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Jonah Seeman v. Gracie Gardens Owners Corp. and Cooper Square Realty Inc

June 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cedarbaum, J.


Plaintiff Jonah Seeman brings this action against defendants Gracie Gardens Owners Corp., the residential cooperative that employed him for forty years, and its managing agent, Cooper Square Realty Inc. The complaint alleges that defendants took various adverse employment actions against Seeman because of his mental disability. Seeman claims violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; the New York State Human Rights Law, New York State Executive Law § 290, et seq.; and the New York City Human Rights Law, New York City Administrative Code § 8-101, et seq. In addition to these discrimination claims, Seeman asserts violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"),29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the New York Labor Law, N.Y. Lab. L. § 650 et seq., for failure to pay overtime.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.


This case shares a common background with Seeman's companion suit against Gracie Gardens and his union, discussed in Seeman v.Local 32B-32J, Service Employees Union, F.Supp.2d ___, No. 09 Civ. 4901, 2011 WL 813771 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 3, 2011). Seeman is a 63-year-old man who has been diagnosed with a developmental disorder. Despite his limitations, he worked for over forty years as a doorman in an apartment building owned by Gracie Gardens and managed by Cooper Square Realty. His job required him to monitor people entering and leaving the building, assist residents, log visitors and packages into a log book, and respond to emergencies. Over the course of his entire tenure at Gracie Gardens, Seeman neither required nor requested any accommodation for diminished mental capacity.

On December 4, 2007, following various complaints about Seeman's body odor and bad breath, Seeman received a one-day suspension from work ("the 2007 suspension"). The following week, Seeman visited a dental clinic. A dentist at the clinic reported that Seeman exhibited an "offensive smell" believed to be body odor from Ketosis, a condition related to Seeman's diabetes.

On February 8, 2008, Seeman was suspended again, this time because his locker had become infested with bedbugs ("the 2008 suspension"). Seeman's residence, which he shared with his elderly mother, turned out to be similarly bug-ridden. Gracie Gardens prohibited Seeman from returning to work until he could confirm that his residence had been inspected, treated, and certified by a licensed examiner as free of bedbugs.

Because of the infestation, however, Seeman and his mother had already signed a lease for a new apartment and purchased new furniture. Seeman attempted to satisfy Gracie Gardens' demands by proving that he and his mother had moved to a new, bedbug-free apartment. To that end, he provided Gracie Gardens with copies of the lease for the new apartment, a receipt showing the purchase of new furniture, and a receipt from an exterminator confirming that the new apartment was clean of bedbugs. Gracie Gardens, which had not been advised that Seeman was moving to a new apartment when it issued the 2008 suspension, refused to reinstate him. Instead, it demanded that Seeman produce an exterminator's inspection of not only his new apartment, but also the apartment in which he had previously been living. Because Seeman had already vacated his previous apartment, he was unable to meet this demand, and remained suspended.

On February 27, 2008, Seeman's mother drafted a letter of resignation for her son. It stated in relevant part:

I am writing this letter to let you know that after 41 years of service, I have to retire so I can take care of my mother who is 81 years old and can not take care of herself. Please send all the pay that is coming to me including my pay for 5 weeks vacation. Thank you very much it was very nice working for you. Seeman read the letter, signed it, and mailed it to Gracie Gardens. According to the deposition testimony of both Seeman and his mother, Seeman resigned because his mother did not want him to return to work.

On March 6, 2008, Gracie Gardens accepted Seeman's resignation. It also issued him payroll checks for his accrued vacation and sick leave, one personal day, and the one-day 2007 suspension, all of which Seeman cashed. After this, Seeman applied for his pension benefits.

Over a month later, Seeman signed a letter that his brother had drafted rescinding the resignation. Yet despite signing the rescission letter, Seeman testified at his deposition that he actually had no interest in returning to work and preferred instead to stay home and care for his mother. Gracie Gardens received the rescission letter on May 5, 2008.

On May 1, 2008, Seeman filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). After the EEOC dismissed that ...

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