United States District Court, E.D. New York
DR. ADDAGADA C. RAO, Plaintiff,
RAMON RODRIGUEZ and WYCKOFF HEIGHTS MEDICAL CENTER, INC, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.
action, Plaintiff Dr. Addagada C. Rao asserts that Defendants
Ramon Rodriguez and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Inc.
("Wyckoff'), discriminated against him on the basis
of race, national origin, and age in violation of federal,
state, and municipal law. (See Compl. (Dkt. 1).)
Defendants have jointly moved for summary judgment on all
claims (the "Motions"). (See Wyckoff Mot.
for Summ. J. (Dkt. 82); Rodriguez Mot. for Summ. J. (Dkt. 91)
Qoining in Wyckof Ps motion); see also Mem. in Supp.
of Wyckoff Mot. for Summ. J. ("Wyckoff Mem.") (Dkt.
83); Mem. in Supp. of Rodriguez Mot. for Summ. J.
("Rodriguez Mem.") (Dkt. 93).) For the reasons
stated below, Defendants' Motions are DENIED.
section reviews the undisputed facts,  followed by
certain allegations that are in dispute.
"was employed as the Chairman of Wyckoff s Department of
Surgery from 1988 until January 2012." (Wyckoff Rule
56.1 Statement ("Wyckoff R56.1") (Dkt. 85) ¶
1.) "During the time that Plaintiff was working for
Wyckoff he also maintained a private practice" (the
"Rao PC"). (Id. ¶ 4.) Certain
physicians were employed both by Wyckoff and by the Rao PC.
(Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) On or about December 23,
2011, Rodriguez was appointed as Wyckoff s Chief Executive
Officer ("CEO"). (Id.3.)
Plaintiffs December 30. 2011. Letter
wrote a letter dated December 30, 2011 to Dr. Mounzer
Tchelebi, [Wyckoff s] Chief Medical Officer" (the
"December 30 Letter"). (Wyckoff R56.1 ¶ 7.)
The Letter stated: "I would like to step down as
Chairman of Surgery. I am requesting that you form a search
committee for appointing a new Chairman. I will continue to
be acting Chairman until you have recruited an appropriate
replacement." (Dec. 30, 2011, Ltr. (Dkt. 84-6).)
Rodriguez's January 8, 2012. Email
January 8, 2012, Rodriguez directed his executive assistant
to send an email on his behalf "to the entire
hospital" stating, in relevant part:
Almost a week ago, [Plaintiff] submitted his resignation as
Chief of Surgery. It is with great humbleness that I accept
his decision----- It is no reflection on [Plaintiffs] many
years of service that this action is being taken, it is just
for every time there is a season.
I've asked Dr. Akella Chendrasekhar to assume the
position of Acting Chief of Surgery until such time that a
Search Committee has been formed and conclude their work with
a recommendation of a candidate.
(Jan. 8, 2012, Email (Draft) (Dkt. 84-7) (draft sent by
Rodriguez to executive assistant); see also Jan. 8,
2012, Email (as Sent) (Dkt. 84-8) (substantially identical
version sent from executive assistant to hospital staff);
Wyckoff R56.1 ¶¶ 9-11, 13.) Chendrasekhar, who was
appointed as Acting Chief of Surgery, "is of Indian
descent." (Id. ¶ 12.)
next day, January 9, 2012, Plaintiff and Rodriguez both
"attended a regular monthly inter-departmental meeting
of the various department chairpersons at Wyckoff.... At this
meeting[, ] Rodriguez declared to the others present that
[Plaintiff] had resigned as Chief of Surgery on December 30,
2011, " and "announced that [Rodriguez] had
appointed a new Acting Chief of Surgery." (Wyckoff R56.1
¶ 17.) Plaintiff stated that he had not resigned, and
protested the appointment of a new Acting Chief.
(Id.) Rodriguez then instructed Plaintiff to leave
the meeting, since he was no longer the Chief, and the
meeting was for department heads only. (Id.)
sent emails to Wyckoff s Board of Trustees on January 13 and
29, 2012, expressing concern that Plaintiff had been running
a "closed shop" in the Wyckoff surgery department
by restricting entry to the surgical staff, and accusing
Plaintiff of "removing" revenue from Wyckoff to the
Rao PC. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19, 27-30.) Rodriguez
also emphasized his view that Plaintiff "was not let go,
" but rather that Plaintiff "resigned."
