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James Mitchell v. New York City Transit Authority

March 29, 2011

JAMES MITCHELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

James Mitchell ("Plaintiff" or "Mitchell") filed suit against his employer, the New York City Transit Authority ("Defendant" or "TA"), alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq.

("ADA"). Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has been an employee of the TA since 1986, and has worked under the Conductor title since 1996. As a Conductor, Plaintiff was assigned to the Department of Subways, Division of Rapid Transit Operating Authority, which is responsible for the operation of the New York City subway trains. The Transport Workers Union, Local 100 ("TWU" or "Local 100") represents all employees under the Conductor title for the purposes of collective bargaining and resolution of disputes related to the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the TA and Local 100.

A.Policies and Benefits Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement

As a CBA benefit, most union represented employees may select their "work location, tour of duty, job preference, [and] train run ." every six months. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 17-18.) Job preference options for employees in the Conductor title include revenue train service (i.e., operation of a train), platform duty, handswitching, and fare collection, amongst other options. Between 1997 and 2009, Plaintiff chose revenue train service for various subway lines as his job preference under the Conductor title.

In addition to job preference options, the CBA also provides for 12 paid sick days per year. To complement the 12 paid sick days, TA employees are also eligible for supplemental sick leave benefits at 60% pay depending on the employee's length of employment in the TA. Employees become eligible for supplemental sick leave when they have exhausted their regular paid sick days and then are absent for nine or more consecutive work days due to illness.

In order to receive both paid and supplemental sick leave benefits, employees must submit a sick form that details the reason for their absence within three days of their return to work. Absences greater than two days require sick forms certified by medical proof (usually in the form of a doctor's note). Employees were also notified that failure to submit a sick form within three days of that employee's return to work would result in loss of pay for the period in question and possibly also disciplinary charges. This information is also stated explicitly on the sick form.

If an employee fails to submit a sick form five times, the CBA requires that employee's supervisor to counsel the employee and instruct him to improve his sick leave record. After a sixth unsubstantiated absence, the employee is placed on the sick leave control list, which requires that employee to provide medical documentation for all subsequent sick leave absences. Employees found to be in violation of the CBA sick leave policies are subject to denial of sick leave, disciplinary action, and possible termination.

Once on the sick leave control list, employees are reviewed every six months to assess their attendance. Employees with two or less absences due to illness are removed from the sick leave control list. Employees who have two or more absences due to illness remain on the sick leave control list and may be subject to disciplinary action.

B.Plaintiff's Medical History and Plaintiff's History at the TA

Since 1999, Plaintiff has suffered from diverticulitis, a chronic medical condition that causes gastrointestinal problems and occasionally renders Plaintiff unable to control his bowels. Diverticulitis is aggravated by tension, and Dr. Basileo, Plaintiff's physician, notes that he is "more sensitive than most to workplace irritations." (Basileo Decl. ¶ 11.) As a result of Plaintiff's diverticulitis, he has frequently missed work.

Between January 2, 1999 and October 29, 2009, the TA paid plaintiff his regular sick leave benefits totaling $86,735.88. Additionally, Plaintiff applied for supplemental sick leave 14 times, and the TA approved Plaintiff's applications in 10 out of the 14 instances. Between 1998 and 2008, Plaintiff was absent from work ...


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