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Mazzeo v. Mnuchin

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 28, 2017

MICHAEL MAZZEO, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN T. MNUCHIN, Secretary, United States Department of the Treasury, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Vincent L. Briccetti, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Michael Mazzeo, a former special agent in the Criminal Investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), brings this action against defendant Steven T. Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury, [1] for discrimination based on plaintiff's sex, race, national origin, age, and disability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 (“ADEA”), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 (“Rehabilitation Act”). Plaintiff also brings a retaliation claim, alleging he was threatened with disciplinary action after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).

         Before the Court is defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. #28).

         For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         BACKGROUND

         The following factual background is drawn from the amended complaint and an August 3, 2015, decision of the EEOC that plaintiff attached to, and relied on, in his opposition brief.

         For purposes of deciding the pending motion, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded allegations in the amended complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.

         Plaintiff is a white Italian-American male born in 1965, who at all relevant times was employed as a special agent in the Criminal Investigation division of the IRS.

         In December 2008, plaintiff suffered a left rotator cuff impingement injury during defensive tactics training, and on November 5, 2009, underwent left rotator cuff repair surgery. As a result of his shoulder injury, plaintiff was placed on limited duty in May 2010. Plaintiff subsequently experienced a similar injury in his right shoulder.

         In February 2011, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”) notified plaintiff's supervisors that they would no longer work with plaintiff, nor prosecute any cases assigned to him, because they did not trust him. Plaintiff's SDNY cases were subsequently reassigned to other agents. On March 30, 2011, one of plaintiff's supervisors informed him she would hold weekly meetings with plaintiff to discuss the progress of his investigations, and that he would be expected to develop investigations in the Northern District of New York.

         Following a physical examination of plaintiff, IRS medical review officer Dr. Phong Dong Nguyen issued a report on August 11, 2011, concluding plaintiff was not able to perform the duties of a special agent.

         Plaintiff was scheduled for a fitness for duty examination on October 5, 2011 (which was subsequently rescheduled due to a conflicting federal holiday), because of concerns regarding plaintiff's ability to perform fully his duties as a special agent in light of the limited range of motion in his left shoulder following surgery, and his diagnosis of a right rotator cuff tear.

         On October 5, 2011, plaintiff's third-level supervisor proposed to suspend plaintiff's receipt of law enforcement availability pay (“LEAP”)[2] because, since May 2010, plaintiff had been unavailable to work unscheduled overtime due to his ongoing medical issues.

         On November 2, 2011, and again on September 27, 2012, plaintiff claims his supervisor directed him “to use or lose” annual leave prior to his surgeries scheduled for November 10, 2011, and October 18, 2012, respectively. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15).

         On November 10, 2011, plaintiff underwent a second surgery on his left shoulder. Prior to this surgery, plaintiff was required to leave his government-issued vehicle, a 2008 Buick Lucerne with 40, 245 miles on it, at his office. While out on leave, plaintiff's government-issued vehicle was reassigned to another special agent.

         On or about November 30, 2011, while on leave recovering from shoulder surgery, plaintiff was removed as a user from certain IRS computer systems. On January 27, 2012, plaintiff was restored as a user to the IRS computer systems.

         On January 1, 2012, plaintiff's LEAP was suspended. Beginning on January 29, 2012, the receipt of LEAP no longer appeared on any of plaintiff's SF-50 Personnel Action Forms.

         On January 30, 2012, plaintiff returned to work and was assigned a 2007 Buick LaCrosse with around 45, 000 miles on it.

         On or about March 5, 2012, plaintiff received a performance appraisal for the period ending January 31, 2012, that “[in]accurately reflected and failed to fully credit his work performance.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 19).

         Plaintiff claims beginning on April 6, 2011, he was provided with incorrect information from “Human Capitol officials” regarding leave buy back, and was incorrectly charged 643 hours of sick leave that should have been charged as leave without pay while plaintiff was receiving workers' compensation benefits. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20).

         On June 28, 2012, plaintiff was again ordered to attend a fit for duty examination due to concerns raised regarding plaintiff's ongoing shoulder injuries. Dr. Robert Hendler performed an orthopedic evaluation of plaintiff, and concluded plaintiff was not able to perform his job duties safely and efficiently at that time. On July 24, 2012, Dr. Nguyen conducted a medical fitness for duty evaluation of plaintiff, and agreed with Dr. Hendler that plaintiff was unable to perform the full duties of a special agent.

         On or about October 9, 2012, plaintiff was notified he no longer met the GS-1811 Treasury Enforcement Agent Qualification Standards, and that he would remain on temporary restricted duty until further notice.

         On October 18, 2012, plaintiff had surgery on his right shoulder, and on September 25, 2013, he was cleared to return to full duty.

         On June 12, 2014, plaintiff's LEAP was retroactively restored from January 29, 2012- October 6, 2013.

         On March 2, 2012, plaintiff filed an EEOC complaint against the IRS, which plaintiff subsequently amended to add additional claims. On July 15, 2015, the EEOC held a consolidated hearing during which plaintiff's supervisor Joan Totani, among others from the IRS, testified. Plaintiff claims Totani “was not completely truthful in her testimony.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 26). On August 3, 2015, the EEOC issued a decision in favor of the IRS.

         On August 4, 2015, approximately three weeks after the EEOC hearing, plaintiff was called to a meeting with Totani and his second-level supervisor, Manny Muriel. According to plaintiff, he was “inaccurately” told the meeting would not be “disciplinary” in nature. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). Plaintiff claims he was “threatened with discipline” for filing his EEOC complaint at the August 4, 2015, meeting. (Id. ¶ 28). On August 18, 2015, Muriel sent plaintiff a follow-up email, instructing plaintiff to cease causing “discord and dissention amongst the employees or management” or possibly face disciplinary action. (Id. ¶ 30; Bretz Decl., Ex. A).

         On December 26, 2015, plaintiff resigned from his position with the IRS.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 12(c), at any time after the pleadings are closed, but before trial commences, a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. The legal standard applicable to a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings and a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) are identical. Hayden Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010). Accordingly, in deciding a motion under Rule 12(c), the Court evaluates the sufficiency of the complaint under the “two-pronged approach” announced by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). First, plaintiff's legal conclusions and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are not entitled to the assumption of truth and are thus not sufficient to withstand a motion for a judgment on the ...


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