(Id. ¶ 28.)
January 15, 2012, Acting Chief Chendrasekhar forwarded
Rodriguez a letter from one of Wyckoff s chief surgery
residents (the "Surgery Resident Letter").
(Id. ¶ 20.) The letter alleged "misconduct
by Dr. Percy Erachshaw that occurred while Plaintiff was the
Chairman of the Department, " and explained that the
"residents have remained publicly silent about these
issues" because of Erachshaw's "close ties with
[Plaintiff]." (Id. ¶¶ 21-23; see
also Id. ¶ 5 (noting that Erachshaw was
employed by the Rao PC in addition to working at Wyckoff).)
The January 17, 2012. Notice of Termination
January 17, 2012, Wyckoff provided "notice of
termination" letters to both Plaintiff and Erachsaw.
(Id. ¶¶ 25, 26.) Both terminations had an
effective date of February 17, 2012. (Id.)
Plaintiffs Additional Factual Allegations
is of Indian national origin... and his skin color is
brown." (Pl. Opp'n to Defs.' Mots, for Summ. J.
("PL Opp'n") (Dkt. 87) at 1.) Plaintiff
"was 70 years old at the time of the events at
issue." (Id.) As of December 2011, when
Rodriguez became Wyckoff s CEO, "Wyckoff had a mandatory
retirement requirement in place for departmental chairpersons
... when they reached the age of 75." (Id. at
Erachshaw's December 29, 2011 Meeting with
before Plaintiffs December 30 Letter, Erachshaw met with
Rodriguez and allegedly had the following exchange:
Rodriguez stated to Erachshaw, "tell Dr. Rao to resign
now, and if he does not resign, I'll fire him." In
response, Erachshaw stated that Plaintiff is responsible for
a high volume of surgeries at Wyckoff, and asked, "what
is this all about?" Rodriguez replied, "tell your
boss to look in the mirror. His face looks like an oyster
shell." Erachshaw commented that Plaintiff was 70 years
old but possessed high energy and personally performed about
300 surgeries a year. Then Rodriguez referred to Plaintiff as
"calcified." Erachshaw asked him, "what are
you talking about?" Rodriguez answered, "well,
there is a certain ethnic culture here and one of my jobs is
to change that."
(Pl. Opp'n at 4 (citing to Erachshaw's testimony and
affidavit).) Defendants deny that Rodriguez made these
remarks. (Wyckoff Mem. at 9.)
alleges that "Erachshaw promptly discussed [this]
conversation" with him. (Pl. Opp'n at 4.) That day
and the following morning, Plaintiff and Erachshaw learned
that many hospital staff members believed that Rodriguez had
fired Plaintiff, or intended to fire him soon. (Id.
Plaintiffs December 30, 2011. Letter
alleges that he put the December 30 Letter in a sealed
envelope and left it in Tchelebi's office. (Pl. Opp'n
at 7.) Plaintiff then called Tchelebi on his cell phone,
recounted Erachshaw's conversation with Rodriguez, and
told Tchelebi about the December 30 Letter. (Id.)
"In response, Dr. Tchelebi informed [Plaintiff] that he
intended to tear up the letter as soon as he returned to his
office the following week, because [Plaintiffs] job could not
be terminated by Mr. Rodriguez, only by the Board of
contests these allegations. He testified that he was
physically present at the hospital on December 30, 2011, and
that he received Plaintiffs letter and gave it to Rodriguez
that same day. (Id.) He admits that he spoke to
Plaintiff on the phone,  but offers a differing account of the
conversation: Tchelebi allegedly "informed Plaintiff
that he had passed on Plaintiffs letter to Rodriguez, before
thanking him for his years of service." (Id. at
8.) Plaintiff responds that based on the available
evidence-including E-Z Pass vehicle records and Wyckoff s
biometric "Timesheet" records-Tchelebi was likely
not in the hospital at any point on December 30, 2011, after
Plaintiff allegedly placed the letter in his office.
(Id. at 9-10.)
Plaintiffs January 3. 2012. Meeting with Rodriguez
Plaintiff and Erachshaw met with Rodriguez together on
January 3, ...