "a statement on behalf of a former co-worker in regards to their supervisor's misconduct," in violation of Title VII ...


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