Mainella v. Golub Corp.

Decision Date28 March 2018
Docket Number1:15-CV-1082 (FJS/DJS)
PartiesCHRISTINE MAINELLA and VINCENT MAINELLA, Plaintiffs, v. THE GOLUB CORPORATION doing business as Price Chopper, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York
APPEARANCES
OFFICE OF THOMAS M. GAMBINO

& ASSOCIATES, P.C.

222 Church Street

Poughkeepsie, New York 12601

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

JACKON LEWIS P.C.

44 South Broadway, 14th Floor

White Plains, New York 10601

OF COUNSEL

THOMAS M. GAMBINO, ESQ.

JOSEPH J. LYNETT, ESQ.

KRISTI RICH WINTERS, ESQ.

SCULLIN, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs commenced this action on September 3, 2015, against Defendant Golub Corporation ("Defendant Price Chopper"). See Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Plaintiff Christine Mainella ("Plaintiff Christine M."), a former pharmacist for Defendant Price Chopper, filed suit against Defendant Price Chopper following her termination in January 2013, alleging the following causes of action: (1)(a) disability discrimination and (b) retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"); (2)(a) discrimination and (b) retaliation in violation of the New York State Executive Law, commonly known as the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"); and (3) age discrimination in employment in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). See Complaint at ¶ 1.

Furthermore, Plaintiff Vincent Mainella ("Plaintiff Vincent M.") alleges that Defendant Price Chopper terminated him as Vice President of Pharmacy, Health and Wellness in April 2013 and that this termination constituted a retaliatory discharge in violation of the ADA and the NYSHRL, as well as age discrimination in violation of the ADEA. See Complaint at ¶¶ 1, 41; Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 31, 36 (citations omitted).

Pending before the Court are Defendant's motion for summary judgment with regard to all of Plaintiffs' claims, see Dkt. No. 41, and Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment limited to issues of liability, see Dkt. No. 42, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. BACKGROUND

In 2001 Defendant Price Chopper hired Plaintiff Christine M., a New York State-licensed pharmacist, who at the time was 45 years old, to work at its pharmacies. See Dkt. No. 41-4 ("Defendant's Statement of Facts") at ¶ 2 (citations omitted); Dkt. No. 42-2 ("Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts") at ¶ 3 (citations omitted). After working as a Pharmacy Trainer, Plaintiff was promoted to Pharmacy Manager in 2010, when she was 54 years of age. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 4 (citation omitted). In 2006, Plaintiff Christine M. contracted an autoimmune disease called immune thrombocytopenic purpura ("ITP").1 See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 5 (citationomitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 6 (citations omitted); Dkt. No. 41-1, Exhibit "B" at 44.2

When Plaintiff Christine M. began employment with Defendant Price Chopper in 2001, Defendant Price Chopper did not provide immunization services to customers. See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 4 (citations omitted). Consequently, Plaintiff Christine M. did not have to administer immunizations as part of her job. However, after New York State implemented regulations that permitted pharmacists to provide immunizations to the public, Defendant Price Chopper decided to implement a pilot program under which its pharmacists could administer immunizations on a voluntary basis. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 12-14 (citations omitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Fact at ¶ 5 (citations omitted). In 2011, after the program proved successful, Defendant Price Chopper decided to make immunization certification a mandatory job requirement for all its pharmacists. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 15-16 (citations omitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 5 (citations omitted). Thus, Defendant Price Chopper required that pharmacists whom it employed at the time, including Plaintiff Christine M., successfully complete an immunization certification program by the following year, i.e., August 2012, as a condition of their continued employment with Defendant Price Chopper. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 18-19 (citations omitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 5 (citations omitted).

