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McCoy v. Morningside at Home

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 25, 2014

BARBARA McCOY, Plaintiff,
v.
MORNINGSIDE AT HOME and AGING IN AMERICA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Barbara McCoy ("Plaintiff"), who previously worked at Morningside at Home as a Home Health Aide ("HHA"), brings this action against Morningside at Home ("Morningside") and Aging in America ("Aging") (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities (bipolar disorder and back problems) in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq. (the "ADA"); that Defendants retaliated against her for complaining about her physical disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII");[1] that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her religion in violation of Title VII; and that Defendants retaliated against her for complaining to her employer about unpaid wages, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. ("FLSA") and the New York Labor Law §§ 190 et seq. ("NYLL").[2] Plaintiff seeks declaratory, equitable, and monetary relief.

Defendants move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. The Court has jurisdiction of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. The Court has thoroughly reviewed all of the parties' submissions. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's ADA, Title VII, and FLSA claims, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any claim by Plaintiff brought under the NYLL.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the parties' submissions and are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.[3] Plaintiff McCoy worked for Defendant Morningside, a not-forprofit licensed home care service agency, as an HHA, caring for elderly patients from April 2009 to January 15, 2010. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 1-5.) Defendant Aging is a not-for-profit organization and is the parent company to Morningside. (Id. ¶ 2.) As an HHA, Plaintiff's duties included assisting her patients with the maintenance of good personal hygiene, such as by helping patients bathe, dress, and get on and off of the toilet or use a bedpan, as well as assisting with daily household tasks and accompanying patients to medical appointments. (Id. ¶ 25.) Reinaldo "Ray" Melendez was Plaintiff's direct supervisor and worked as the HHA Coordinator responsible for creating each HHA's schedule of patient assignments. (Id. ¶ 6.)

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities, her bipolar disorder and her "back problems." (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 9.) Melendez testified that he was not aware that Plaintiff had "any disability which would affect her ability to do her job." (Id. ¶ 12.) Moreover, Defendants assert that Plaintiff never informed anyone at Morningside that she suffered from bipolar disorder. (Id. ¶ 14.) As for whether Morningside knew of Plaintiff's back problems, Melendez testified that, although Plaintiff took a two-week leave from work during May and June 2009, due to a back injury, he did not know of the reasons for the leave. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) When she returned to work, Plaintiff submitted a doctor's note stating that she could perform her job without restrictions and resumed her full duties. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) Plaintiff does not dispute that she did not request accommodation for any disability. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 33.) Plaintiff admits that she had "indicated to defendant that [she] had no ailments" and that "according to what they had on paper, " she did not have any "back problem" and could work without restrictions. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 14; Hoey Reply Dec., Exh. 3 at 183.)

Plaintiff asserts that, during her last assignment (with Patient DD) in December 2009, she informed Melendez that she was "hurting her back from [Patient DD], " but "he didn't say anything, " and that she also informed Supervising Nurse Tina Ford about this back injury. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 12, 45; Pl. Aff. ¶¶ 14-15; Hoey Reply Dec., Exh. 3 at 184.) However, in January 2010, Plaintiff submitted a pre-employment health exam form to Morningside, indicating that she had no"psychiatric or behavior disorder[s], " "back problems, " or any of the other health issues enumerated on the form. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 42-44.)

Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her religion. (Id. ¶ 10.) However, there is no evidence that anyone at Morningside ever made negative or disparaging comments to Plaintiff about her religion (Christianity) and Plaintiff testified that she believes that she was hired because she was a Christian. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) In June 2009, Plaintiff requested that Melendez reassign her because her patient at the time had a dirty home and other people living there were "getting high" and "us[ing] profanity, " which allegedly offended Plaintiff's religious beliefs. (Id. ¶¶ 34-36.) Morningside subsequently assigned Plaintiff to another patient.

