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Ray v. Klyczek

September 30, 2009

ROBIN RAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES P. KLYCZEK AND STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK NIAGARA COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Robin Ray filed this action on June 30, 2008, alleging that Defendants discriminated against her and violated her rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and the New York State Human Rights Law, when they terminated her employment and declined to renew her employment contract because of her race.

Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and (c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,*fn1 on the ground that each of Ray's claims is time-barred. In response to the motion, Ray has withdrawn her claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and the New York State Human Rights Law. Remaining for decision is the timeliness of Ray's claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. Having reviewed the parties' submissions this Court finds oral argument unnecessary.

II. FACTS

The relevant facts, as set forth in the Complaint, are as follows. Ray, an African American woman, was appointed a member of the faculty at Niagara County Community College ("NCCC") in 2000, for an initial two-year appointment. She received consecutive one-year appointments for the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 academic years. The end date of the latter appointment was August 31, 2005.

By letter dated March 24, 2005, Defendant Klyczek notified Ray that her appointment would not be renewed for the 2005-2006 academic year. Four other employees, all Caucasian, whose appointments were eligible for renewal at the same time, received continuing appointments.

Klyczek subsequently notified Ray, by letter dated May 19, 2005, that he would recommend to the NCCC Board that her current appointment terminate on June 30, 2005, rather than August 31, 2005. By letter dated May 26, 2005, Klyczek notified Ray that the NCCC Board had decided to amend her appointment end date to June 30, 2005. When Ray reported to work on July 5, 2005, she was asked to leave her work station, which she did under protest. The NCCC Faculty Association pursued a grievance and arbitration on Ray's behalf, which resulted in an Opinion and Award dated April 29, 2008. The Arbitrator found NCCC had violated the collective bargaining agreement when it amended the end date of Ray's 2004-2005 appointment.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The § 1981 Statute of Limitations

Ray alleges that she was wrongfully terminated under her existing contract and denied the same opportunity as Caucasian employees to enter into a new contract.

As originally enacted, § 1981 permitted claims based on racial discrimination in the employment context only when the discrimination occurred in the making and enforcement of contracts. See Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 171, 176-77, 109 S.Ct. 2363, 105 L.Ed. 2d 132 (1989) (holding § 1981 did "not apply to conduct which occurs after the formation of a contract and which does not interfere with the right to enforce established contract obligations"). In 1991, partially in response to Patterson, Congress amended § 1981 to encompass race discrimination in the performance of contracts as well. Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 477, 126 S.Ct. 1246, 163 L.Ed. 2d 1069 (2006); 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b) ("[f]or purposes of this section, the term 'make and enforce contracts' includes the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms and conditions of the contractual relationship"). Thus, the alleged wrongs-the termination of an existing agreement and discrimination in the making of a new agreement-are now both cognizable under § 1981.

Defendants contend that the § 1981 claim is subject to a three-year statute of limitations and time-barred. Ray argues that a four-year limitations period applies, making her claim timely.

Like many federal statutes, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 does not contain a statute of limitations. Consistent with the Supreme Court's holding in Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., 482 U.S. 656, 660, 107 S.Ct. 2617, 96 L.Ed. 2d 572 (1987), courts in this Circuit had routinely applied New York's three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions to section 1981 claims, finding it to be "the most appropriate or analogous ...


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