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Majied v. New York City Dept. of Education

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 8, 2018

AMINAH L. MAJIED, Plaintiff,


          JESSE M. FURMAN, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Aminah Majied is a teacher employed by the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) and a dues-paying member of the United Federation of Teachers (“UFT”). Proceeding pro se, she appears to bring claims against the DOE under, among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et seq.; the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.; the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq.; the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), N.Y. City Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq.; and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She also brings claims, the exact nature of which is hard to discern, against the UFT and the Teachers Retirement System (“TRS”). The DOE and UFT now move, pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to dismiss Majied's claims against them. (Docket Nos. 17, 23). For the reasons stated below, their motions are granted. Additionally, the Court concludes that the claims against TRS fail as a matter of law and, thus, should be dismissed even though TRS has not yet appeared.


         The following facts, taken from the Complaint, are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion. See, e.g., Kalnit v. Eichler, 264 F.3d 131, 135 (2d Cir. 2001). Majied alleges that, while she was teaching a class on March 26, 2015, a student physically and verbally attacked her, resulting in “a back injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ” and leaving her incapable of working. (See Docket No. 2 (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 1-2, 5). Following the attack, Majied reported the incident, in response to which Assistant Principals Ghandi Moussa and Matina Stergiopolous and Principal Rosemarie O'Mard ordered her back to work. (Id. ¶ 5). Further, Majied alleges that, when she attempted to report the incident more formally, Secretary Anna Mooney refused to grant her a comprehensive injury report (“CIR”) or the appropriate reporting forms. (Id. ¶ 5). The following day, however, Majied completed a CIR and a revised incident report, which she submitted to Assistant Principal of Security David English. (Id. ¶ 6). The same day, Majied reported her injury to UFT by submitting an online form. (Id. ¶ 6).

         In the weeks following the incident, Majied began pursuing leave options. On March 30, 2015, she submitted leave forms to Mooney and a handwritten CIR to English. (Compl. ¶ 7). The next day, English and UFT Chapter Leader Adam Abrego asked Majied to sign an electronic CIR, which she refused to do on the ground that the statement “was contrary” to the one she had submitted. (Id. ¶ 8). On April 20, 2015, Mooney sent Majied a CIR signed by O'Mard, the Principal, and Superintendent Donald Conyers, indicating that a line of duty injury (“LODI”) was “approved.” (Id. ¶ 11). Three days later, Majied submitted to the Self-Service Online Leave Application System (“SOLAS”) an MRI and report from one “Dr. Freeman, ” claiming that she could not return to work due to “radicular pain to her feet.” (Id. ¶ 12). Soon thereafter, however, a doctor from the Medical Bureau examined Majied and deemed her fit to return to work. (Id. ¶ 13). Accordingly, on May 6, 2015, O'Mard ordered Majied to return to work, and warned Majied that her absences were “being treated as unauthorized with deductions in pay.” (Id. ¶ 14; Ex. H). In a letter to Conyers and O'Mard dated May 12, 2015, Majied demanded approved leave as an accommodation for her injuries, which she claimed were a result of the March 26, 2015 classroom incident. (Id. ¶ 15). Two days later, Majied received a notice from O'Mard that she was being investigated for verbal abuse. (Id. ¶ 16; Ex. J).

         During this same time, Majied continued to grapple with the leave and injury claims processes. After being “barred from submitting any further leave extensions or medical documentation” through SOLAS on May 15, 2015, Majied received an email on June 2, 2015, notifying her that she had withdrawn her LODI application and would therefore be placed on unauthorized leave. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 19; Ex. N). Three days later, she received a letter advising that she was on leave without pay or health benefits, backdated to March 27, 2016. (Id. ¶ 20; Ex. O). When Majied contacted “Human Resources Connect” to inform them that she had never withdrawn her LODI application, the Supervisor of the Call Center informed her that the Superintendent had denied her LODI request. (Id. ¶ 21). Majied attempted to contact her school's secretary, administration, and Human Resources Connect about the matter, but failed; as a result, she sought assistance from the UFT. (Id. ¶ 21). UFT District Representative James Vasquez told Majied that a Step-1 grievance had been lodged with the Superintendent with the aim of removing the administrative bar to her LODI status, but cautioned that the matter “would take years to be heard.” (Id. ¶ 21). On June 28, 2015, Vasquez provided Majied a denied LODI request from the Superintendent, but Majied claims she “never received [a] formal denial letter or a reason for the denial/disapproval from the DOE.” (Id. ¶ 24).

