Williams v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 282
DECISION AND ORDER: Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 33) is GRANTED and, after reconsideration, the Court adheres to its prior ruling which granted Defendant's summary judgment motion, but with a clarification as to the Court's reasoning as explained in this Decision and Order. Defendant's Motion to Strike (ECF No. 37) Plaintif's reply memorandum is DENIED. This case remains closed. SO ORDERED. Signed by Hon. Frank P. Geraci, Jr. on 3/20/17. (SCE)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Case # 13-CV-6488-FPG
DECISION AND ORDER
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 282,
Plaintiff Serena Williams (“Plaintiff”) originally brought this action on September 11,
2013 against Defendant Amalgamated Transit Union Local 282 (the “Union” or “Defendant”).
Plaintiff’s initial Complaint, which she filed pro se, alleged race discrimination in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), disability
discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
(“ADA”), and violation of the Union’s duty of fair representation. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff’s
Amended Complaint made the same allegations and sought additional relief under the New York
State Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 290 (“NYSHRL”), NY CLS CPLR §§ 201, et seq.
ECF No. 9.
Plaintiff ultimately retained counsel.
ECF No. 13.
Stipulation and Order, the parties agreed to dismiss the breach of duty of fair representation
claim with prejudice. ECF No. 17.
On January 6, 2016, Defendant moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 27. By Decision and Order dated May 19, 2016, the
Court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed the case. ECF No. 31.
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration and Defendant’s
Motion to Strike Plaintiff’s reply memoranda. ECF Nos. 33, 37. The Motion to Strike is
DENIED, and the Court has considered Plaintiff’s reply memorandum (ECF No. 36) in
determining the Motion for Reconsideration. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s Motion for
Reconsideration is GRANTED and, after such reconsideration and deliberation, the Court
adheres to its original conclusion that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment, and will
expound upon the reasoning for that decision below.
Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs relief from a court judgment or
order and therefore applies to Williams’s Motion for Reconsideration. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60. The
standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is “strict, and reconsideration will generally be
denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court
overlooked.” Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P., 684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012)
(citation omitted). “A motion for reconsideration should be granted only when the [party]
identifies an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need
to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Kolel Beth Yechiel Mechil of Tartikov, Inc.
v. YLL Irrevocable Trust, 729 F.3d 99, 104 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted); Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). It is “not a vehicle for
relitigating old issues, presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits,
or otherwise taking a second bite at the apple.” Analytical Surveys, Inc., 684 F.3d at 52 (citation
omitted). Accordingly, on a motion for reconsideration, a party may not merely offer the same
“arguments already briefed, considered and decided,” nor may a party “advance new facts, issues
or arguments not previously presented to the Court.” Schonberger v. Serchuk, 742 F. Supp. 108,
119 (S.D.N.Y. 1990).
Here, Plaintiff argues that the Court erred when it held that she abandoned her NYSHRL
claim, and that granting summary judgment on the NYSHRL claim was inappropriate.
Specifically, Plaintiff now argues that “Defendant failed to identify Plaintiff’s claim in violation
of NYSHRL on which they sought summary judgment,” and in responding to the summary
judgment motion, “Plaintiff did not present evidence on her NYSHRL claim as it was not raised
by Defendant on which they sought summary judgment.” ECF No. 33-1, at 5-6.
To be clear, in the original summary judgment decision, the Court held that subsequent to
filing the Complaint, “neither party has since mentioned this claim and thus it is deemed
abandoned.” ECF No. 31, at 1. The Court will take this opportunity, by way of this motion to
reconsider, to clarify its holding in this regard.
In moving for summary judgment, Defendant argued that “judgment should be entered in
favor of the Defendant dismissing Plaintiff’s case in its entirety.” ECF No. 27. While it is true
that the Defendant’s Memorandum of Law refers to “three causes of action” that were brought as
“race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, disability discrimination in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and violation of the Union’s duty of fair
representation,” ECF No. 27-6, at 1, that same page makes clear that Defendant’s summary
judgment motion seeks “dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for race and disability discrimination.”
Interestingly, Plaintiff’s response to the summary judgment motion describes her
Complaint as follows:
This is a labor organization lawsuit filed by Williams against Local 282, her
former union, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as codified,
42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq (herein “Title VII”) and the Americans with
Disabilities Act, as codified, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq. (herein “ADA”) in
relation to Local 282’s role in ratifying Williams’ former employer’s
discriminatory practice of terminating disabled employees under the guise of a
facially neutral employment policy pursuant to the collective bargaining
ECF No. 29 at 3, “Introduction.”
In responding to the summary judgment motion, Plaintiff did not argue that material
issues of fact existed on her Title VII claims in any fashion. See ECF No. 29. Rather, her 17
page memorandum focused exclusively on responding in support of her ADA claims, but then
concluded with the terse statement that “For the foregoing reasons, Williams respectfully
requests that the Court deny Local 282’s Motion for Summary Judgment in part.” Id. at 16
(emphasis added). Of course, denying the summary judgment motion “in part” necessarily
implies that Plaintiff agrees that the summary judgment motion should be granted, at least in the
other part. While there is no explanation as to what Plaintiff meant by “in part,” there is only
one logical conclusion and the implication is clear: that Plaintiff was opposing summary
judgment regarding the ADA claims, and was not opposing summary judgment regarding the
Title VII claims.
