Hanig v. Yorktown Cent. School Dist.

Decision Date02 September 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04 CIV. 8628(WCC).,04 CIV. 8628(WCC).
Citation384 F.Supp.2d 710
PartiesDeborah HANIG, Plaintiff, v. YORKTOWN CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Oxman Tulis Kirkpatrick Whyatt & Geiger, LLP, Attorneys for Plaintiff, White Plains, Gregory J. Spaun, Esq., Of Counsel.

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, Attorneys for Defendant, Highland, Mark C. Rushfield, Esq., Of Counsel.

OPINION AND ORDER

CONNER, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Deborah Hanig brings this action against defendant the Yorktown Central School District (the "School District"). Plaintiff seeks relief under: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and violations of the New York State Constitution; (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1201 et seq., alleging that defendant retaliated against her for filing a complaint of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"); (3) the New York Human Rights Law (the "NYHRL"), N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 296, alleging retaliation; and (4) New York State law for breach of contract.1 Defendant now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated hereinafter, defendant's Rule 12(b)(1) motion is denied, and defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion is granted.

BACKGROUND2

Plaintiff is a resident of the state of New York and was, at all times relevant to the Amended Complaint, employed by the School District as a guidance counselor at Yorktown High School. (Am.Complt.¶ 3.) Plaintiff holds a Bachelors Degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Masters of Art and Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College. (Id.) In February of 2000, plaintiff obtained a Provisional Public School Teachers Certificate from the University of the State of New York, Education Department, which certified her as a school counselor. (Id. ¶ 7.) The School District is located in the State of New York. (Id. ¶ 4.)

In July 2000, plaintiff was hired by the School District as high school guidance counselor. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff's employment commenced in August 2000, and her job responsibilities included: "counseling students regarding personal or academic issues, assisting students in researching and applying to college, [and] sending letters of recommendation for students to prospective colleges." (Id. ¶ 6.) In addition, plaintiff served as class advisor for the Yorktown High School Class of 2005, advisor to the Diversity Club and was a member of a community service committee. (Id.) Throughout the first two years of plaintiff's employment with the School District she received complimentary and positive evaluations from administrators at Yorktown High School including Principal Dan Brenner, Assistant Principal Randall Glading, and Assistant Principal Wallace F. Maher, Jr.3 (Id.) However, in June of 2002, plaintiff's supervisor, Kay Buckley, Teacher Coordinator of School Counseling, advised her that Brenner had seen a recommendation letter that plaintiff wrote for a student and thereafter "commented upon the grammar [plaintiff] used in the letter." (Id. ¶ 9.) During that conversation, plaintiff informed Buckley that she suffered from learning disabilities known as dyslexia and dysgraphia which affected her ability to write. (Id. ¶ 10.) In response, Buckley instructed plaintiff to give "special attention to the grammar used in recommendations and other correspondence coming from the school." (Id.)

On October 27, 2002, Brenner met with plaintiff to discuss issues relating to her writing skills. (Id.) During that meeting, Brenner asked plaintiff not to send out any written material without first showing it to himself or Buckley to ensure that it was of adequate quality. (Id.) After meeting with Brenner, plaintiff contacted the writing center at Columbia University and hired a doctoral candidate to review her writing. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff states that from that point forward, both the doctoral candidate as well as a specialist dealing with learning disability writing problems reviewed all of plaintiff's letters before she sent them to Buckley or Brenner. (Id.)

In a memorandum dated March 14, 2003, Brenner advised plaintiff that he still had concerns regarding her writing ability. (Id. ¶ 12.) Brenner indicated that, despite his and Buckely's best efforts to assist her, plaintiff's writing skills continued to fall short of what is required of a high school guidance counselor. (Id.) Brenner explained that because high school guidance counselors play an integral role in helping students with the college admissions process, they must possess a skill set which includes a "facility with writing." (Id.) On March 31, 2003, seventeen days after Brenner's March 14, 2003 memorandum, plaintiff received a letter from Interim Superintendent of Schools, Vincent Ziccolella, advising her that pursuant to Section 3031 of the N.Y. EDUC. LAW ("Section 3031") at the April 22, 2003 board meeting he would recommend that plaintiff not be granted tenure as a school counselor. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff contends that because Ziccolella's letter was delivered to her less than thirty days before the April 22, 2003 board meeting, it was in clear violation of Section 3031 which required defendant to notify plaintiff at least thirty days prior to a board meeting at which the Superintendent intended to recommend that plaintiff's employment be terminated. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that the purpose of the thirty-day period was to allow her to request in writing the reasons for her termination prior to the scheduled board meeting. (Id.)