         At or about the same time, Majied also began seeking relief pursuant to the FMLA. First, she “continuously” contacted her payroll secretary and Human Resources Connect “Medical Leaves”; when that proved unsuccessful, she sought help from UFT Representatives Dermot Smyth and John Harrington. (Id. ¶ 22). Majied claims that the UFT representatives “tried to coerce plaintiff to waive her rights” by signing a “restoration of health” form, but she refused. (Id. ¶ 22). Around the same time, Majied received a paper form indicating an unsatisfactory performance evaluation in addition to “disciplinary letters, and a copy of an incomplete . . . Corporal Punishment Report and Intake Form, ” which had previously been submitted to the Office of Special Investigations. (Id. ¶ 25; see Ex. T). On July 16, 2015, however, the Director of Medical Leaves approved Majied's FMLA benefits, albeit for different dates than those she had requested. (Id. ¶ 26). The Director's approval reinstated health benefits for Majied and her children. (Id. ¶ 27).

         That same month, Majied also applied for disability benefits through the UFT Welfare fund and claims to have discovered that her Step-1 grievance was never filed. (Compl. ¶ 28). In August 2015, Majied applied for “Teachers Retirement Accidental Disability, ” but her claim was denied “with much” of her “medical evidence disregarded.” (Id. ¶ 30). That November, Majied claims that UFT canceled her prescription drug benefits, refusing to reinstate them “unless she filed an OP160 leave form.” (Id. ¶ 31). Ultimately, Majied brought charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against the DOE, UFT, and TRS alleging disability discrimination and retaliation. (Id. ¶ 32). After filing, Majied learned that her health benefits were canceled, backdated to September 8, 2015. (Id. ¶ 33). Majied again applied for accidental disability benefits, but on April 20, 2016, her claim was denied by TRS, which “disregard[ed] the preponderance of medical evidence submitted.” (Compl. ¶ 35). On May 17, 2016, Majied ran into UFT Special Representative Tom Bennett and approached him with a question; in response, he “overreacted making a mockery” of Majied's disability and stated, “I don't want you people near me.” (Id. ¶ 36). Subsequently, the Director of Human Resources granted Majied an authorized leave of absence from September 8, 2015 through June 30, 2016, and she successfully obtained “UFT Welfare fund benefits.” (Id. ¶¶ 37, 39, 41).


         In evaluating Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all facts set forth in the Complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in Majied's favor. See, e.g., Burch v. Pioneer Credit Recovery, Inc., 551 F.3d 122, 124 (2d Cir. 2008) (per curiam).[1] A claim will survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, however, only if the plaintiff alleges facts sufficient “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A plaintiff must show “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” id., and cannot rely on mere “labels and conclusions” to support a claim, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If the plaintiff's pleadings “have not nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Finally, because Majied is proceeding pro se, her Complaint “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). “Nonetheless, a pro se litigant must still state a plausible claim for relief. Put another way, the Court's duty to liberally construe a plaintiff's complaint is not the equivalent of a duty to re-write it.” Thomas v. N.Y. City Dep't of Educ., No. 15-CV-8934 (JMF), 2016 WL 4544066, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2016) (internal quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted).


         Liberally construed, Majied's Complaint alleges against the DOE disability discrimination claims under the ADA, the NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL; an interference claim under the FMLA; retaliation claims under the First Amendment, the FMLA, the ADA, the NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL; and a state-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Majied's claims against the UFT and TRS are even less clear, but she seems to bring claims for breach of the duty of fair representation against the former and claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461, against the latter. The Court will address Majied's federal claims against the DOE before turning to her federal claims against the UFT and TRS. As the Court will explain, there is no need to reach the merits of Majied's claims under state and local law.

         A. Claims Against the DOE

         1. ...

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