Julian v. New York City Transit Authority

Decision Date06 May 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93 CV 3279.,93 CV 3279.
Citation857 F. Supp. 242
PartiesVera JULIAN, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, a municipal corporation created under the Laws of the State of New York; The Metropolitan Transit Authority, a municipal corporation created under the Laws of the State of New York; Raymond D. Goodman, Director, Labor Relations — Rapid Transit Operations; Mr. Pezza, Assistant to Mr. Goodman; Edward Krieger, Compensation Coordinator, Rapid Transit Operations Department, Labor Relations Division; Joyce Benn, Employee Benefits (NYCTA); Janet S. Holt, Administrative Manager, Worker's Compensation Bureau; Dr. Robert Swearington, a Consultant Doctor for the (NYCTA); The New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS); The Board of Trustees of (NYCERS), a body charged by law with the administration of the City Employees Pension Fund pursuant to the Administrative Code of the City of New York; The Medical Board of (NYCERS), a body charged by law with the responsibility of evaluating fairly the disability of applicants to (NYCERS); Julia Hegarty, Chief-Medical Division of (NYCERS); Rosemary Carroll, Ex-Attorney for Plaintiff; Carmen S. Suardy, Vice President Labor Relations, Labor Disputes Resolution at the (NYCTA); and Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

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Vera Julian, pro se.

Edward F. Zagajeski, Law Dept., New York City Transit Authority, Brooklyn, NY, for defendants New York City Transit Authority, Raymond D. Goodman, Anthony Pezza, Edward Krieger, Carmen Suardy, Joyce Benn, Janet S. Holt, John Murphy, Herman Rosen M.D., and Marsh McCall, M.D.

O. Peter Sherwood, Corp. Counsel, by Anshel David, Asst. Corp. Counsel, New York City, for defendants Peter E. Stangl and Julia Hegarty.

Steven A. Rosen, New York City, for defendant Robert Swearington.

Ronald Kleigerman, Kleigerman & Friess, New York City, for defendant Rosemary Carroll.

Virginia M. Pettinelli, O'Donnell, Schwartz, Glanstein & Rosen, New York City, for defendant Transp. Workers' Union, Local 100.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

BARTELS, District Judge.

Plaintiff pro se Vera Julian brings this action challenging her termination from employment by the New York City Transit Authority "TA" or "Transit Authority" and the subsequent denial of disability benefits by the New York City Employees Retirement System "NYCERS". The defendants have each moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure "Rule" 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings, or pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For reasons more fully explained herein, defendants' motions are granted, and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

FACTS

Plaintiff, a black woman, was employed by the Transit Authority as a Railroad Clerk in the Station Division in May 1972, and was promoted to Train Operator in the Rapid Transit Division in May 1988. On June 14, 1988, plaintiff injured her back during job training for her new position, and did not return to work. On August 18, 1989, the Medical Services Department of the Transit Authority found that plaintiff was permanently disabled from performing the duties of her job title.

Subsequently, the Workers' Compensation Board found that plaintiff was disabled, and that her injury was caused by the accident at work; accordingly, plaintiff received Workers' Compensation benefits. In addition, the United States Department of Health & Human Services found plaintiff to be disabled and unable to do light duty work for purposes of receiving Social Security disability benefits.

In September 1989, plaintiff submitted an application for accident disability retirement to NYCERS, the municipal agency charged with administration of the city employees' pension funds. Meanwhile, by letter dated June 25, 1990, Raymond Goodman, Transit Authority Director of Labor Relations, Rapid Transit Operations, advised plaintiff that she would be terminated as of July 15, 1990 pursuant to the New York Civil Service law, because she had been unable to work for more than one year. The June 25 letter further stated that under the Civil Service Law, plaintiff had the right to apply for reinstatement within one year of her termination. Finally, the letter advised plaintiff that she may be eligible for ordinary or accidental disability benefits, and that she was required to apply for them while still an active employee. Accordingly, Goodman's letter stated that the Transit Authority would defer her termination pending NYCERS' final decision on her disability retirement application, provided plaintiff cooperated with the application process.

