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Rao v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 1, 2017

DR. ADDAGADA C. RAO, Plaintiff,
v.
RAMON RODRIGUEZ and WYCKOFF HEIGHTS MEDICAL CENTER, INC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.

         In this 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).) The court assumes the parties' familiarity with the factual and procedural background of this action. On April 18, 2017, the court issued an order limiting Plaintiffs potential back-pay damages to a maximum recovery period ending on December 30, 2012, one year after Plaintiffs December 30, 2011, letter to Dr. Mounzer Tchelebi (the "December 30 Letter"). (Apr. 18, 2017, Mem. & Order (Dkt. 118) at 16-17.) Plaintiff now seeks "clarification" as to the order's effect on Plaintiffs claims under the New York City Human Rights Law (the "NYCHRL"). (Pl. Mem. re Dmgs. Under NYCHRL ("Pl. Mem.") (Dkt. 121) at 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that Plaintiffs back-pay damages under the NYCHRL are subject to the same maximum recovery period as Plaintiffs claims under state and federal law.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S MEMORANDUM

         Plaintiff submits that, under New York law, "the doctrine of constructive discharge is distinct from a coerced resignation." (Pl. Mem. at 1.) Accordingly, "in the event the jury finds that [the December 30 Letter] was in fact a resignation, " Plaintiff requests that he "be permitted to instruct the jury on the New York State common law doctrine of a coerced resignation and the concept of nullification." (Id. at 2.) In addition, should the jury find either that Plaintiff did not resign, or that his resignation was nullified due to coercion, Plaintiffs deposition testimony concerning his "his intentions [] regarding the writing of said letter should not matter." (Id. at 2-3.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         The court is conscious of its obligation to "analyze NYCHRL claims separately and independently from any federal and state law claims, " recognizing that NYCHRL encompasses a "broader" scope of actionable misconduct. Velazco v. Columbus Citizens Found., 778 F.3d 409, 411 (2d Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (quoting Mihalik v. Credit Agricole Cheuvreux N. Am., Inc., 715 F.3d 102, 109 (2d Cir. 2013)). The court finds, however, that, on procedural grounds, Plaintiff failed to properly assert an NYCHRL claim under a theory of "coerced resignation." Moreover, any such claim would fail on the merits as a matter of law. Therefore, the court's reasoning as to a temporal damages limitation applies equally to Plaintiffs claims under the NYCHRL and other sources of law. (See Apr. 18, 2017, Mem. & Order at 16-17.)

         A. Procedural Grounds

         The court declines to consider Plaintiffs proposed "coerced resignation" theory at this time because it was not properly introduced in either the Complaint or Plaintiffs prior briefing.

         1. The Complaint

         The Complaint offers only three allegations that could be pertinent to his proposed theory of coerced resignation:

(1) on December 29, 2011, Rodriguez told Dr. Percy Erachshaw "that if Rao did not resign, then he, Rodriguez, would fire him." Rodriguez also offered discriminatory reasons for seeking Plaintiffs departure (Compl. ¶ 32);
(2) starting that same day, "Rao encountered various nurses and technicians . . . who expressed surprise, sorrow, and condolences to him that he had been fired, when in fact he had not been notified by anyone that he had been fired" (id. ¶ 41); and
(3) on January 8, 2012, "Rodriguez [] circulated an email letter to the members of the Wyckoff medical staff, except Rao, informing them that he had accepted the resignation of Rao as Chief of Surgery at Wyckoff, despite the fact that Rao had not resigned his position as such, nor had Rao been terminated as such, nor had Rao been notified of his 'resignation' as such" (id. ¶ 49).

         Notably absent is any mention of the December 30 Letter or Plaintiffs related conversations with Dr. Tchelebi. On the face of the Complaint, Plaintiff appears to allege that Rodriguez fabricated a resignation out of thin ...


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