Retaliation, But Not Age Discrimination, Claims Sufficiently Alleged; Seven-Month Gap Between Disability Accommodation Request and Alleged Retaliatory Act Not Too Long as a Matter of Law

In Caputo v. Copiague Union Free Sch. Dist., No. CV 15-5292 (DRH), 2016 WL 6581865 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 4, 2016), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s retaliation claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.

The court summarized the law:

In order to state a claim of retaliation under the ADA and NYSHRL, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) she engaged in protected activity; (2) defendant was aware of the activity; (3) an adverse employment action; and (4) a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. Weixel v. Bd. of Educ. of City of New York, 287 F.3d 138, 149 (2d Cir. 2002); Sarno v. Douglas Eliman-Gibbons & Ives, Inc., 183 F.3d 155, 159 (2d Cir. 1999); see, e.g., Treglia v. Town of Manlius, 313 F.3d 713, 719 (2d Cir. 2002) (applying Title VII retaliation standard to ADA retaliation claim); Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Serv., Inc., ___ F.3d ____, 2016 WL 4501673 (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2016) ( applying Title VII retaliation standard to NYSHRL retaliation claim); Pucino v. Verizon Wireless Commc’ns, Inc., 618 F3d 112, 117 n.2 (2d Cir. 2010) (same).
Defendants’ motion to dismiss addresses only the fourth prong, asserting that the more than seven months between when plaintiff returned to work in February 2014 and asked for accommodation and the alleged retaliatory act, viz. the bringing of 3020-a charges, is too long to support an inference of a causal connection and there are no other factual allegations to support a retaliatory motive. (Defs.’ Mem. at 9-10). Like defendants, the Court shall limit its analysis to the fourth prong.
The Second Circuit “has not drawn a bright line to define the outer limits beyond which a temporal relationship is too attenuated to establish a causal relationship,” Gorman–Bakos v. Cornell Co-op Extension of Schenectady Cnty., 252 F.3d 545, 554 (2d Cir. 2001). It has, however, upheld an inference of a causal connection based on lapses of up to eight months between the protected activity and the alleged retaliatory actions. Grant v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 622 F.2d 43, 45–46 (2d Cir. 1980) (eight month gap between EEOC complaint and retaliatory act suggested causal relationship); see Espinal v. Goord, 558 F.3d 119, 129 (2d Cir. 2009) (inferring causal connection with six-month lapse); Gorman–Bakos, 252 F.3d at 554 (same with five month lapse); see also Cioffi v. Averill Park Central School Dist. Bd of Ed., 444 F.3d 158, 168 (2d Cir. 2006) (little over three months in not “too long for any inference of retaliatory motive and causation to be drawn”).

Applying the law, the court explained its decision to deny defendants’ motion:

While the seven months gap in this case may test the outer limits of inferring a causal connection, there are other allegations in the complaint which, together with the temporal connection, help provide plausibility to the claim that the 3020-a charge were retaliatory. For example, the complaint alleges that “Defendants directed the nursing and security staff not to assist” her and that less than two months after her protected activity she was “reassigned pending investigation.” To quote the Vega court, while these actions individually “might not amount to much[,] [t]aken together … they plausibility paint a mosaic of retaliation ….”

The court, however, dismissed plaintiff’s age discrimination claims:

Plaintiffs allegations are woefully insufficient to plausibly support a minimal inference of age discrimination. While the complaint refers to younger employees who were accommodated, no names,6 dates, ages, or specifics of the accommodations made for these other employees are provided. Absent such specifics, the Court cannot draw a reasonable inference of liability under the ADEA or the NYSHRL. See Marcus, 2016 WL 4598580, at *2 (merely alleging that “younger” employees were treated better without specifics information as to whether they were otherwise similarly situated does not give rise to minimal inference of age discrimination). Similarly, no such inference can be made as to institution of 3020-a proceeding merely because plaintiff was the oldest of principals and assistant principals and she had a good service record. Accordingly, defendants’ motion to dismiss both the federal and state age discrimination claims is granted.

Share This:
(212) 227-2100