Nweke v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America

Decision Date29 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. 96 CIV. 9279(RWS).,96 CIV. 9279(RWS).
Citation25 F.Supp.2d 203
PartiesMagdalene NWEKE, Plaintiff, v. THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO & CLC and Local 888 Unitedfood and Commercial Workers Union, AFL-CIO, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Vincent I. Eke-Nweke, Brooklyn, NY, for Plaintiff.

Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., New York, by Patricia McConnell, of counsel, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Washington, DC, By Renee L. Bowser, Assistant General Counsel, for UFCW International Union and UFCW Local 888.


SWEET, District Judge.

Defendants Union Food and Commercial Workers International Union (the "International") and United Foods and Commercial Workers Union Local 888 ("Local 888") (collectively, the "Unions") have moved for dismissal of plaintiff Magdalene Nweke's ("Nweke") complaint as to the claims against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cause of action, and for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. Specifically, (1) the Unions have moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction certain allegations of violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., that were not included in the charges Nweke filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"), as well as the pendent state law claims; (2) they have moved to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6) certain allegations barred by the statute of limitations and the conspiracy claim for failure to be pleaded with particularity; and (3) the Unions have moved for summary judgment with respect to the discrimination claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the ADA claims, as well as the claims alleging that the Unions breached their duty of fair representation owed to Nweke.

For the reasons set forth below, the Unions' individual motions are granted in part and denied in part. Ultimately, however, the Unions' motion for summary judgment is granted and the complaint is dismissed.


Nweke, an individual residing in New York, New York, was previously employed by The Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential"), a Delaware corporation authorized to do business in the State of New York.

The International is a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce. It maintains its principal offices in Washington, D.C.

Local 888 is a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce and maintains its principal offices in Mount Vernon, New York. It was at all relevant times to this action the International's collective bargaining agent or representative with respect to the International's collective bargaining units located in the State of New York. Local 888 was at all relevant times affiliated with, controlled, and managed by the International. The International and Local 888 were at all relevant times the recognized exclusive collective bargaining representatives of the bargaining unit consisting of all district agents employed by Prudential within the State of New York.

Prior Proceedings

Nweke filed her complaint against Prudential and the Unions on December 10, 1996 (the "Complaint"), alleging race, sex, and disability discrimination pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the ADA, the New York State Human Rights Law (the "NYHRL"), Executive Law § 296 et seq., and the New York City Civil Rights Law (the "NYCCRL"). A stipulation and order of dismissal as to Prudential was entered into on January 21, 1998. The Unions filed the instant motion on March 16, 1998, and it was deemed fully submitted, without oral argument, on July 29, 1998.


Nweke is a black female who was employed by Prudential as an insurance agent from March 1989 through March 24, 1995, when she was discharged. Nweke worked at the Sheepshead Bay district throughout her employment with Prudential. During Nweke's employment, the International was her exclusive collective bargaining representative and a party to successive collective bargaining agreements ("CBA") with Prudential. The CBAs governed many of the terms and conditions of employment of the insurance agents. Nweke was a member of Local 888, an affiliated local union of the International which represents employees in New York. Local 888 administered the CBA at the local level for the International.

The constitution of the International, which also governs Local 888, the bylaws of Local 888, and the CBAs require the Unions not to discriminate against its members on the grounds of disability, sex, and race.

In May 1993, Nweke notified her sales manager, John Zaia ("Zaia"), and the district manager, Raymond Martinez ("Martinez"), that she was pregnant. On July 23, 1993, Nweke was placed on short-term disability leave ("STD") or maternity leave from work. According to Nweke, prior to the time she notified Zaia and Martinez that she was pregnant, she had a cordial relationship with them. Nonetheless, asserts Nweke, Zaia and Martinez became hostile toward her upon learning of her pregnancy by avoiding her and ridiculing her for being pregnant.

Prudential's disability unit required Nweke to work in January 1994 because additional benefits had not been approved to enable her to continue her leave. Nweke returned to work for three days on January 21 through January 24, 1994, and then resumed her disability leave. Nweke contends that she went back on disability leave because she was unable to concentrate, think clearly, make telephone calls, read, or talk to anyone in the office. She states that Prudential treated her absence as an unauthorized leave of absence and punished her by generating payroll checks with negative balances for her, instead of checks for disability benefits, and refused to release her wage and income statement.

In May 1993, prior to taking her initial leave of absence, Nweke began seeing a psychiatrist. She did not disclose to Prudential or the Unions that she was seeing a doctor. On July 26, 1993, shortly after her leave began, Nweke wrote a letter to Zaia that her pregnancy was neither a mental illness nor a state of ill health. In the same letter, Nweke wrote that she was not incapable of functioning due to her health. In a letter to Zaia dated July 31, 1993, Nweke stated, "this is just maternity leave." While on leave, Nweke gave birth to a child on October 1, 1993.

Following the delivery of her baby, Nweke was diagnosed with acute bilateral arthralgia of both hands and wrists by Dr. V.A. Paignajen. During the same period, she was also diagnosed with neurotic depression and postpartum depression by Dr. Ewa, a psychiatrist who treated her with individual psychotherapy. Additionally, Nweke was treated by Dr. Lawrence C. Miller, a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with major depression on December 24, 1994, and placed her on Prozac.

Nweke's leave ended March 1, 1994, and following her doctors' recommendations, she returned to work March 2, 1994. In a March 3, 1994 letter to Martinez, Nweke principally complained about her failure to get proper disability compensation and returned four checks which she stated were for incorrect amounts. She also wrote that she was not at liberty to discuss her medical condition because of her privacy concerns. According to Nweke, on her return to work, her job condition changed for the worse. She was forced to work under Madelyn Harte ("Harte"). Nweke describes Harte as an inexperienced agent who was promoted over Nweke from the position of an agent to sales manager in the same week that Nweke returned to work. When Nweke questioned why Harte was promoted before she was and why she had to work under Harte, Martinez stated that Harte would not leave him to go and have a child since Harte had passed the child-bearing age. Nweke submits that Martinez stated to her that she chose a baby over her career.

According to Nweke, she telephoned John Provenzano ("Provenzano"), then Director of Insurance for Local 888, in December 1993, January and March 1994, and left messages regarding the problems she was having at Prudential, but that Provenzano did not return her calls. Three weeks following her return to work, by letter dated March 23, 1994, Nweke wrote to Provenzano, stating that "I had a baby. The pregnancy was difficult and I was sick. After the baby, she was sick and I was sick." She enclosed with the March 23 letter "copies of my doctors statements for the period of absence in question." A January 31, 1994, doctor's statement signed by Dr. Ewa recommended that Nweke return to work on short hours. A February 15, 1994, doctor's statement signed by Dr. Miller released Nweke to return to full-time duty effective March 2, 1994. Nweke complained in the letter that her working conditions were intolerable because of increased oversight by Harte and because she had not received any paychecks as of that time, Nweke did not provide Provenzano or any other representative of the Unions with medical documentation of her condition following her return to work. Nweke admits that from April 1994 to the end of the year, she did not have any doctors' statements or other records in her possession indicating that she was continuing to see a psychiatrist during that period. Nweke asserts that following the sending of the return to work certificates on March 23, 1994, she did not provide the Union representative with any doctors' statements about her condition in 1994. Nor did Nweke provide any medical statements about her condition in 1995. Nweke stated that she does not recall whether she was mentally disabled or still seeing a...

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