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Massie v. Metropolitan Museum of Art

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 22, 2015

RICHARD MASSIE, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Richard Massie brings this action against his former employer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and several of his former co-workers and supervisors there (collectively, the "Met"); his former union, District Council 37 Local 1503 ("DC 37"); and two hospitals at which he received medical care, Lenox Hill Hospital and Westchester Hospital (collectively, the "Hospitals"). He brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117; the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 160 et seq.; the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-97; and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHL"), N.Y. City Admin. Code § 8-101. The Met moves for summary judgment on the claims against it, and Lenox Hill Hospital moves to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons that follow, both motions are granted.

I. Background

The Court assumes familiarity with the factual background of this case, summarized in the Court's decision dated July 8, 2014. (Dkt. No. 200.) There, the Court dismissed Massie's Third Amended Complaint, but granted Massie leave to amend his complaint solely to permit him to plead, for the purpose of his §§ 1981 and 1983 claims against the Met, that his supervisor at the Met was acting under color of state law when he allegedly made racially derogatory claims about Plaintiff. ( Id. at 1.) The Court did not grant Massie leave to amend his complaint with respect to any of his other claims.

Nonetheless, Massie's Fourth Amended Complaint, filed on September 4, 2014, reasserts all of his previously dismissed claims against the same defendants. (Dkt. No. 204 ("FAC") at 1.) The Met filed an answer on September 22, 2014 (Dkt. No. 211), and moved for summary judgment on all claims on January 21, 2015 (Dkt. No. 218). Massie submitted several filings in opposition to the motion (Dkt. Nos. 225, 229, 231 & 233), both before and after the Met filed its reply on February 11, 2015 (Dkt. No. 227).

Lenox Hill Hospital filed a motion to dismiss and amend the caption on March 27, 2015. (Dkt. No. 236.) Massie filed oppositions to that motion on April 10 and May 1, 2015. (Dkt. Nos. 240 & 248.)

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment shall be granted when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, " Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), and there is a genuine issue for trial where, considering the record as a whole, a rational trier of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party, Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

"It is the movant's burden to show that no genuine factual dispute exists, " and the court "must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor." Vt. Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004). If the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for trial. Santos v. Murdock, 243 F.3d 681, 683 (2d Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)). A court cannot "weigh the evidence, or assess the credibility of witnesses, or resolve issues of fact" on a motion for summary judgment, but neither can it permit the non-moving party to rely upon "conclusory statements, conjecture, or speculation." Kulak v. City of New York, 88 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Rodriguez v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1051, 1061 (2d Cir. 1995)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Where a litigant is proceeding pro se, the court is to read his or supporting papers "liberally" and read them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994).

III. Discussion

A. Sections 1983 and 1981

Massie's §§ 1981 and 1983 claims against the Met are based on the conduct of his supervisors and co-workers while Massie was employed as a security guard there. Specifically, Massie alleges that he endured racial taunts and harassment by other Met employees, and that his supervisors' false accusations of misconduct led to Massie's termination in July 2010. (FAC at 3, 5-8.) The Court previously dismissed these claims because Massie failed to plead facts giving rise to a reasonable inference that the Met acted under color of state law.[1] (Dkt. No. 200, at 5-7.)

There is no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the Met acted under color of state law. And Massie's §§ 1981 and 1983 claims fail for other reasons.

A plaintiff may assert a § 1983 claim for deprivation of a federal right only where the deprivation was committed by a person acting "under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). This requirement is equivalent to the "state action" prerequisite for claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. Tancredi v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 316 F.3d 308, 312 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 838 (1982)). The wrongdoer need not be directly employed by the state for the court to find that he acted under color of state law, but his conduct must nonetheless be "fairly attributable to the State." Bektic-Marrero v. Goldberg, 850 F.Supp.2d 418, 426-27 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting West, 487 U.S. at 54) (internal quotation marks omitted). There must be, in other words, "such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action that seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself." Vega v. Fox, 457 F.Supp.2d 172, 181 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (quoting Brentwood Acad. v. Tennessee Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001)) (internal quotation marks omitted). A finding of "state action" is proper "where the state exercises coercive power' over, is entwined in the management or control' of, or provides significant encouragement, either overt or covert' to, a private actor, or where the private actor operates as a willful participant in joint activity with the State or its agents, ' is controlled by an agency of the State, ' has been delegated a public function' by the state, or is entwined with governmental policies.'" Tancredi, 316 F.3d at 313 (quoting Brentwood Acad., 531 U.S. at 296) (brackets omitted). Whether an act ...


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