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Frantti v. State of New York

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 8, 2017


          PETERSON, THOMAS LAW FIRM THOMAS PETERSON, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN KEITH J. STARLIN, ESQ. Attorneys for Defendants Ass't Attorney General Office of the Attorney General.



         Plaintiff Travis Jarrett Frantti ("Frantti" or "plaintiff") has filed this action against defendants Susan Knapp ("Knapp"), Mary Beth LaBate ("LaBate"), Karen Davis ("Davis"), Karen Orcutt ("Orcutt"), Christopher Amado ("Amado"), Robert Mujica ("Mujica"), and the State of New York (the "State") (collectively "defendants") asserting claims for disability discrimination under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (First Cause of Action), employment discrimination and retaliation under Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") (Second Cause of Action), and a claim for the denial of Equal Protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Third and Fourth Causes of Action). Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, actual damages, and attorneys' fees.

         Defendants have moved pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) seeking partial dismissal of Frantti's complaint. The motion has been fully briefed and will be considered on the basis of the submissions without oral argument.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         In June of 1996, Frantti began working for the State's Division of Budget ("DOB") where, in 2010, he became a Principal Fiscal Policy Analyst. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. Two years later, in July of 2012, plaintiff contracted an "intermittently debilitating" gastro-intestinal illness. Id. ¶ 12. Although this medical condition "has slowly improved over time, " plaintiff's illness is "characterized by exacerbations which are unpredictable in timing or duration." Id. ¶ 14. Consequently, he could become "incapacitated at any time, " and "[d]uring such episodes he is unable to perform any of his functions at work." Id.

         In August of 2012, Frantti accepted a position with the State's Division of Criminal Justice Services ("DJCS") working directly with the Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, a move which required him to relocate his office from the DOB's suite at the State Capitol to a DJCS facility located elsewhere. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 17. According to plaintiff, his superiors at DOB explained this move to DJCS would be only a temporary one; in fact, plaintiff would even stay on DOB's payroll and in a DOB job title. Id. ¶ 17.

         In June of 2013, the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety announced her departure from State service. Compl. ¶ 18. Because this departure resulted in the bulk of his work responsibilities being eliminated, in August of 2013 Frantti requested a return to his position at DOB in the State Capitol. Id. Orcutt, an Administrative Officer with the Human Resources Department ("HR"), told plaintiff this could not be done because he had been "assigned" to DCJS. Id. ¶¶ 6, 19.

         In September of 2013, Frantti met with Davis, the HR Director, to figure out the best way to get back to his old assignment at DOB. Compl.¶¶ 5, 20. Plaintiff also attended a second meeting with Davis, Orcutt, "and others, " who told him "he would be evaluated for a 2-month period to determine if he was performing work at his DOB Principal Fiscal Policy Analyst salary grade 31." Id. ¶ 20. During this two-month period, plaintiff repeatedly requested, and was denied, assignments at his salary grade. Id. Instead, plaintiff was assigned "only work far below" his salary grade. Id.

         On January 7, 2014, Frantti submitted a report to HR Director Davis "requesting assistance in understanding his current employment situation and how to best return to a DOB position." Compl. ¶ 21. This report included information about plaintiff's medical problems. Id. Thereafter, plaintiff received a letter from HR Officer Orcutt that contained instructions on how to take an unpaid leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Id. ¶ 22. This letter explained that "any absences for [your medical] condition beginning January 15, 2014, will count against your annual FMLA entitlement." Id.

         Later in January of 2014, Frantti received an unsatisfactory performance evaluation-the first ever in his more than seventeen years as a State employee.[2] Compl. ¶ 24. Notably, this negative performance evaluation covered the two-month period during which HR Director Davis, HR Officer Orcutt, and others had indicated that HR would be evaluating the appropriateness of plaintiff's current salary grade. Id. As a result of this unsatisfactory evaluation, plaintiff was demoted to Associate Budget Examiner at Salary Grade 27. Id. ¶ 25.

         On February 11, 2014, Frantti was informed that his demotion came from "upper management." Compl. ¶ 25. According to plaintiff, this referred to Knapp, the Chief Budget Examiner. Id. ¶¶ 3, 25.

         In March of 2014, Frantti received a letter stating he had missed twenty-five full days of work since December 30, 2013, and explaining that he "must provide a medical note when absent a full or partial day." Compl. ¶ 26.

         On March 21, 2014, Frantti received another letter stating he must "call-in" within two hours after the start of each work day on which he is absent or else his pay would be docked. Compl. ¶ 27.

         In April of 2014, Frantti's primary care physician completed FMLA paperwork that "administratively designated" a period of FMLA leave as beginning on January 13, 2014. Compl. ¶ 28. Plaintiff's physician later amended this FMLA paperwork to include information explaining plaintiff "would need to take 'breaks' while at work as needed." Id.

         In the Spring of 2014, Frantti was denied a "Performance Advance" pay increase. Compl. ¶ 29. Plaintiff alleges this denial resulted from absences caused by his disability. Id.

         On November 13, 2014, Frantti made a written request for an accommodation "which would allow his physician to write excuses after an accumulated amount of absence from work rather than being required to be seen by his physician daily for an excuse." Compl. ¶ 30. Defendants ignored this request. Id.

         On December 1, 2014, Frantti began a short-term period of disability leave. Compl. ¶ 31. A little more than a week later, plaintiff renewed his written request for an accommodation. Id. ¶ 30. This request was again ignored. Id. According to plaintiff, "more stringent requirements were imposed" instead. Id. For example, plaintiff was required to submit excuses within each 24-hour period "even when absent for an extended episode." Id.

         In May of 2015, Frantti wrote a letter to HR Director Davis, HR Officer Orcutt, DOB Budget Director LaBate, and DJCS Acting Commissioner Michael Green "detailing his concerns about retaliation for a disability and restating his request for returning to his position at DOB." Compl. ¶ 32. In response, the Governor's Office of Employee Affairs initiated an investigation, but it has never been concluded. Id.

         On June 10, 2015, Frantti returned to work at DJCS. Compl. ¶ 33. Plaintiff received a performance evaluation the same day, and it was again "Below Expectations" because of his disability-related absences. Id. Plaintiff was denied a second "Performance ...

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