United States District Court, E.D. New York
Decided March 27, 2013.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Robert Pietri, Plaintiff, Pro se, Asheville, NC.
For N.Y.S. Office of Court Administration, James Imperatrice, Honorable Ann Pfau, Herbert Adlerberg, Defendants: Michael John Siudzinski, Office of the Attorney General of NY, New York, NY.
MARGO K. BRODIE, United States District Judge.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Plaintiff Robert Pietri proceeding pro se brings the above-captioned against Defendants New York State Office of Court Administration (" OCA" ), James Imperatrice, the Chief Court Clerk of the Kings County Supreme Court, Ann Pfau, the former Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Unified Court System, and Herbert Adlerberg, a Judicial Hearing Officer of the New York State Unified Court System, asserting claims of failure to accommodate, denial of constitutional rights, racial discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment pursuant to Title I of the American with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for lost pay and benefits, as well as injunctive relief in the form of restoration to the rank of sergeant.
Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. The Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's ADA claims against all Defendants, § 1983 claims against Defendants OCA and Defendant Adlerberg, § 1983 claims against Defendants Imperatrice and Pfau in their official capacities, and Title VII claims against the Individual
Defendants. Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied as to Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Defendants Imperatrice and Pfau in their individual capacities and Title VII claims against OCA. Plaintiff is granted thirty (30) days from the date of this Memorandum and Order to file an amended complaint.
Plaintiff began working as a court officer with OCA on October 17, 1978. (Narrative Appendix to Complaint (" Compl. App." ) 1.) Plaintiff was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1991. ( Id.) In 2004 and 2005, Plaintiff filed two separate complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (" EEOC" ) claiming that OCA had a practice of discriminating against Hispanic officers. (Pl. Opp'n Mem. 3-4, 7.) After filing each complaint with the EEOC, Plaintiff filed a corresponding federal action. ( Id.) Both federal actions were voluntarily withdrawn by Plaintiff and dismissed without prejudice. See Pietri v. Imperatrice et al, No. 04 Civ. 3415; Pietri v. N.Y. Office of Court Admin., No. 05 Civ. 3302. As a result of litigating these actions, Plaintiff suffered from anxiety, depression, sleep problems and contemplated suicide. (Pl. Opp'n Mem. 4.) He received medical treatment and was prescribed several medications to treat these conditions. ( Id.)
On January 7, 2008, Plaintiff notified the Kings County District Attorney's (" DA's" ) office that a Caucasian officer under Plaintiff's supervision, Jeffery Brennan, was operating a gambling operation from within the Kings County Supreme Court Courthouse (" Kings County Courthouse" ). (Pl. Opp'n Mem. 2.) Three days later, Plaintiff filed another report about the same allegations with the DA's office, after receiving a death threat from Brennan. ( Id.) On February 21, 2008, Plaintiff claims that Brennan threatened him and pushed him into a desk, resulting in atom ligament in Plaintiff's foot. ( Id. at 4.) As a result of this injury, Plaintiff was forced to take chargeable sick time, despite the fact that the injury took place while Plaintiff was on duty. ( Id.) When Plaintiff used all of his available sick time, he was placed on unpaid medical leave beginning May 22, 2008 and ending August 27, 2009. (Compl. App. 1-2; Defs. Mem. 2.)
After an OCA investigation determined that Plaintiff had likely fabricated his claims regarding the gambling operation and the assault by Brennan, OCA filed administrative charges against Plaintiff on May 22, 2008, seeking his termination. (Compl. App. 2; Compl. Ex. 1 (" Specification of Charges" ) at 1-3.)
