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Cinelli v. Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District

December 1, 2009

PATTI CINELLI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OPPENHEIM-EPHRATAH CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Patti Cinelli ("plaintiff") brings suit against the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District ("defendant") pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., as a result of being terminated from her employment.

Plaintiff alleges four causes of action in her amended complaint: first, that her employer unlawfully interfered with her rights under the FMLA after she was terminated for excessive absenteeism; second, that defendant failed to notify her of her FMLA rights, thereby interfering with her rights under the Act; third, that her termination was in violation of New York Civil Service Law § 75; and fourth, that defendant is liable for breach of contract for failing to comply with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement entered into with plaintiff's union. (See Pl's. Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 23.)

Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff opposes. Defendant's motion was considered without oral argument.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed as defendant's custodian from 1995 until 2005. During that period, she became the legal guardian for her three foster children. According to plaintiff, her foster children suffer from several physical and psychological delays due to their biological mother's substance abuse. Additionally, plaintiff alleges she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. As a result of her medical condition and the various ailments suffered by her foster children, plaintiff was absent from work for various periods during the course of her employment with defendant.

On February 25, 2003, then Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra sent plaintiff a letter instructing her to provide a physician's note for her most recent absence as well as for each future absence during the school year. (Ex. 4 to Pl's. Dep., Dkt. No. 38-7, 47.)

On March 5, 2003, Mr. Tangorra again wrote plaintiff a letter expressly stating that, contrary to plaintiff's prior assertions, the February 25 letter constituted a written reprimand for her excessive absenteeism, and he reiterated that she must provide a physician's note for future sick leave or otherwise face a suspension without pay for up to five days. Mr. Tangorra also warned that her failure to provide a physician's note following her suspension would result in her dismissal. (See Ex. 6 to Pl's. Dep., Dkt. No. 38-7, 52.)

Effective May 19, 2003, plaintiff was suspended for five days without pay for failing to provide a physician's note after missing six work days. In his letter notifying plaintiff of the basis for her suspension, Mr. Tangorra explained that continued absenteeism could lead to plaintiff's termination. (See Ex. 7 to Pl's. Dep., Dkt. No. 38-7, 54.)

Mr. Tangorra later learned that plaintiff intended to call-in sick on June 12, 2003. In his letter dated June 11, 2003, Mr. Tangorra directed plaintiff to report to work on June 12 and warned her that her failure to do so would result in a discipline hearing leading to her eventual termination in accordance with her union's collective bargaining agreement. (See Ex. 8 to Pl's. Dep., Dkt. No. 38-7, 56.)

On November 4, 2005, plaintiff was terminated due to her excessive absenteeism. Pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement entered into between defendant and her union, plaintiff filed a grievance disputing her termination. On November 28, 2005, plaintiff's grievance was denied. (See Ex. 3 to Pl's. Dep., Dkt. No. 38-7, 42-45.) Plaintiff later filed her lawsuit on March 5, 2007.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is warranted "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10 (1986). All facts, inferences therefrom, and ambiguities must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986); Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246, 251 (2d Cir. 2001). The moving party carries the initial burden of demonstrating an ...


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