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Brown v. State University of New York

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 19, 2015

DAYNA BROWN, Plaintiff,

Dayna Brown, Pro Se, Vestal, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York State Attorney General, HEATHER R. RUBENSTEIN, Assistant Attorney General, The Capitol Albany, NY, for the Defendants.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Dayna Brown commenced this action against defendants State University of New York, Binghamton University, Civil Service Employees Association[1] (CSEA), Nancy Abashian, Valerie Hampton, Cindy Olbrys, Karen Paugh, Caryl Ward, and Cindy Williams, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, [2] 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act, [3] and the New York State Human Rights Law[4] based on race, gender, and disability, as well as claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 88.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

II. Background[5]

Brown, an African-American male, began his employment with SUNY Binghamton as a library clerk in March 2000. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶¶ 1, 9, Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 7; Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 2 at 24-25.) Throughout his employment, Brown alleges that he was "harassed[ and] treated differently... because of his race, ... age, gender, [and] disability." (Compl. ¶ 2.) Brown claims that he was "subjected to different levels of harassment" over the course of his employment. (Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 2 at 48.) Specifically, he claimed to be the victim of two instances of sexual harassment in 2007, the first when a coworker allegedly "brought sexual content in[to] the workplace, " ( id. at 56), and the second involving an unknown individual placing a cartoon on Brown's desk, ( id. at 61). Additionally, he felt that he was being singled out by having his movements in the office tracked, ( id. at 46), was falsely accused of throwing out books, ( id. at 52), and was asked by a coworker if he had marched in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade, ( id. at 64).

Beginning in late 2010, Abashian, the Head of Reader Services at the SUNY Binghamton library, (Defs.' SMF ¶ 3), who Brown referred to as his immediate supervisor, (Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 2 at 46), expressed concerns about Brown's behavior and deteriorating work performance. (Dkt. No. 96, Attach. 2 at 1-3.) Specifically, she noted that Brown was not following instructions, was giving incorrect information to couriers delivering and accepting shipments from the library, failed to report for work assignments, and had several unexplained absences. ( Id. at 1-2.) Additionally, he was "frequently observed to be disheveled in appearance, " wore "pajama type pants" to work, engaged in personal disputes and "inappropriate and aggressive behavior" in the workplace, and refused to perform certain job duties. ( Id. at 2-3.) On February 28, 2011, a request was made for Brown to submit to an independent medical examination (IME) to determine his fitness for duty, pursuant to New York Civil Service Law § 72.[6] (Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 4 at 13-15.)

Brown was notified, on March 4, 2011, that he was being placed on a leave of absence, and was directed to submit to a medical examination because of "serious concerns" about his behavior and deteriorations in his work performance. ( Id. at 31.) He was permitted to charge his accrued sick leave during this leave of absence. ( Id. ) Brown was examined by two independent medical professionals in March and April 2011, with both concluding that he was unable to perform his job duties. ( Id. at 22-23, 25-29.)

After Brown had been requested to submit to the IMEs, on April 7, 2011, he filed a discrimination charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR), alleging discrimination based on race, gender, and disability, and concluding that he was placed on a leave of absence even though he was "capable of performing the duties of [his] job." ( Id. at 65-67.) The DHR found no probable cause to believe that SUNY Binghamton had engaged in the discriminatory practices of which Brown complained. ( Id. at 98-99.) These findings were adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which issued Brown a right to sue letter on December 9, 2011. ( Id. at 102.)

Ultimately, in May 2011, after Brown had been determined to be unfit to perform his job duties, and while he was still on a leave of absence, SUNY Binghamton informed him that he had exhausted all of his leave accruals, but was eligible to be placed on sick leave with half pay, which Brown elected to do. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 11; Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 3 at 8-9.) On February 3, 2012, Brown was notified that his leave of absence would end, and his employment would terminate, on March 4, 2012, "due to absence of one continuous year, " but that Brown could apply for restoration to duty if he was then medically fit to return to work. (Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 4 at 54.)

In the interim, Brown appealed the determination that he was unfit to perform his job duties, and a civil service hearing occurred on April 27, 2012, after which the hearing officer determined that the university's section 72 determination should be upheld. (Dkt. No. 88, Attach. 5 at 2-8.) Accordingly, effective June 20, 2012, Brown was "separated from state service pursuant to Section 72 of the New York State Civil Service Law." ( Id. at 10.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Wagner v. Swarts, 827 F.Supp.2d 85, 92 (N.D.N.Y. 2011), ...

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