An administrative hearing was held on January 27, 2009 and February 24, 2009
before Defendant Adlerberg. (Siudzinski Decl. Ex. D (" Report and Recommendation" ) 1.) During the course of the hearings, Plaintiff claims that Adlerberg " hurried and harassed" Plaintiff's attorney and excluded evidence that was favorable to Plaintiff. (Pl. Opp'n Mem. 6.) Plaintiff also claims that he was denied access to exculpatory material during the discovery process, including notes from investigatory interviews with Plaintiff, and that false evidence was manufactured against him. ( Id.) On March 29, 2009, Adlerberg issued a report and recommendation finding that Plaintiff filed false reports and lied about being assaulted by Brennan in order to obtain worker's compensation benefits. (Compl. Ex. 2 (" Stipulation of Settlement" ).) On May 11, 2009, Plaintiff and the OCA signed a stipulation of settlement (" Stipulation of Settlement" ) resolving these charges. ( Id.) Under the terms of the Stipulation of Settlement, Plaintiff admitted the charges against him and waived any right to appeal. ( Id.) Plaintiff's continued employment was subject to a three-year probation, he was prohibited from carrying firearms on or off-duty, and he agreed to retire by March 27, 2012. ( Id.) The Stipulation of Settlement also required that Plaintiff be transferred from the Kings County Courthouse to the Bronx County Supreme Court Courthouse (" Bronx County Courthouse" ) and that he be demoted in rank from sergeant to officer. ( Id.) Although Plaintiff agreed to these terms, Plaintiff claims he did so under duress. (Compl. App. 1.) Plaintiff feared that if he did not sign the Stipulation of Settlement, he would be terminated and lose his benefits. (Pl. Opp'n Mem. 2.)
When Plaintiff returned from medical leave on August 27, 2009, he was assigned to conduct security screenings at the Bronx County Courthouse entrance. (Compl. App. 2.) However, unlike other officers performing the same task, Plaintiff was not permitted to carry a firearm or wear a bulletproof vest, thus placing him in danger. ( Id.) This assignment also required Plaintiff to stand without a break for up to four hours at a time. ( Id.) Plaintiff notified his supervisors of his disability related to his foot injury, but they refused to accommodate Plaintiff's injury. ( Id.) Plaintiff filed an EEOC complaint on March 19, 2010, asserting the same underlying charges that Plaintiff has filed in the Complaint before this Court. (Siudzinski Decl. Ex. B (" Charge of Discrimination" ).) Plaintiff voluntarily resigned from his position with OCA on August 27, 2010, pursuant to New York State's Early Retirement Incentive Program. (Pl. Opp'n Mem. 7; Siudzinski Decl. ¶ 3.)
Plaintiff claims that he was treated less favorably than similarly situated non-Hispanic officers. (Compl. App. 3.) Plaintiff lists twelve non-Hispanic officers, several of whom had once been arrested but still received promotions and retained their firearm privileges. ( Id ; Pl. Opp'n Mem.
Ten of the listed officers were permitted to keep their jobs as court officers, despite being arrested or having committed misconduct. (Compl. App. 3.) Three of those who were arrested were permitted to retain their firearm privileges. ( Id.) Two additional non-Hispanic court officers received special accommodations in their duties in light of their physical conditions. ( Id.)
On March 19, 2010, Plaintiff presented a Charge of Discrimination to the New York Division of Human Rights and the EEOC, alleging that he was subjected to adverse employment actions that violated Title VII and the ADA. (Siudzinski Decl. Ex. B.) The EEOC issued Plaintiff a " Right to Sue" letter on April 22, 2011. Plaintiff commenced this action on July 5, 2011.
a. Legal Standard
i. Rule 12(b)(1)
" [A] district court may properly dismiss a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) if it lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Shabaj v. Holder, 704 F.3d 234, 237 (2d Cir. 2013) (alteration in original) (quoting Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005)). " '[T]he court must take all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff,' but 'jurisdiction must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party asserting it.'" Morrison v. Nat'l Australia Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008) (alterations in original) (citations omitted), aff'd, 130 S.Ct. 2869, 177 L.Ed.2d 535 (2010). Plaintiff must prove that subject matter exists " by a preponderance of the evidence." Morrison, 547 F.3d at 170 (quoting Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000)), A court may consider matters outside of the pleadings when determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. Romano v. Kazacos, 609 F.3d 512, 520 (2d Cir. 2010); Morrison, 547 F.3d at 170.
ii. Rule 12(b)(6)
In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
the court must " accept as true all allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party." Matson v. Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of N.Y., 631 F.3d 57, 63 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Connecticut v. Am. Elec. Power Co., 582 F.3d 309, 320 (2d Cir. 2009)). A complaint must, however, " contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A claim is plausible " when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Matson, 631 F.3d at 63 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). " [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not fshow[n]' -- 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
Where a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court must read his or her pleadings " liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments they suggest." Jorgensen v. Epic/Sony Records, 351 F.3d 46, 50 (2d Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). If a liberal reading of the complaint " gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated," the court must grant leave to amend the complaint. Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000); see Ashmore v. Prus, No. 12 Civ. 2760, 510 Fed.Appx. 47, 2013 WL 362998, at *2 (2d Cir. Jan. 31, 2013) (summary order) (" ...