As a result of her ITP, Plaintiff Christine M. has a "compromised immune system"; and, ifshe "has to be treated for a needle stick, the drugs used as part of that treatment . . . could cause her platelet levels to reach a critical level that [could] cause her death." See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 11 (citations omitted). Plaintiff Christine M. notified Defendant Price Chopper of her condition and that she suffered "extreme anxiety" at "[t]he thought of having to immunize anyone [and] thereby potentially exposing [individuals] to the same exposure to an auto immune disease" that she had allegedly suffered due to a flu shot.3 See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 12 (citations omitted). Therefore, Plaintiff Christine M. advised Defendant Price Chopper that she could not perform immunizations as Defendant Price Chopper's policy required; and she requested a "reasonable accommodation," i.e., that Defendant Price Chopper not require her to immunize customers as part of her job. See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 7-8, 16 (citations omitted); Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 32-34 (citations omitted). Defendant Price Chopper's ADA Committee denied Plaintiff Christine M.'s requests for an accommodation that would exempt her from having to administer immunizations. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 38, 47 (citations omitted). However, Defendant Price Chopper did approve Plaintiff Christine M.'s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") due to her "anxiety." See id. at ¶¶ 43-44 (citations omitted).

Following her two-month leave period under the FMLA, Plaintiff Christine M. returned to work. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 55-57 (citations omitted). Defendant Price Chopper scheduled a meeting with her to discuss her request for an accommodation. See id. at ¶ 56 (citationomitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 25 (citations omitted). Thus, in January 2013, Plaintiff Christine M. and Defendant Price Chopper formally met to discuss possible accommodations, and Plaintiff Christine M. further reiterated her desire to be exempt from administering vaccines. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 57 (citations omitted). Defendant Price Chopper refused Plaintiff Christine M.'s suggested accommodation and proposed she work as a Pharmacy Technician. See Dkt. No. 42-3 ("Christine M. Aff.") at ¶ 19; Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 60 (citations omitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 19 (citations omitted). Plaintiff Christine M. declined the reassignment. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 61 (citations omitted). Thereafter, Defendant Price Chopper terminated Plaintiff Christine M.'s employment effective January 11, 2013, at which time she was 56 years old. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 62 (citations omitted); Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 29-30 (citations omitted).

Plaintiff Vincent M. was Vice President of Pharmacy, Health and Wellness for Defendant Price Chopper during all times relevant to this action. See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶¶ 31, 38 (citations omitted); Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 69 (citation omitted). In April 2013, Defendant Price Chopper terminated Plaintiff Vincent M.'s employment. See Defendant's Statement of Facts at ¶ 95; Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 36 (citations omitted).

Following their terminations, Plaintiffs filed claims against Defendant Price Chopper with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 52 (citation omitted); Dkt. No. 45-2 ("Defendant's Responsive Statement of Facts") at ¶ 52. The EEOC issued "right to sue" letters to both Plaintiffs on June 10, 2015. See Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts at ¶ 55 (citations omitted); Defendant's Responsive Statement of Facts at ¶ 55 (citations omitted); Dkt. No. 1-1 ("EEOC Right to Sue Letter - Christine Mainella"); Dkt. No. 1-2("EEOC Right to Sue Letter - Vincent Mainella"). Plaintiffs commenced this action on September 3, 2015. See, generally, Complaint.

III. DISCUSSION
A. Standard of review

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating "that no genuine issue of material fact exists." Eastman Mach. Co., Inc. v. United States, 841 F.2d 469, 473 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S. Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1970)). To withstand such a motion, the non-moving party "'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation and footnote omitted).

"The fact that both sides move for summary judgment does not guarantee that there is no material issue of fact to be tried." Eastman Mach., 841 F.2d at 473 (citation omitted). "Rather, the court must evaluate each party's motion on its own merits, taking care in each instance to draw all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration." Schwabenbauer v. Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of City of Olean, 667 F.2d 305, 314 (2d Cir. 1981). Additionally,

[a]lthough courts should be cautious about granting summary judgment in cases where motive, intent or state of mind are at issue, a common component of discrimination actions, . . . "the salutory purposes of summary judgment -- avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials -- apply no less to discrimination cases than to other areas of litigation. . . ."

Bain v....

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