United States District Court, S.D. New York
AMINAH L. MAJIED, Plaintiff,
NEW YORK CITY DEPT. OF EDUCATION et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
M. FURMAN, United States District Judge
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.
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).
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).
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. ¶
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).
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).
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). 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).
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.
Claims Against the DOE