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Omar Abdelhadi v. the City of New York

August 3, 2011

OMAR ABDELHADI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, AND MARTIN F. HORN, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Omar Abdelhadi, an observant Muslim of Middle Eastern descent, sues the City of New York and the former head of its Department of Correction ("DOC"), Martin F. Horn.*fn1 Proceeding under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), he alleges that he was subjected to ethnic and religious discrimination during his employment with DOC. Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he further alleges that he was deprived of his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Court held oral argument on March 16, 2011, and has considered the parties' pre- and post-argument submissions. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed or, if disputed, presented in the light most favorable to Abdelhadi. See Federal Ins. Co. v. American Home Assurance Co., 639 F.3d 557, 566 (2d Cir. 2011).

A. Abdelhadi's Employment History

Abdelhadi began training at the DOC academy in June 2005. He immediately requested religious accommodations, asking to be excused from working a night shift every other Friday "for Islamic prayer observation," and for permission to "carry a lite beard for Islamic beliefs." Defs.' Rule 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 8-10. DOC granted these requests, as well as Abdelhadi's periodic requests for time off for religious observances.

Abdelhadi's training came with probationary employment as a DOC officer. He was qualified to use firearms for certain job functions and, with DOC's permission, purchased a personal firearm for on- and off-duty use.

B. NYPD's Allegations

Later in 2005, two New York Police Department ("NYPD") officers informed Horn that Abdelhadi was a subject in an ongoing counterterrorism investigation. The officers told Horn that the plaintiff had, in the presence of undercover officer Kamil Pasha,*fn2 made comments about wanting to engage in jihad. According to the officers, Pasha had heard the statements while attending meetings at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge. The officers did not provide Horn with details at that time, and there is no evidence that Horn took any immediate action.

In January 2007, the NYPD officers gave Horn a memorandum detailing specific statements attributed to Abdelhadi between February 11, 2004, and June 2, 2005:

* "[W]e are going to hit America and they won't even know it."

* "[W]e must learn how to shoot because when jihad breaks between the kufars [infidels] and Muslims in America, we must be ready."*fn3

Defs.' Rule 56.1 Statement ¶ 44. The memorandum further alleged the Abdelhadi made comments that "he does not care about the Corrections department, and that all he wants is guns." Id.

The statements listed in the memo were drawn from conversations recorded on audiotape in the course of NYPD's investigation. Following oral argument, the Court directed Abdelhadi's counsel to review the tapes and submit any excerpts relevant to his claims. Having done so, counsel has not argued that the memorandum reported any statements that were not on the tapes, or inaccurately described those that were. Nor does Abdelhadi dispute that Horn read the memorandum.

C. DOC's Response

Horn ordered a confidential internal investigation in order to "reassure [DOC] as an agency that it could rely on [the statements in the January 2007 memorandum]." Id. ¶ 48. Horn and other DOC officials met with Pasha, who confirmed that the memorandum accurately conveyed what he had heard Abdelhadi say. At his deposition, Horn stated that he did not listen to the underlying tape recordings based, in part, on Pasha's reassurance.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Richard White-DOC's Deputy Commissioner for Investigations and Trials-prepared a confidential memorandum recommending Abdelhadi's termination. White reasoned that Abdelhadi had "obtained a firearm under what appeared to be less than credible motives. It was not for self-protection, ...


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