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants retaliated against her for complaining about unpaid wages and, in her opposition to this motion, she alleges that Defendants retaliated against her for complaining about her disability (back problems). (Id. ¶ 11; Pl. Opp. at 5.) During the last week of December 2009, Melendez assigned Plaintiff to work with Patient DD. The assignment was a live-in placement, which meant that Plaintiff was at the patient's home twenty-four hours a day, five days a week. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.) On January 14, 2010, while at the patient's home, Plaintiff called Morningside and spoke with Melendez to complain of a paycheck that was missing wages equivalent to one day's work. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) Melendez told her that she needed to raise the issue with Morningside's Office Manager Marcias Asiah, who was away from the office that day. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 48, 51.) After Plaintiff continued to call the agency regarding her unpaid wages, Melendez arranged for Plaintiff to speak with Asiah. (Id. ¶ 51.) Asiah told Plaintiff that she would investigate the issue and update the Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 52.) Defendants assert that Plaintiff was "angry" and had "yelled" and "used profanity" during these calls to such an extent that, at one point, Melendez reminded Plaintiff that she was on duty and that it was unprofessional for her to make angry phone calls from a patient's home. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) Plaintiff acknowledges that she "had a big mouth, " but denies that she yelled or used any profanity. (Id. ¶ 58; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 48-49.)

Melendez told Plaintiff that he was sending in another HHA to replace her at Patient DD's home on January 15, 2010, and that Plaintiff needed to come to Morningside's office for a meeting to discuss her behavior. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 53-54.) Plaintiff never went to the office to meet with Melendez. (Id. ¶ 55.) Plaintiff asserts, however, that she did not appear because Melendez told her to call before going in, and no one at Morningside answered or returned her repeated calls. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 53.) The parties agree that no one at Morningside ever told Plaintiff that she had been terminated, but Morningside did not call her for another assignment and Plaintiff did not work with Morningside again after her assignment with Patient DD. (Id. ¶ 57; Def. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 56-57.)

According to Defendants, after determining the cause of the paycheck error, Morningside paid all of Plaintiff's wages, but Plaintiff asserts that she was paid only because she filed suit in small claims court concerning her unpaid wages in late January 2010. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 59; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 59.) On January 26, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging discrimination on the basis of her race in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and on the basis of her disabilities in violation of the NYSHRL and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 60.) The charge did not mention religious discrimination. In April 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendants pursuant to the ADA, Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the New York Labor Law.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is to be granted in favor of a moving party if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Anderson , 477 U.S. at 256. A fact is considered material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, " and an issue of fact is a genuine one where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The Court must "constru[e] the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[ ] all reasonable inferences in [that party's] favor" in order to resolve any ambiguities. Maraschiello v. City of Buffalo Police Dept. , 709 F.3d 87, 92 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Nevertheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment... against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. , 477 U.S. at 322. The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" and "cannot rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation." Barounis v. New York City Police Dept., No. 10 Civ. 2631(SAS), 2012 WL 6194190 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 12, 2012) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Americans with Disabilities Act Claims

"Claims alleging disability discrimination in violation of the ADA are subject to the burden-shifting analysis originally established by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792 (1973)." McMillan v. City of New York , 711 F.3d 120, 125 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing McBride v. BIC Consumer Prods. Mfg. Co. , 583 F.3d 92, 96 (2d Cir. 2009)). This analysis requires that: "[a] plaintiff must establish a prima facie case; the employer must offer through the introduction of admissible evidence a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the discharge [or other form of discriminatory action]; and the plaintiff must then produce evidence and carry the burden of persuasion that the proffered reason is a pretext." Sista v. CDC Ixis North America, Inc. , 445 F.3d 161, 169 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing Heyman v. Queens Vill. Comm. for Mental Health for Jamaica Cmty. Adolescent Program , 198 F.3d 68, 72 (2d Cir. 1999)).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities by subjecting her to an adverse employment action - specifically, termination of Plaintiff's employment ...


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