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Greene v. Enlarged City School District of The City of Middletown

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 29, 2014

JESYCA GREENE, Plaintiff,
v.
ENLARGED CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF MIDDLETOWN, N.Y., Defendant.

For the Plaintiff: Michael H. Sussman Sussman & Watkins 1 Railroad Avenue, Suite 3 P.O. Box 1005 Goshen, NY 10924

For the Defendant: Matthew J. Mehnert Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 534 Broadhollow Road, Suite 210 P.O. Box 9034 Melville, New York 11747

OPINION AND ORDER

DENISE COTE, District Judge.

Jesyca Greene ("Greene") has brought this action against her former employer, the Enlarged City School District of the City of Middletown, New York ("Middletown"), alleging that her discharge was the product of discrimination on account of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. ยง 12101 et seq. On December 13, 2013, Middletown moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed, or taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In November 2008, Greene was hired by Middletown as a Technology Integration Coach for a "probationary" period of three years. At or prior to the end of this probationary period, Greene would be granted or denied tenure. The role of a Technology Integration Coach is, inter alia, to assist classroom teachers in integrating instructional technology into their curriculum, both through direct coaching and by working with administrators, department heads, and library staff.

Greene is an amputee. Sometime prior to her employment by Middletown, she lost her left hand due to complications resulting from gastric bypass surgery.

When Greene applied for the technology coach position at Middletown, she was interviewed by Michael Tuttle ("Tuttle"), the Chief Technology Officer for Middletown, as well as by Amy Creeden ("Creeden"), who was a Technology Integration Coach at the time. During the interview, Green's amputation was visible to Tuttle and Creeden. Tuttle recommended to Dr. Kenneth Eastwood ("Dr. Eastwood"), who was Superintendent of Schools for Middletown, that Greene be hired. Dr. Eastwood in turn recommended her hiring to Middletown's Board of Education ("School Board"), and she was hired effective November 3, 2008.

During her almost three-year period of employment at Middletown, Greene developed a contentious relationship with Tuttle, who was her direct supervisor for approximately two and a half years, and with Creeden, who was initially her co-worker but who became her direct supervisor in the latter part of her third year. While Greene received a positive evaluation from Tuttle in June 2009, her remaining evaluations from Tuttle in December 2009, March 2010, and June 2010 were unfavorable. Greene believes that these evaluations were unfounded, at least in part, and she wrote rebuttals or objections to each evaluation. After a meeting with Greene, her Union representative, and Tuttle, it was determined that one of the evaluations would be partially revised by Tuttle to remove a comment about Greene's future employment prospects.

The contentious relationship was not limited to Tuttle's formal evaluations of Greene. In September 2010, Tuttle docked Greene's pay for missing a half-day of work in June 2010. In a counseling memorandum, Tuttle describes his understanding of the events giving rise to the penalty and concludes that she misled him and took advantage of his professional courtesy. Greene wrote a partial rebuttal to Tuttle's understanding of the circumstances, but agreed that her pay should be docked.

Prior to January 2011, when Creeden was to become Greene's direct supervisor, Greene considered resigning. This was due, at least in part, to her "difficult" relationship with Creeden and Greene's expectation that it would get worse. Greene did not, however, resign when Creeden became her direct supervisor.

In January 2011, Greene alleged that Creeden photographed her desk at work, that Creeden sent the photograph to Tuttle to suggest that Greene was conducting personal business at work, and that Tuttle verbally counseled her as a result. Greene suggested in her complaint that she had been subjected to harassment in violation of Middletown policy. This incident was discussed at a January 2011 meeting with Greene, her Union representative, and Dr. Eastwood. Dr. Eastwood immediately requested that Greene make a formal, written complaint. She did so on the same day, and her complaint made no mention of discrimination on the basis of disability. A formal investigation was initiated, which concluded that there had been no violation of Middletown's anti-harassment policy. Greene was informed of this conclusion on March 24, 2011.

On the next day, Greene alleged that the harassment had continued and that she had been retaliated against because of her first complaint. A formal investigation was again initiated, which concluded, in May 2011, that there had been no violation of district policy.

Between January and April 2011, Greene received unfavorable evaluations from Creeden based on classroom observations in January, March, and April 2011, as well as one from Monica Hasbrouk in March 2011. Hasbrouk was not Greene's supervisor; she had been brought in as a neutral administrator to review Greene's work. In the April 2011 evaluation, Creeden accused Greene of plagiarism. The plagiarism allegation was also the subject of a counseling memorandum, in which Creeden notes that Greene was disrespectful when Creeden attempted to speak with Greene about the incident. Separately, on April 6, when Creeden asked Greene to sign a memorandum to ...


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