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Dohrmann-Gallik v. Lakeland Central School District

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 27, 2015

JOANN DOHRMANN-GALLIK, Plaintiff,
v.
LAKELAND CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT and LAKELAND FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action against the Lakeland Central School District (the "District") and the Lakeland Federation of Teachers (the "Union") asse1ting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of her prope1ty without due process of law, for violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (the "Rehabilitation Act"), and under various state law doctrines. Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(I) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions are GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was a third-grade teacher employed by the defendant District. The instant dispute concerns the denial of her application for a "Sick Leave Bank" benefit established by the collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") between the District and her Union. In addition to traditional sick leave, the CBA establishes a supplemental Sick Leave Bank program. (Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1.) Participation in this program is voluntary. ( Id. ) Participants must contribute at least two unused sick days to the bank, and thereby gain the right under the CBA to apply for Sick Leave Bank days after exhausting their traditional sick leave. ( Id. ).

Participants may apply for Sick Leave Bank by submitting a form to the Sick Leave Bank Committee (the "Committee"), which makes all eligibility determinations. ( Id. ¶ 11.) The Committee is comprised of five members-two appointed by the Union, two appointed by the District, and one independent physician selected by the four other members. (Compl. Ex. A, at 31, ECF No. 1.) Under the heading "Application for Benefits, " the CBA provides:

1. Teachers who have exhausted their sick leave days and have a serious personal illness or disability requiring long periods of medical care, and are unable to return to work on a full-time basis, as determined by both the teacher's physician and the Sick Leave Bank Committee physician, may apply to the Sick Leave Bank Committee for utilization of Sick Leave Bank days....
2. Such application shall be in writing, submitted on forms... supplied by the Committee with all the information called for properly filled in and shall be accompanied by the applicant's physician's report and prognosis. The Committee shall have the right to require the applicant to be examined by the School District's Chief Physical Medical Officer who shall have the right to receive and review any medical certificates and reports relating to the applicant. In addition, the Sick Leave Bank Committee Physician shall have the right to receive and review all medical reports and records of an applicant for Sick Leave Bank benefits which in his judgment pertain to the condition for which the application is made.
3. After evaluating all pertinent evidence, the Sick Leave Bank Committee shall decide on the eligibility of the teacher to receive Sick Leave Bank days, in connection with the particular illness or disability.
....
6. Application of the Sick Leave Bank plan in recurring or related illnesses shall be determined by the Committee. However, it is the intention of the Sick Leave Bank not to cover recurring illnesses such as asthma, allergies, rheumatism, etc.

( Id. at 31-32.) Furthermore, "the maximum, lifetime Sick Leave Bank benefits for any one illness or injury, shall be limited to utilization of 374 Sick Leave Bank days (salary for two school years)." ( Id. at 30.) The parties vigorously dispute the scope of the language limiting eligibility and the degree of discretion that the CBA confers to the Committee in determining eligibility.

Plaintiff suffers from illnesses including fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and severe osteoarthritis of her left knee and wrist. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff began the 2012-2013 school year as a third-grade teacher. ( Id. ¶ 9.) She shortly became too ill to work and went out on traditional sick leave beginning September 19, 2012. ( Id. ¶¶ 9, 14.) She exhausted her traditional sick leave and applied for Sick Leave Bank. ( Id. ¶ 14.) The Sick Leave Bank Committee approved her application and she was granted Sick Leave Bank for January 18, 2013 through June 21, 2013, the last day of the 2012-2013 school year. ( Id. )

In June 2013, Plaintiff advised the District that she would be unable to return to work for the following term in September 2013. ( Id. ¶ 15.) The District forwarded her an application for Sick Leave Bank and she applied to continue using Sick Leave Bank beginning September 2013, but did not list an anticipated end date for her absence. ( Id. ) On September 16, 2013, Plaintiff learned that her application was denied, and when she asked for a reason for the denial she received a letter stating, "Committee members have the right to make a recommendation that they see fit (approval or denial) on a case by case basis." ( Id. ¶ 17; Compl. Ex. G, at 3.) Plaintiff grieved the denial, and was told by letter dated October 18, 2013 that her application was denied because it failed to list an end date for her absence. (Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.) Plaintiff reapplied on October 24, 2013, this time listing an end date. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Her application was again denied, and on January 6, 2014, the District's Superintendent wrote to Plaintiff noting that the "illness or disability presented... are not of the nature that allows Committee members to act favorably upon the application, " citing to the "recurring or related illnesses" exclusion. ( Id. ¶¶ 21, 24.)

In April 2014, Plaintiff submitted a notice of intent to return to the District. ( Id. ¶ 29.) The District advised her that she had lost the right to return to her third-grade classroom because she had been on unpaid leave for a year, and offered her Remedial Math or Sixth Grade Humanities. ( Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) Plaintiff claims that these assignments are too stressful because she has no experience ...


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