Plaintiff wrote to Goodman on July 5 advising him that she had already applied for disability retirement and was awaiting a determination. Apparently due to an error on the part of the Transit Authority, plaintiff received a second letter from Goodman on August 1, 1990 stating that she had been terminated. When plaintiff complained that her termination was premature because no final decision had been made by NYCERS with respect to her disability benefits, Goodman responded that her August 1 termination was proper because NYCERS had denied her application on July 31. However, Goodman's letter was incorrect; NYCERS' Board of Trustees did not finally deny plaintiff's application for accident disability retirement until August 6.

The bureaucratic morass deepened when plaintiff attempted to exercise her right to appeal NYCERS' denial of her application for disability retirement. Plaintiff found herself in a Catch-22 when she received a letter from NYCERS dated September 10, 1990 stating that her appeal would not be processed because plaintiff had been terminated, and was therefore no longer an active employee.

Unable either to work or to obtain retirement benefits, plaintiff hired attorney Rosemary Carroll, one of the defendants herein. In December 1990, Carroll filed an action against the Transit Authority and NYCERS in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, challenging plaintiff's termination from employment and the denial of her accident disability retirement application. On October 16, 1991, the court so-ordered a Stipulation and Order pursuant to which the Transit Authority agreed to rescind plaintiff's termination and place her on a leave of absence without pay and benefits for the purpose of allowing plaintiff to apply for disability benefits. The Stipulation provided that plaintiff would file an application for ordinary disability retirement and renew her application for accident disability retirement with NYCERS, and NYCERS would review both applications. In addition, the Transit Authority would continue her leave of absence pending NYCERS' final decision on the retirement applications, and plaintiff agreed to release the Transit Authority from all claims against it.

In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the Transit Authority reinstated plaintiff on November 4, 1991 and placed her on a leave of absence, for the sole purpose of filing her disability applications with NYCERS. Subsequently, the Medical Board of NYCERS recommended denial of both of plaintiff's applications, and by letter dated May 27, 1992, the Board of Trustees of NYCERS denied plaintiff's applications for ordinary and accident disability retirement. The letter of denial advised plaintiff of her right to appeal the decision of the Board of Trustees within 15 days.

In March 1993, plaintiff returned to state court and moved to hold the Transit Authority and NYCERS in contempt for failing to abide by the terms of the October 16, 1991 stipulation. On May 25, 1993, Supreme Court Justice Alfred Toker found that both defendants had complied fully with the stipulation and accordingly denied the contempt motion.

On July 1, 1993, plaintiff filed this action against the Transit Authority, NYCERS, several municipal employees, and other individuals, including a physician who examined plaintiff and her former attorney in the Article 78 proceeding. The complaint alleges employment discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act based on plaintiff's race, gender, age, marital status and disability. Plaintiff also alleges a conspiracy among the defendants to violate her civil rights, retaliation claims, due process violations, and a variety of state law claims including defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, legal malpractice and violation of a court order.

In the interest of clarity, the following chronological summary sets forth the relevant events in this case:

May 1972 Plaintiff was hired by the Transit Authority.
June 14, 1988 Plaintiff sustained an on-the-job injury.
August 18, 1989 Transit Authority found plaintiff permanently disabled from performing her job.
September 1989 Plaintiff submitted application with NYCERS for disability retirement benefits.
June 25, 1990 Transit Authority advised plaintiff that she would be terminated on the ground that she was unable to perform her job for more than one year.
August 1, 1990 Transit Authority terminated plaintiff's employment.
August 6, 1990 NYCERS' Board of Trustees denied plaintiff's application for disability benefits.
September 10, 1990 NYCERS denied plaintiff's appeal on the ground that she was no longer a municipal employee.
October 16, 1991 Stipulation and Order entered in plaintiff's Article 78 proceeding.
November 4, 1991 Transit Authority reinstated plaintiff and placed her on a leave of absence for the purpose of allowing her to file applications for disability retirement benefits with NYCERS.
May 27, 1992 NYCERS denied plaintiff's applications for ordinary and accidental disability retirement based on a finding that plaintiff was not disabled.
May 25, 1993 State court found that the Transit Authority and NYCERS had
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