As noted in the original summary judgment decision, the Court dismissed the Title VII
claim because Defendant moved for summary judgment on that claim and Plaintiff failed to
address the argument in any way. Id. at 3; see Davidson v. Desai, 817 F. Supp. 2d 166, 187
(W.D.N.Y. 2011) (“Plaintiff’s failure to oppose Defendants’ motion seeking summary judgment
on this claim, by itself, gives the court reason to deem the claim abandoned.”).
What could have been clearer in the original decision is this: Because Plaintiff abandoned
her Title VII claim, it follows that Plaintiff also abandoned her NYSHRL claim. This is so
because “claims brought under New York State’s Human Rights Law are analytically identical to
claims brought under Title VII.” Rojas v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 660 F.3d 98,
107 n.10 (2d Cir. 2011) (citation omitted); Henry v. NYC Health & Hosp. Corp., 18 F. Supp. 3d
396, 403 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (“The Court analyzes the substantive claims brought under Title VII
and NYSHRL law together, because the substantive standards for liability under these sources of
law are coextensive.”).
It is well settled that the burden of proof and production for employment discrimination
claims under Title VII and the NYSHRL are identical. See Hyek v. Field Support Servs., Inc.,
461 F. App’x 59, 60 (2d Cir. 2012) (“Claims brought under the NYSHRL ‘are analyzed
identically’ and ‘the outcome of an employment discrimination claim made pursuant to the
NYSHRL is the same as it is under ... Title VII.’”). Indeed, there are numerous cases that enact
this proposition and, even where the NYSHRL claims are not separately analyzed, courts –
including the Second Circuit – acknowledge that this is of no moment, since the analysis of the
Title VII claim is the same analysis as the NYSHRL claims. See Smith v. Xerox Corp., 196 F.3d
358, 363 n.1 (2d Cir. 1999), overruled on other grounds by Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power
Lab., 461 F.3d 134, 140-41 (2d Cir. 2006) (“Beyond mentioning that the plaintiffs alleged
violations of the New York State Human Rights Law, the district court did not explicitly evaluate
the plaintiffs’ claims under that law. However, since claims under the NYSHRL are analyzed
identically to claims under the ADEA and Title VII, the outcome of an employment
discrimination claim made pursuant to the NYSHRL is the same as it is under the ADEA and
Title VII. Accordingly, we will not address the NYSHRL claims separately.”) (citation omitted).
It is also well settled that where, as here, a counseled non-moving party submits “a partial
response arguing that summary judgment should be denied as to some claims while not
mentioning others,” that response “may be deemed an abandonment of the unmentioned claims.”
Jackson v. Fed. Express, 766 F.3d 189, 195 (2d Cir. 2014). Even where “abandonment by a
counseled party is not explicit but such an inference may be fairly drawn from the papers and
circumstances viewed as a whole, district courts may conclude that abandonment was intended.”
Id. at 196. When viewing Plaintiff’s papers as a whole, it is clear that she has intentionally
abandoned her Title VII claims. Since those claims are identical in every meaningful way – in
terms of proof, burdens of production and persuasion, and analysis of the claims – she has also
abandoned her corresponding NYSHRL claims. Again, Plaintiff’s response is completely silent
as to any Title VII cause of action, presents no evidence to support the validity of that claim, and
does not even mention any claims outside of the ADA context.
Of particular interest here is that Plaintiff does not make any argument to this Court on
this reconsideration motion as to the underlying merits of her NYSHRL claim, nor does Plaintiff
argue that the dismissal of the Title VII claim was improper. Rather, her only argument is that
because Defendant did not specifically move against the NYSHRL claim, the Court’s dismissal
of the NYSHRL claim – which is done in tandem with the Title VII claim – was procedurally
improper. This argument is without merit. As previously stated, the Title VII claim and the
NYSHRL claim are analytically identical. Plaintiff’s counsel is well aware of this fact, since he
has practiced in the area of employment law for several years and has himself cited to the Court
the well settled principal of law that NYSHRL claims are analyzed and decided in tandem with
their federal law counterparts. See, e.g. Dobbins v. American Red Cross, W.D.N.Y. Case No.
12-CV-6364-FPG, Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Law Opposing Summary Judgment, ECF No. 37,
at 20 (“Courts rely on federal law when determining claims under the New York State Human
Rights Law, N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 296 et seq. Knight v. N.Y. City Hous. Auth., No. 03-civ-2746,
2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9148, at *29 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2007). In fact, age discrimination claims
brought under the NYHRL are considered in tandem with ADEA claims. Abdu-Brisson v. Delta
Air Lines, 239 F.3d 456, 466 (2d. Cir. 2001).”)
For all of these reasons, there is no merit to Plaintiff’s contention that the Court erred in
dismissing the NYSHRL claims that correspond to the Title VII claims that were also dismissed
on Defendant’s summary judgment motion.
For the reasons stated, Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 33) is
GRANTED and, after reconsideration, the Court adheres to its prior ruling which granted
Defendant’s summary judgment motion, but with a clarification as to the Court’s reasoning as
explained in this Decision and Order. Defendant’s Motion to Strike (ECF No. 37) Plaintiff’s
reply memorandum is DENIED.
This case remains closed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: March 20, 2017
Rochester, New York
HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR.
United States District Court
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