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Viruet v. Port Jervis City School District

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 13, 2013

AIXA VIRUET, Plaintiff,
v.
PORT JERVIS CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Aixa Viruet ("Plaintiff' or "Viruet") brings this action against the Port Jervis City School District ("Defendant" or the "District") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, alleging discrimination based upon Plaintiff's national origin, race and color. Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 1) ¶ 33. Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Doc. 24.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.

Plaintiff is a Hispanic female who was employed by the District as a bus driver from December 1995 through the 2009-2010 school year.[1] Pl.'s 56.1 Counter-Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2.[2] Plaintiff was the only Hispanic bus driver employed by the District from at least December 2005 until the end of her tenure. Declaration of Richard S. Sklarin ("Sklarin Decl."), Ex. AA (Pl. Depo. Tr.) at 138; Affirmation of Christopher D. Watkins ("Watkins Aff"), Ex 6 (Case Depo. Tr.) at 6-8.

a. The Collective Bargaining Agreement

In 2007, a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the District and the Civil Service Employees' Association, Inc., Local 1000 ("CSEA"), of which Plaintiff was a member, was adopted. See Sklarin Decl., Exs. H, K; see also Pl.'s 56.1 Counter-Stmt. ¶ 24. The CBA contained certain modifications to the previous 2002-2007 agreement and covered the period July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2010. See Sklarin Decl., Ex. H at Art. 26.

As relevant to the instant motion, under the heading "Health Insurance, " the CBA states that a "Health Benefit Eligible CSEA Employee" shall be defined as follows: "(A) [a]n employee hired on or after July 1, 2007 and who works a specified work schedule consisting of not less than thirty-two (32) hours per week; (B) [a]n employee hired prior to July 1, 2007 that does not currently work a specified work schedule of thirty-two (32) hours per week and does not qualify for health benefits as of July 1, 2007 will be deemed eligible to qualify for health benefits when he, she or they work a specified work schedule consisting of not less than thirty-two (32) hours per week." The Agreement continues by stating:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, all CSEA employees currently receiving health, dental and vision benefits pursuant to the provisions of the immediate predecessor Collective Bargaining Agreement... shall nevertheless be entitled to maintain and continue his, her or their eligibility for such health, dental and/or vision benefits, provided however, that such employee shall substantially maintain his, her or their current levels of hours worked. The term substantially maintain his, her or their current level of hours worked' shall be interpreted and defined to mean a continued specified work schedule consisting of not less than twenty (20) hours per week.

Sklarin Decl., Ex. H at 16.

Additionally, the CBA provides that "[a]ny employee may request a leave of absence without pay. Said leave shall not be more than two (2) years in length and all the employees' benefits and seniority shall be preserved." Id. at 14.

b. The 2006-2007 School Year

As an eligible District employee, Plaintiff applied for, and was granted, a one-year leave of absence, effective September 1, 2006. Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9.

Plaintiff contends that she was improperly denied a salary step increase during her 2006-2007 leave of absence, and that such denial was not consistent with the CBA or Defendant's treatment of Maureen Shima, a Caucasian bus driver employed by the District, who received a step increase following her one-year leave of absence. Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 5;[3] see also Declaration of Maureen Shima ("Shima Decl."), Ex. 1; Sklarin Decl., Ex. H at 8 ("Entitlement to Increments"), 14 ("Leave of Absence"). Defendant, on the other hand, contends that Plaintiff's 2006-2007 leave of absence disqualified her for a step increase "under the applicable CSEA Agreement." Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 5; see also Affidavit of Lorelei Case ("Case Aff.") ¶ 15.

It is undisputed that Plaintiff received a one step increase after her return to work for the 2007-2008 school year and that she continued to receive step increases each year for the rest of her tenure as a District driver. Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6; see also Sklarin Decl., Ex. T.

c. The 2008-2009 School Year

i. August 15, 2008 Driver Pick Day

On August 11, 2008, Plaintiff made a written request for an unpaid four month leave of absence to William Montgomery, Interim Transportation Director/Administrator. Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 31. Plaintiff requested that the leave begin on September 1, 2008, before the first day of school for the 2008-2009 school year (i.e., September 3, 2008). Id. ¶ 32; see also Affidavit of William Montgomery ("Montgomery Aff."), Ex. B. Mr. Montgomery met with Plaintiff and explained to her that he did not have a problem approving her request, but that if she was approved for leave, she would forfeit her place to select a bus run during the August 15, 2008 Driver Pick Day, and that her seniority would not be affected when she returned. Montgomery Aff., Ex. E; ...


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