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Owens v. Rochester City Sch. Dist.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 25, 2014

DAVID OWENS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant

Page 366

For David Owens, Plaintiff: Melvin Bressler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bressler & Kunze, Rochester, NY.

For Rochester City School District, Defendant: Cara M. Briggs, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rochester City School District, Rochester, NY.

Page 367

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff David Owens (" Owens" ), an employee of the Rochester City School District (the " District" ), brings this action against the District alleging that it subjected him to discriminatory failure to promote in violation of his constitutional right to equal protection, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 1981 and 1983, and that the District maintained a pattern or practice whereby his constitutional rights were violated.

Discovery is now complete, and the District moves for summary judgment dismissing Owens' claims. (Dkt. #16). For the reasons that follow, that motion is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts are these. Plaintiff, an African-American, was hired by the District in 1996 as a cleaner. He was later promoted to Assistant Custodian and, in 2004, Custodian Engineer, assigned to School 28. In or about September 2010, Owens applied for a position as Custodian Engineer at Edison Technical and Occupational Center (" Edison Tech." ), a substantially larger school which offered a higher rate of pay than School 28. (On this basis, although the job title at Edison Tech. was the same, plaintiff considered the Edison Tech. position to be a promotion.)

The District's Human Capital Initiatives Department determined that five candidates met the minimum qualifications for the open Custodian Engineer position. Those candidates, consisting of four African-Americans, including Owens, and one Caucasian, were then interviewed by Matthew Laniak (" Laniak" ), Principal of Skilled Trades at Edison Tech. Laniak testified that in addition to interviews, he also reviewed the personnel files for each candidate, with a view toward selecting a candidate who had no prior attendance problems or disciplinary issues. It is undisputed that Owens' personnel file contained four prior notations/evaluations relating to attendance, including: (1) documentation concerning a March 2002 oral warning regarding an absence without proper notification; (2) an October 28, 2003 letter reminding Owens about the District's policy for absences due to illness; (3) a 2003-2004 evaluation recommending that Owens " continue working towards an improvement in his attendance" ; and (4) a 2007-2008 evaluation noting that Owens' attendance " has improved this year." (Dkt. #28 at ¶ ¶ 19-22). Laniak testified, and Owens does not dispute, that his personnel file also referred to a disciplinary issue. (Dkt. #28 at ¶ 7). Ultimately, Laniak rejected all of the initial five candidates, and continued to seek applicants. The position was eventually offered to Peter Torchia (" Torchia" ), a Caucasian.

Page 368

Upon hearing that Torchia had been offered the position, Owens contacted Larry Profetta, the vice president of his union, and stated that he wished to file a grievance because he believed that Torchia's appointment violated the Civil Service Law with regard to, among other things, seniority. The union refused, on the grounds that there did not appear to be any Civil Service Law violation since seniority was not a determinative factor for competitive positions such as Custodian Engineer.

This action ...


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