Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kratz v. Village of Solvay

June 1, 2009

JOHN KRATZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF SOLVAY, DAVID PETTITT, ANTHONY MODAFERI, AND JOHN DOE ONE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff filed this § 1983 action alleging (1) retaliatory termination for reporting improper dumping of sewage and toxic substances in violation of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") and possibly*fn1 (2) a procedural due process claim related to his termination.

Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the following grounds: (1) Plaintiff has failed to show a prima facie First Amendment Retaliation claim because there was no protected speech and no causal connection; (2) assuming Plaintiff established a prima facie case, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment because Defendant Village of Solvay ("Village") would have terminated Plaintiff anyway; (3) Plaintiff's due process claim is without merit as Plaintiff received appropriate process; and (4) Plaintiff has failed to provide evidence to support his theory of municipal liability against Defendant Village.

II. BACKGROUND

Defendant Village hired Plaintiff on May 3, 1999, in the Village's Department of Public Works ("DPW"). Plaintiff was a union member of AFSCME New York Council 66, Local 815. When he was hired, Plaintiff received an Employee Handbook that discussed insubordination, attendance, and other employee obligations. Plaintiff was also subject to a collective bargaining agreement that set hours of work and provided a grievance procedure for disagreements regarding discipline.

In April of 2003, Defendant Village terminated Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff, with his union, filed a grievance that went to arbitration and resulted in a finding that Defendant Village had "just cause" to terminate Plaintiff's employment.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

"Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Holcomb v. Iona College, 521 F.3d 130, 137 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). First the moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; then, the opposing party must present evidence, beyond the pleadings, to satisfy every element of the claim and to show a genuine issue for trial. See id. (citations omitted). The court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the opposing party.See id. (citation omitted).

B. Plaintiff's First Amendment Claim

Defendants assert that Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because Plaintiff has not shown that he engaged in protected speech or that there is a causal connection between the alleged protected speech and his alleged adverse employment action. Defendants further assert that, assuming Plaintiff can establish a prima facie case, they are entitled to summary judgment because they would have terminated Plaintiff's employment regardless of the alleged protected speech.

"To prevail on a First Amendment retaliation claim, a public employee must establish: '[1] that the speech at issue was protected, [2] that he suffered an adverse employment action, and [3] that there was a causal connection between the protected speech and the adverse employment action.'" Diesel v. Town of Lewisboro, 232 F.3d 92, 107 (2d Cir. 2000) (quotation and other citations omitted).

Plaintiff has testified that the only evidence he has of a causal connection is the temporal proximity of his termination to his contacting the DEC. See Deposition of John C. Kratz dated June 14, 2007, at 111-13, 118.The causal connection must be sufficiently strong to support an inference that the "protected speech was a 'substantial motivating factor' in the employment decision." Berrios v. State Univ. of N.Y. at Stony Brook, 518 F. Supp. 2d 409, 416 (E.D.N.Y. 2007); see also Diesel, 232 F.3d at 107 (quotation omitted). Such connection may be shown circumstantially by a showing of temporal proximity. See Berrios, 518 F. Supp. 2d at 416-17. However, the inference does not arise where the adverse employment action is ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.