Mary Jo C. v. N.Y. State & Local Ret. Sys.

Decision Date29 January 2013
Docket NumberDocket No. 11–2215.
Citation707 F.3d 144
PartiesMARY JO C., Plaintiff–Appellant, v. NEW YORK STATE AND LOCAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM, Central Islip Public Library, Defendants–Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

William M. Brooks, Mental Disability Law Clinic, Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, Central Islip, NY, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Cecelia C. Chang, Deputy Solicitor General, (Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Laura R. Johnson, Assistant Solicitor General, of counsel, on the brief), for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, NY, for DefendantAppellee New York State and Local Retirement System.

Laura L. Shockley, (William M. Savino, Harris J. Zakarin, on the brief), Rivkin Radler LLP, Uniondale, NY, for DefendantAppellee Central Islip Public Library.

Sasha Samberg–Champion, (Jessica Dunsay Silver, on the brief), Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Appellate Section, for Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae United States Department of Justice.

Jo Anne Simon, Jo Anne Simon P.C., Brooklyn, NY, for Amici Curiae Disability Advocates, Inc., DRVT, National Disability Rights Network, and State of Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.

Before: SACK, RAGGI, Circuit Judges, and SWAIN, District Judge. *

SACK, Circuit Judge:

The plaintiff alleges that her job as a librarian at the Central Islip Public Library (the Library) was terminated because of behavior symptomatic of her chronic mental illness. Although she alleges that she would have been eligible for disability retirement benefits under New York State law, her mental illness interfered with her ability to comply with New York State law's strictly enforced filing deadline for those benefits. When the New York State and Local Retirement System (the NYSLRS) rejected her request to waive the deadline, and when the Library rejected her request to assist her in applying or extending the deadline by reclassifying her termination as a leave of absence, the plaintiff was denied those benefits.

Thereafter, the plaintiff instituted this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the NYSLRS and the Library alleging, inter alia, that the defendants' actions violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Pub.L. No. 101–336, 104 Stat. 327, 327–28 (1990), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131, et seq. The district court (Sandra J. Feuerstein, Judge ) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss because the court concluded principally that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require modifications of mandatory requirements imposed by state laws, and that Title II does not apply to employment discrimination.

For the reasons set forth below, the district court's judgment of dismissal is vacated as to the plaintiff's Title II claim against the NYSLRS. The case is remanded with instructions to the district court to grant the plaintiff leave to amend her complaint if she so wishes to allege facts supporting her claim that she was disabled, and to attempt to state a claim invoking the rule of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908), and to conduct further proceedings as warranted. The district court's judgment of dismissal is affirmed as to the plaintiff's Title II claim against the Library. The district court's decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state law claims is vacated for reconsideration depending on the course of the further proceedings contemplated by this opinion.

BACKGROUND

Because this is an appeal from the district court's grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss, we state the facts as drawn from the complaint of the plaintiff “Mary Jo C.”“accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor,” Bigio v. Coca–Cola Co., 675 F.3d 163, 169 (2d Cir.2012) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted)—and as drawn from matters of which we may take judicial notice, see Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007) ([C]ourts must consider the complaint in its entirety, as well as other sources ..., in particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.”); ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir.2007) ([W]e may consider ... documents possessed by or known to the plaintiff and upon which it relied in bringing the suit.”).

The plaintiff is a “57[-]year-old individual who has suffered from mental illness since adolescence.” Complaint ¶ 12, Mary Jo C. v. New York State and Local Ret. Sys., No. 09 Cv. 5635 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 23, 2009) (Compl.). She was employed by various Long Island libraries between 1986 and November 2006, becoming a member of defendant NYSLRS in January 1988. Id. ¶ ¶ 13–14. While working for the Library, her employment was terminated in November 2006 [a]s a result of behaviors that were symptomatic of her mental illness.” Id. ¶ 16. Her last day of work at the Library was on or about November 12, 2006. Id. ¶ 17. After her termination, “libraries in Suffolk County communicated among themselves and agreed that [the plaintiff] should not be hired as a librarian.” Id. ¶ 40. The plaintiff asserts that because the libraries “blackballed [her] from working in the public library system in Suffolk County,” “it is a virtual certainty that [she] will never work again.” Id. ¶¶ 40–41.

