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Koenig v. City of New Haven

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 21, 2018

JASON KOENIG, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW HAVEN et al., Defendants.

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 44)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Sergeant Jason Koenig (“Koenig”), brings this employment discrimination and retaliation action against the defendant, the City of New Haven (“the City”). See Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 32). Count One of Koenig's Amended Complaint alleges that the City discriminated against Koenig in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). See id. at 11. Count Two alleges that the City retaliated against him in violation of the ADA. See id. at 11-12. Count Three alleges that the City retaliated against him in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. See id. at 12- 13. Count Four alleges that the City violated the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”). See id. at 13-14. The court construes Count Four broadly to encompass both a CFEPA discrimination claim and a CFEPA retaliation claim.

         The City now moves for summary judgment on all four counts, asserting that Koenig “is not entitled to recovery as a matter of law based upon the undisputed facts.” Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s Mot.”) (Doc. No. 44) at 1.

         For the reasons that follow, the City's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 44) is granted.

         I. FACTS

         The defendant, the City of New Haven, is a municipal corporation and employer of over one hundred employees, including Koenig. Defendant's Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Facts (“Def.'s Statement”) (Doc. No. 45) at ¶ 1; Plaintiff's Rule 56(a)(2) Statement of Facts (“Pl.'s Statement”) (“Doc. No. 48-2) at ¶ 1. The plaintiff, Koenig, was hired by the City as a police officer and has since attained the supervisory rank of Sergeant in the City's Police Department. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 2; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 2.

         Pursuant to the City's Civil Service Rules, the City must hold a civil service test as a pre-requisite to filling certain positions, including that of lieutenant. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 6. The results of examinations are used to generate lists of eligible candidates. See Exh. B, Def.'s Mot. (the “2013 List”) (Doc. No. 44-2) at 1 (listing individuals who, “having passed an examination with a score of 70% or more, and having complied with all the Rules and Regulations of the Civil Service Board are hereby certified as eligible for a position” as police lieutenant). The Civil Service Rules are applicable to all officers, and the Rules explain the process and procedure for promotions, eligibility for promotions, and examinations. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 6. To be eligible for a promotion, a candidate must comply with the requirements of the Civil Service Rules. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 6.

         On September 28 and 29, 2013, Koenig took the examination for promotion to lieutenant administered by the City. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 4; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 4. A score of 70% or higher is sufficient to pass the lieutenant exam. See 2013 List at 1. With a score of 71.83, Koenig was eighteenth among the twenty individuals who passed the 2013 lieutenant exam. Id.; see also Def.'s Statement at ¶ 4; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 4.

         In December 2013, Koenig filed his first lawsuit against the City and Chief Esserman (the “2013 Lawsuit”), which was captioned Koenig v. City of New Haven, No. 3:13-CV-1870 (JCH). Def.'s Statement at ¶ 3; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 3. In that action, Koenig alleged claims of discrimination pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act resulting from disciplinary actions taken against the Koenig.[1] Def.'s Statement at ¶ 3; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 3.

         Also in December 2013, twelve lieutenant positions became available. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 7. The candidates ranked one through twelve from the 2013 List were promoted to lieutenant. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 7. In December 2014, seven lieutenant positions became available. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 8; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 8. The candidates ranked thirteen through sixteen on the 2013 List were promoted to fill four of the seven lieutenant positions. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 8; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 8. The City did not fill the remaining three positions.

         Under the City's Civil Service Rules, lists of individuals eligible for promotion based on examination results are valid for a limited period of time. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 5; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 5. In pertinent part, the Civil Service Rules provide as follows:

The Board shall set the duration of an eligible list at the time it is approved and the Board may thereafter extend the duration of the list. The Board's actions shall be subject to the following:
(a) An eligible list shall initially be in effect for one year, or until 75 percent of the list has been exhausted, whichever comes first; provided, however, that the Board shall be notified in advance of a list expiring, so that the Board has the opportunity to extend its duration;
(b) Prior to its exhaustion, the Board may extend the duration of a previously approved eligible list provided that no eligible list shall be in effect for more than two years.

         The original certification date of any list shall not be changed by subsequent corrections, amendments, or modifications to the list. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 5; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 5. The 2013 List was originally set to expire on November 12, 2013, but, on May 27, 2014, was extended until May 12, 2015.[2] Exh. B., Def's Mot. at 1. At the time the list expired, candidates seventeen through twenty on the 2013 List had not been promoted. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 10; Pl.'s Statement at ¶ 10.

         The City next administered the lieutenant exam on March 31, 2017, and, on July 7, 2017, announced promotions to lieutenant from among the candidates who applied and tested at that time. Def.'s Statement at ¶ 15; see Exh. 1, Pl.'s Opposition (“Press Release”) (Doc. No. 48-4). Koenig did not apply for or take the 2017 examination, and therefore was not considered for promotion in 2017. Def.'s Statement at ¶¶ 17-18; Pl.'s Statement at ¶¶ 17-18.[3]

         In his sworn Affidavit, Koenig states that he has been injured in the course of performing his duties as a police officer and sergeant on multiple occasions and, as a result of these injuries, is permanently disabled. Affidavit of Jason Koenig (“Koenig Aff.”) (Doc. No. 49-1) at ¶¶ 24-26. Koenig states that he is able to “perform the essential functions of [his] job with or without reasonable accommodation.” Id. at ¶ 27. In his Affidavit, Koenig also reproduces a complaint he originally made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”), which complaint describes the circumstances underlying the 2013 Lawsuit. Id. at ¶ 31.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat the motion, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).

         In assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v. Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir. 1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, ' summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d Cir. 1997)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Counts One through Four of Koenig's Amended Complaint each allege discrimination, retaliation, or both, in violation of the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or CFEPA. Courts analyze claims of discrimination and retaliation pursuant to all three of these statutes by applying the burden-shifting framework first articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Koenig v. City of New Haven, No. 3:13-CV-1870, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156873, at **10-13 (D. Conn. Nov. 10, 2016); Richter v. Connecticut Judicial Branch, No. 3:12-CV-1638 (JBA), 2014 WL 1281444, at *9 (D. Conn. Mar. 27, 2014), aff'd, 600 Fed.App'x 804 (2d Cir. 2015) (discussing Rehabilitation Act); Preston v. Bristol Hosp., 645 Fed.App'x 17, 19 (2d Cir. 2016) (citing Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 556 (2d Cir. 2010)) (discussing CFEPA).

         Under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis, in order to withstand the Motion for Summary Judgment, Koenig must put forth evidence that establishes a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. See McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802 (“The complainant . . . must carry the initial burden [ ] of establishing a prima facie case of [ ] discrimination.”). If Koenig establishes a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the City to come forth with a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory rationale for its actions.” Kovaco v. Rockbestos-Surprenant Cable Corp., 834 F.3d 128, 136 (2d Cir. 2016). If the City provides a legitimate rationale, the burden then shifts back to Koenig to “demonstrate that the proffered reason was not the true reason for the employment decision.” Id.

         The court first addresses Koenig's discrimination claims and then turns ...


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