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Murray v. Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 29, 2017

CLINTON MURRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CEREBRAL PALSY ASSOCIATIONS OF NEW YORK, INC., and JAN MILLER, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDGARDO RAMOS, U.S.D.J.

         Clinton Murray brings this action pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) against the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York, Inc. (“CPA”) and Janice Miller, alleging employment discrimination and retaliation on the basis of his post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Background

         A. The Parties

         Defendant CPA is a not-for-profit organization that provides services to people with disabilities and traumatic brain injuries, such as community living opportunities, early intervention, and family support services. Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 2, 4. CPA's largest program is its residential services program, which provides homes throughout New York City for individuals with disabilities. Id. at ¶ 6. Defendant Janice Miller is CPA's Vice President of Program Services. Id. at ¶ 34. During the relevant time period, Ms. Miller was responsible for CPA's residential services program and oversaw the management staff. See Pl.'s Ex. 40, 15:18-25.

         Plaintiff joined CPA as a Direct Care Counselor in December 2004. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 14. In that role, he was responsible for providing assisted daily living care for CPA's residential clients. Id. at ¶ 15. His duties included assisting clients with bathing and grooming, preparing meals, escorting clients to the store and appointments, and providing care for clients as needed. Id. at ¶ 16.

         B. Plaintiff's Stabbing

         On October 11, 2014, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with another CPA employee, Regine Vanderpool, while working the evening shift at one of CPA's residences. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 13, 14, 16; Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 28, 30. During the altercation, Plaintiff felt a punch in his back and realized that he had been stabbed by Ms. Vanderpool. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 17. Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to the hospital. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 31. Plaintiff was released from the hospital the following day, but later contracted Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (“MRSA”) and developed a cellulitis infection because the knife with which he was stabbed was infected. Pl.'s Response to Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 32.

         Three days later, CPA suspended Plaintiff pending an investigation of the stabbing incident. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 33; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 23. CPA found no wrongdoing on Plaintiff's part and lifted his suspension on October 17, 2014. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 26; Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 34. Ms. Vaderpool's employment was terminated. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 36. Following his release from the hospital, Plaintiff went on an approved worker's compensation leave of absence and received medical treatment for his stab wound from a physician. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 27, 30; Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 38.

         While receiving treatment during his leave of absence, Plaintiff's physician expressed concern with the manner in which he was handling the stabbing-noting that Plaintiff was hypervigilant, nervous, and uncomfortable in public settings-and referred him to a psychologist for counseling. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 31-32. Plaintiff saw and received psychological treatment from a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Charles Robbins, and two licensed therapists in Dr. Robbins' office, Naomi Kavish and Senaa Hyder. Id.; Pl.'s Ex. 3, 148:22-149:1, 150:18-22. According to Plaintiff, either Dr. Robbins or Ms. Kavish eventually diagnosed him with PTSD. Pl.'s Ex. 3, 180:7-181:8.

         C. Plaintiff's Return to Work

         In early March 2015, Plaintiff contacted CPA's Human Resources Department (“HR”) and expressed interest in returning to work. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 45; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 39. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff met with Audra Zweig, CPA's Senior Employment Coordinator, and Kwado Ofori, CPA's Staffing Manager, to receive clearance to return to work. Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 53; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 42. Plaintiff provided HR with a letter from Dr. Robbins and Ms. Hyder, dated February 26, 2015, stating that they were “clearing him to return to full-time work without any restrictions” and “recommending his reinstatement to his previously held position.” Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 41; Pl.'s Ex. 15. The clearance letter did not mention that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with PTSD, nor did it suggest that Plaintiff suffered from lingering emotional or psychological effects of the stabbing. See Pl.'s Ex. 15; Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 51. However, Plaintiff's worker's compensation file-which was stamped indicating that it was provided to CPA's HR Department on April 21, 2015-included the following language:

The [injured worker] is becoming increasingly anxious, realizing the impact this incident is having upon his life. He is seeking mental health counseling with a Dr. Robbins (psych), as he is having flashbacks and is fearful that Regine (assailant) come (sic) after him. His appointment with Dr. Robbins is scheduled for 11/11/14. The psychiatric component to his disability may delay his return to work/gainful employment.

Pl.'s Ex. 12 at DEF000159. Plaintiff alleges that he told Ms. Zweig and Mr. Ofori that he had been diagnosed with PTSD during the clearance meeting. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 44. Mr. Ofori testified that he was never made aware of Plaintiff's PTSD diagnosis. Defs.' Response to Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 44.

         Plaintiff returned to work on March 9, 2015 as a Full-Time Floater, a position that CPA created for him because his former position of Direct Care Counselor had been filled while he was on leave. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 43, 46; Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 56. Plaintiff alleges that when he returned to work, he was “very forthcoming with the fact that he had PTSD and did not have a problem sharing that he had PTSD, but had a problem sharing details about the stabbing.” Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 50. According to Plaintiff, managers made comments about his mental state and capabilities, and questioned why he did not want to discuss the stabbing. Id. at ¶ 48. In particular, Plaintiff testified about incidents with Celeste Anderson, Julia Hudson, Mary Grace Whitehead, and Beverly Brown. Id. at ¶ 49.

         Incident with Ms. Anderson

         On March 28, 2015, Ms. Anderson, who is a Program Coordinator with CPA, called Plaintiff to give him his scheduled assignment for the day. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 84, 86; Pl.'s Ex. 19. According to Plaintiff, during their conversation, Ms. Anderson asked him “what's wrong with you” and “are you okay” and commented that it “seems like you have an issue with me.” Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 86. The conversation ended after Plaintiff asked Ms. Anderson where she had been the night he was stabbed-Ms. Anderson had been on call that night and Plaintiff unsuccessfully tried to reach her multiple times after the stabbing. Id. at ¶ 87; Pl.'s Ex. 19. Ms. Anderson reported the incident to Ms. Miller shortly thereafter. See Pl.'s Ex. 19; Pl.'s Ex. 40, 68:7-24.

         Incident with Ms. Hudson

         In early April 2015, Ms. Hudson, who had supervisory authority over Plaintiff, directed him to go to one of CPA's residences; but once he arrived, she called him claiming that she had told him to go to a different location, even though Plaintiff adamantly denied that she had done so. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 71-72. According to Plaintiff, Ms. Hudson told him that “there's something wrong with you” and “you seem like there's a problem.” Pl.'s Ex. 3, 178:5-8. Ms. Miller testified that when Ms. Hudson reported the incident to her she described Plaintiff as being argumentative and combative during their interaction. Pl.'s Ex. 40, 66:17-25. Plaintiff asserts that he told Ms. Hudson that he had PTSD around that time. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 74. However, the portion of the record on which Plaintiff relies does not support this: he only testified that he told Ms. Hudson that he felt he was being treated differently. See Id.; Pl.'s Ex. 3, 267:21-268:18. According to Plaintiff, Ms. Hudson asked him if he was “okay” on multiple other occasions. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 75.

         Incidents with Ms. Whitehead and Ms. Brown

         Plaintiff testified that on various occasions, Ms. Whitehead, a Program Coordinator with CPA, asked him if he was “okay” or “all right” and attempted to “diagnose” him. Id. at ¶¶ 54- 55. Plaintiff claims that he told Ms. Whitehead about his PTSD during their conversations. Id. at ¶ 56. Ms. Whitehead, however, testified that she was never made aware of Plaintiff's PTSD diagnosis. Defs.' Response to Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 56. ...


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