In some circumstances, New York provides disability retirement benefits for members of the NYSLRS who are “physically or mentally incapacitated for the performance of gainful employment.” See N.Y. Ret. and Soc. Sec. Law § 605(b)(1), (b)(3)(c). According to the Complaint, the plaintiff would have been eligible for disability retirement benefits under New York law had she filed an application with the NYSLRS within three months of her last day of employment. Compl. ¶¶ 18–19. But she “failed to recognize” the filing deadline “because of her mental illness.” Id. ¶ 20.

During the three-month period following her termination, the plaintiff's brother spoke to an NYSLRS official, who informed him that the Library could file an application on the plaintiff's behalf. Id. ¶¶ 21–24. On or about February 11, 2007, the plaintiff's brother asked the Library to do so, but the Library denied the request. Id. ¶¶ 25–26. The plaintiff's brother then asked the Library to reclassify the plaintiff's termination as an unpaid leave of absence, which would have extended the time during which the plaintiff could file for benefits, see N.Y. Ret. and Soc. Sec. Law § 605(b)(2), but the Library refused to do that too. Compl. ¶¶ 27–29.

The plaintiff's condition improved in November 2007, and she applied for disability retirement benefits. Id. ¶ 30. The NYSLRS denied the application because it was not filed within three months of the plaintiff's last day of work. Id. ¶ 31. On or about July 23, 2008, the plaintiff requested that the NYSLRS waive the filing deadline as an accommodation under the ADA. The NYSLRS did not respond. Id. ¶¶ 32–33.

While awaiting the NYSLRS's response, the plaintiff's brother received notice that the plaintiff could appeal the denial of her disability retirement benefits application, and the plaintiff did so. Id. ¶¶ 34–35. The NYSLRS argued before the hearing officer that state law prohibited it from waiving the filing deadline for any reason. Id. ¶ 36. The hearing officer agreed, denying the plaintiff's appeal because there was no “provision for an extension of the filing deadline” under the applicable state statutes and regulations. Id. ¶¶ 37–38.

Thereafter, on December 23, 2009, the plaintiff brought the instant action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the NYSLRS and the Library. The complaint alleges that (1) the NYSLRS violated the ADA by failing to “provide a requested reasonable accommodation” by waiving the filing deadline, (2) the Library violated the ADA and New York Executive Law section 296 by failing to file an application on the plaintiff's behalf, and (3) the Library violated the ADA and New York Executive Law section 296 by failing to reclassify the plaintiff's termination as a leave of absence. Id. ¶¶ 43–52. The plaintiff requested various declaratory judgments, an injunction requiring the NYSLRS to waive the filing deadline (or, if the court determined that an injunction was inappropriate under the ADA, damages), and attorney's fees and costs. Id. at pp. 10–12.

Both defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); the NYSLRS also moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), asserting that the plaintiff lacked standing and that New York's sovereign immunity barred the plaintiff's claims. On May 5, 2011, the district court denied the NYSLRS's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the plaintiff had standing to bring her claims. But the court granted the NYSLRS's motion to dismiss because it concluded that the plaintiff could not state a claim under Title II of the ADA, and that the court therefore need not determine whether Congress validly abrogated New York's sovereign immunity when it enacted Title II. The court reasoned that (1) the filing deadline was an essential eligibility requirement not subject to waiver under the ADA, (2) the plaintiff's request for an accommodation was not “reasonable” under the ADA because it would require the NYSLRS to violate state law, and (3) the plaintiff did not allege facts sufficiently plausible on their face to demonstrate, if proven, that she was disabled within the meaning of Title II of the ADA. Mary Jo C. v. New York State and Local Ret. Sys., 2011 WL 1748572, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS...

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