Shortly thereafter, plaintiff contacted representatives of the Yorktown Congress of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers regarding a potential grievance based upon defendant's alleged violation of Section 3031. (Id. ¶ 16.) As a result, negotiations took place between plaintiff, the Yorktown Congress of Teachers, Ziccolella and Brenner, and an agreement was reached on May 20, 2003 (the "Agreement"). (Id. ¶ 17.) The Agreement, which was entitled "Memorandum of Agreement Between the Yorktown Central School District and Deborah Hanig," provided, inter alia, that: (1) plaintiff would continue her employment with the School District for the remainder of the 2002-03 school year; and (2) at the May 20, 2003 board meeting defendant would accept plaintiff's resignation, rather than terminate her employment pursuant to Sections 3031 and 3019-a of the N.Y. EDUC. LAW.4 (Id.) The Agreement further provided that defendant would provide a "neutral reference" for plaintiff to any prospective employers who contacted defendant for a reference. (Id.)

At the May 20, 2003 board meeting, the Board of Education accepted plaintiff's resignation and her employment with the School Dictrict terminated at the conclusion of the 2002-03 school year. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.) Thereafter, plaintiff began to seek other employment as a school guidance counselor. (Id. ¶ 19.) In accordance with the Agreement, Brenner provided plaintiff with a letter of recommendation dated June 9, 2003. (Id. ¶ 20.) The tone of the June 9, 2003 letter was positive and complimentary. (Id.)

On October 20, 2003, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against defendant with the EEOC, alleging that "on or about May 20, 2003," defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her disability. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.) On January 29, 2004, plaintiff received a Dismissal and Notice of Right-to-Sue letter from the EEOC, advising plaintiff that her file was being closed after the EEOC found that the allegations "did not involve a disability as defined by the Americans with Disability Act." (Id. ¶ 23 (quotations omitted).)5

Plaintiff was unable to obtain employment as a high school guidance counselor until January 2004, when she was hired by New Rochelle High School as an Interim Maternity Leave Counselor. (Id. ¶ 24.) According to plaintiff, New Rochelle High School was unable to hire her as a permanent employee, but provided her with a very favorable recommendation upon the expiration of her interim position. (Id.) The Amended Complaint does not indicate exactly how long plaintiff's interim position at New Rochelle High School lasted.

Sometime in the Spring of 2004,6 plaintiff was hired by the Greenburgh 7 Central School District (the "Greenburgh CSD") as a high school guidance counselor for the 2004-05 school year. (Id.) However, after she entered into an agreement with the Greenburgh CSD, but before her employment began, plaintiff received a telephone call from Superintendent Josephine Moffett, advising plaintiff that the Greenburgh CSD had received "unfavorable information" about her from defendant and, as a result, had decided to rescind its offer of employment. (Id. ¶ 26.) According to plaintiff, she has been otherwise unable to obtain employment as a guidance counselor in Westchester County. (Id. ¶ 25.)

Plaintiff alleges that defendant provided "unfavorable information" about her to the Greenburgh CSD in direct violation of the Agreement. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff also alleges that providing such "unfavorable information" caused the Greenburgh CSD to rescind its offer of employment. (Id.) Additionally, plaintiff notes that, although she was able to obtain temporary employment at New Rochelle High School in January 2004, that position was obtained before the EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Right-to-Sue letter to plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 29.) Accordingly, plaintiff alleges that:

As a proximate result of the defendant's intentional, willful and/or reckless conduct, plaintiff has been punished for the exercise of her First Amendment Rights; repeatedly been denied other...

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