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Mark Adamczyk v. New York State Department of Correctional Services

March 10, 2011


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



Plaintiff Mark Adamczyk commenced this employment discrimination action by filing a Complaint in the District Court for the Western District of New York. (Docket No. 1.) Therein, he alleges that Defendant New York State Department of Correctional Services discriminated against him based on his race (Caucasian). Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (hereinafter, "Title VII") and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. EXEC. L. §§ 296 et seq. (hereinafter, "NYHRL").

Presently before this Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety.*fn1 (Docket No. 19.) Plaintiff opposes the motion.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is granted.


A. Facts

Plaintiff was hired by Defendant New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereinafter, "DOCS") in 1985 as a correction officer. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 3.) He was assigned to Wende Correctional Facility (hereinafter, "Wende") from 1986 until 1993. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was promoted to sergeant in 1993 and was assigned to other correctional facilities within New York State. (Id.) He returned to Wende in 1997, was promoted to lieutenant in 2001, and remained at Wende until his termination in 2005. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.) Plaintiff's job title in September 2005 was Watch Commander, making him the highest ranking officer during the 3 pm -11 pm shift after facility administrative officers left at around 5pm. (Id. ¶ 8.)

During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was a member of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (hereinafter, "Union"), which operates pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (hereinafter, "CBA") it entered into with the State, governing the terms and conditions of employment. (Pl.'s Ex. KK, PERB Decision, p. 1.)

On the morning of September 22, 2005, an inmate named Catus, who was housed on C-Block at Wende, made a threat against Correction Officer (hereinafter, "CO") Dennis Martin. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 16.) Superintendent Zon (hereinafter, "Supt. Zon") issued a misbehavior report and directed that Catus be evaluated by the Office of Mental Health. (Id. ¶ 18; Pl.'s Ex. Q, Inmate Misbehavior Report, Sept. 22, 2005; Pl.'s Ex. R.) Supt. Zon then notified Captain Kearney (hereinafter, "Capt. Kearney") of the threat. (Pl.'s Ex. R.)

Prior to the start of the 3pm-11pm shift, Capt. Kearney met with the staff, including Plaintiff and CO Martin, for the daily briefing. (Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 9; Def.'s Ex. B, Tr. 22:5, 13-16, Oct. 7, 2005.) He reported that inmate Catus made a threat against CO Martin and as a result was "not going anyplace." (Kearney Dec. ¶ 3; Def.'s Ex. B, Tr. 7:11, Oct. 7, 2005.) At that time, Catus was a keep-locked inmate, meaning he could only leave his cell for specific reasons stated in DOCS directives and policies. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 27.) One of the officers asked if Catus could come out for a keep-lock shower, which was authorized under the policy. (Def.'s Ex. B, Tr. 10:8-9, Oct. 7, 2005.) Plaintiff, who was standing next to Capt. Kearney replied, "I don't have a problem." (Id. 10:11-12.) He looked at the Captain, who did not give an affirmative answer, but simply shrugged his shoulders. (Id. 10:10-11, 11:1.) Plaintiff further stated to the officer, "Okay, just be careful." (Id. 11:2.) Plaintiff then told CO Martin that if Catus was out of his cell there should be another officer present to back him up. (Id. 11:4-14; Def.'s Ex G, PERB Opinion and Award, p. 10.)

Around 4:00 pm, CO Martin opened the C-Block gallery gate and entered the gallery to pass out mail at the same time Catus was out of his cell for his shower. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 53.) An altercation ensued between CO Martin and inmate Catus. (Id. ¶ 54.) After CO Martin sounded his personal alarm, CO Eric Hunt, CO Rhyreef Patton, and Sgt. Addison came to assist in subduing and restraining the inmate. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.) Both CO Martin and Catus sustained injuries. (Id. ¶ 57.) Plaintiff completed an "Unusual Incident Report" and directed all staff involved to complete mandated reports. (Id. ¶¶ 60, 63; Pl.'s Ex. T.) He also contacted Capt. Kearney, who was the Officer of the Day, to apprise him of the "unusual incident." (Pl. Aff. ¶ 61.)

