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Melissa General v. Center For Disability Rights

April 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Plaintiff, Melissa General ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging sexual discrimination. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment during her employment by Defendant, the Center for Disability Rights ("Defendant" or "CDR").

Defendant now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56") arguing that the Plaintiff has not produced sufficient evidence to support her discrimination claim. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion and argues that there are genuine issues of material fact. For the reasons set forth below this Court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint is hereby dismissed with prejudice.


CDR is a New York, not-for-profit corporation that provides various services to disabled individuals. CDR has contracted with the Monroe County Department of Social Services to assist individuals with disabilities through the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Service Program ("CDPAS"). Through this program, qualified disabled persons are able to receive home care services and oversee their own care.

As part of this program, the disabled person, known as a "consumer," may select an in-home attendant. The consumer makes nearly all of the employment decisions with respect to the attendant, including, inter alia, recruiting, hiring, training, scheduling, supervising, and firing; while CDR acts as an official "employer of record" for tax, insurance and worker's compensation purposes. The attendant may leave a particular consumer at any time. If an attendant leaves a consumer, the attendant will be placed on a list of available attendants, which is maintained by CDR. The attendant's list is often used by consumers and SDO's to select an attendant.

The consumer also selects a "self-directed other" ("SDO"), at their sole discretion, to oversee the consumer's care in the event that they are incapable. The relationship between the consumer and the SDO is not governed by CDR (although CDR requires that a consumer select an SDO) or the CDPAS program, rather the SDO serves as a personal representative for the consumer, and the consumer has the power to select and remove the SDO at will.

During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was an attendant for CDPAS consumer, Virginia Keuntz ("Keuntz"). Keuntz and her SDO, Raymond Oliver Taylor ("Taylor"), hired the Plaintiff in late 2003. While Plaintiff worked for Keuntz, Taylor, who lived with Keuntz, made sexually explicit comments to Plaintiff on approximately six or seven occasions. Further, Plaintiff states that Keuntz and a friend of Keuntz, David Raufeisen, informed the Plaintiff that Taylor made sexually explicit comments about her on other occasions.

Plaintiff states that she called CDR regarding Taylor's behavior once prior to September 2004. She did not speak with anyone, but she claims that she left a message, although she does not state with whom she left the message. CDR claims that it did not receive the message, and, for this reason, it did not follow up with the Plaintiff regarding her alleged complaint. In her deposition, Plaintiff testified that she did not follow up with the complaint because Taylor later apologized to her. She further testified that she did not attempt to find work with another consumer at the time because, she stated, "Why? I had a great job. I loved my job. Why would I do that?"

On September 26, 2004, an altercation between Keuntz and Taylor occurred at Keuntz's home during Plaintiff's shift. The police were called to the residence, and Plaintiff gave a statement to the police about the altercation. Later that day, Plaintiff was terminated from her position as an attendant for Keuntz by Taylor.

Plaintiff then called CDR and left a message for Mary Willoughby, the Human Resource Director at CDR. Plaintiff also sent an email to Willoughby on September 28, 2004, detailing the verbal abuse by Taylor towards Keuntz, and complaining of the sexually explicit comments he had made to her and about her. CDR asserts that the only complaint that it received from the Plaintiff was the September 28 email. CDR claims that they did not receive either of the two phone calls that Plaintiff allegedly made to CDR regarding Taylor's behavior.

Following the incident, and their receipt of Plaintiff's e-mail, CDR launched an investigation into the incident and attempted to persuade Keuntz to remove Taylor as her SDO. Keuntz, however, refused to do so. CDR informed Plaintiff that they would not return her to work for Keuntz and they immediately placed Plaintiff on the available attendant's list. In early October, Plaintiff began to work for another consumer, Shelly Perrin, however, the hours required were less than those required for Keuntz. Plaintiff, therefore, remained on the available attendant's list because she was no longer working full-time.

CDR contacted Plaintiff for at least seven possible attendant positions, but Plaintiff either did not return CDR's calls, refused to attend the interviews, or missed the interviews entirely. Plaintiff claims that she refused to work for several of these potential consumers ...

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