The DOCS Inspector General's Office (hereinafter, "IG's Office") conducted an independent investigation and concluded Plaintiff was insubordinate and violated a direct order from Capt. Kearney when he let the inmate out of his cell. (Def.'s Ex. F, IG Investigative Report, p. 3.) The IG's Office also found Plaintiff filed a false report and made false statements when questioned under oath, claiming the Captain did not give direction for inmate Catus to be removed from the security of his cell. (Id.) Moreover, it found CO's Martin, Hunt, and Patton removed Catus from his cell and intentionally assaulted him. (Id.) The CO's were also found to have filed false reports and made false statements under oath. (Id.) The IG's Office recommended the case be forwarded to the Bureau of Labor Relations. (Id.)

Due to the findings of the IG's Office, DOCS's Labor Relations Office suspended Plaintiff without pay on October 11, 2005.*fn3 (Brown Dec. ¶ 6; Def.'s Ex. C.) On October 14, 2005, Plaintiff was issued a Notice of Discipline (hereinafter, "NOD") recommending termination. (Brown Dec. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff, through his Union, grieved the NOD, seeking dismissal of all charges, reinstatement, and make-whole remedy. (Def.'s Ex. G, PERB Opinion and Award, p. 4.) A grievance hearing was held in front of a Public Employment Relations Board (hereinafter, "PERB") arbitrator on January 6, 2006. (Id. p. 3.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (Brown Dec. ¶ 9.) Both parties were allowed to present witnesses and submit documentary evidence and briefs. (Id.) Thereafter, the arbitrator denied the grievance, finding Plaintiff was guilty of charges contained in the NOD and there was probable cause for his suspension without pay. (Def.'s Ex. G, PERB Opinion and Award, p. 13.) The arbitrator recommended Plaintiff be dismissed from service. (Id.)

Under the CBA, "[t]he disciplinary arbitrator's decision with respect to guilt or innocence, penalty, or probable cause for suspension. . . shall be final and binding upon the parties..." (Def.'s Ex. D, § 8.2(h).) Peter Brown, DOCS's Director of the Bureau of Labor Relations, terminated Plaintiff effective March 25, 2006. (Brown Dec. ¶ 12; Def.'s Ex. H.) Plaintiff wrote to DOCS Commissioner Glenn Goord and Governor Pataki, asking them to intervene. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 101; Pl.'s Ex. SS.) Commissioner Goord replied that they would not alter the arbitrator's award, pursuant to DOCS policy. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 102; Pl.'s Ex. TT.)

CO's Martin, Hunt, and Patton, all African Americans, also received NODs recommending termination. (Def.'s Ex. F, IG Investigative Report, p. 3; Brown Dec. ¶ 14.) CO Martin and CO Hunt were suspended without pay on November 28, 2005. (Pl.'s Ex. KK, PERB Decision, pp. 9, 10.) The State withdrew its case against CO Patton since it determined he was not present during the incident with Catus. (Pl.'s Ex. WW, Declaration of W. James Schwan, Esq.) On December 9, 2009, the Union grieved CO Martin and CO Hunt's NODs. (Pl.'s Ex. KK, PERB Decision, p. 10.) Their grievance hearings were held in May 2006 in front of a different PERB arbitrator. (Id. p. 1.)

As to CO Martin, the arbitrator found the State did not have probable cause to suspend him, as he violated only Charge Number 2 in the NOD, in that he failed to take proper security measures when he left the end gate open while Catus was out of his cell. (Id. p. 11.) CO Martin's penalty was to pay a $1,000 fine. (Id.) He was reinstated and made whole for lost wages and benefits in accordance with the CBA. (Id. p. 19.)

As to CO Hunt, the arbitrator similarly found the State did not have probable cause to suspend him. (Id. p. 12.) The arbitrator noted CO Hunt was ordered to give aid to CO Martin when Catus was given a keep-lock shower and he properly followed that directive. (Id.) CO Hunt was found not guilty on all charges stated in the NOD and was reinstated ...

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