Postert v Department of Educ. of the City of N.Y.
2012 NY Slip Op 30868(U)
April 2, 2012
Sup Ct, NY County
Docket Number: 114178/10
Judge: Barbara Jaffe
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SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
NEW YORK COUNTY
. f; s
MOTION SEQ NO.
The following papers, numberad Ito
Notlce of MotlonlOrder to Show Cause
-Affldavitn - Exhlblts
,were read on thlr motion tonor
Upon the foregolng papers, It Is ordered that this motion is
APR 0 2 2012
CHECK ONE: .....................................................................
2. CHECK AS APPROPR~TE:
3. CHECK IF APPROPRIATE:
MOTION IS: [$.GRANTED
GRANTED IN PART
0DO NOT POST TJ FIDUCIARYAPPOINTMENT CIREFERENCE
-againstTHE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF
NEW YORK, AND THE CITY OF NEW YORK,
Motion Seq. No.:
Motion Cal. No.:
DECISION AND ORDER
Ashley Hale, ACC
Michael A. Cardozo
100 Church Street
New York, NY 10007
Stewart Lee Karlin, Esq.
9 Murray Street, 4-W
New York, NY I0007
By notice of motion dated May 25,201 1, defendants move pursuant to Education Law
5 3813, General Municipal Law 5 50-e, and CPLR 321 l(a)(7) for an order dismissing the
complaint. Plaintiff opposes.
In 2008, plaintiff began working for defendant The Department of Education of the City
of New York (DOE). (Affirmation of Ashley Hale, ACC, dated May 25, 201 1 [Hale Aff.], Exh.
C). On November 17,2009, plaintiff was working as a science teacher at the Urban Assembly
School of Music and Art in Brooklyn when a mercury thermometer broke in one of the
classrooms where she taught. (Id.). On November 23, 2009, plaintiff resigned. (Id.).
On January 20,20 10, plaintiff served defendants with a notice of claim, setting forth the
nature of her claims, in pertinent part, as follows: "the [DOE] and [City] violated the whistle
blower statutes including but not limited to the New York State Labor Law
$8 740 and 741,
federal law including OSHA and the Administrative Code of the City of New York,” ( I d , Exh.
On October 28,2010, plaintiff served DOE with a summons and complaint, and on or
about December 17, 2010, DOE moved to dismiss it. (Id., Exh. A; Defs.’ Mem. of Law). On or
about February 24,201 1, plaintiff served defendants with an amended complaint, and defendants
relied on their prior motion in seeking dismissal thereof. (Hale Aff., Exh. B; Defs.’ Mem. of
Law). By order dated April 20, 201 1, another justice of this court dismissed plaintiffs amended
complaint “without prejudice to replead, for the reasons set forth on the record [that day].”
On May 6,201 1, plaintiff served defendants with a second amended complaint providing,
in pertinent part, as follows:
Plaintiff spoke to the assistant principal about the fact that the mercury spill had not been
adequately cleaned up . . . .
Plaintiff was advised not to report the matter any further and go ahead and teach the
students in the classroom.
Thereafter, [pllaintiff reported an imminent and serious danger to public health and safety
to the following governmental bodies: United Federation of Teachers Safety, New York
City Health Department, NYC Department of School Safety, Christine Proctor, MS, CIH,
Proctor Occupational Safety and Health, New York, New York, Joan Heymount, Union
representative, and NY State Laboratory Safety Department and my previous employer
Thereafter, [pllaintiff refused to report and teach the students in a classroom that posed an
imminent risk to public health and safety and was compelled to resign . . . in order to
avoid putting students and herself at risk.
This resignation . . . was a constructive termination because [pllaintiff refused to
participate in illegal activity that would have posed an imminent and serious danger to
public health and safety to herself and her students.
Plaintiff. . . disclosed to a governmental body information regarding violation of a law,
rule or regulation (NYS Departmental Conservation Regulation 374-3 and numerous
other federal, state and local regulations)
, , , ,
Plaintiff made a good faith effort to provide the appointing authority’s designee the
information to be disclosed and provided the designee a reasonable time to take
appropriate action and there was an imminent and serious danger to public health and
(Hale Aff., Exh. C).
Defendants assert that plaintiffs complaint must be dismissed in its entirety as City is not
a proper party to this action, and plaintiff failed to include her Civil Service Law 8 75-b claims in
her notice of claim. (Defs.’ Mem. of Law). In any event, they maintain that plaintiff has failed to
state a cause of action pursuant to this section, as she pleads no facts from which it may be
concluded that she reasonably believed the spill endangered public health and safety, and failed
to plead an applicable law, rule, or regulation violated, that she reported the incident to a
governmental body, that she gave DOE a reasonable amount of time to take appropriate action,
or that she was subject to an adverse personnel action. ( I d ) .
In opposition, plaintiff asserts that another justice of this court previously determined that
she sufficiently pleaded her Civil Service Law 5 75-b claim in her notice of claim. (Pl. Opp.
Mem.). She also maintains that she reported the incident to a governmental body, citing the
entities to which she made the report listed in her second amended complaint. ( I d ) . And she
claims her constructive termination constitutes an adverse personnel action. (Id.).
In reply, defendants contend that the statute plaintiff claims they violated, “NYS
Departmental Conservation Regulation 374-3,” does not exist, and even if she intended to refer
to Chapter IV, Part 374 of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
regulations, they could not have violated this regulation as it does not pertain to mercury. (Defs.’
Reply Mem.). Moreover, they argue that plaintiff pleads no facts from which it may be inferred
that she reasonably believed the spill was dangerous, absent any indication of the size of the spill
or the manner in which it was removed. (Id.). And, observing that she fails to specify when she
reported the incident to the entities listed in her second amended complaint, they claim that she
has failed to plead that DOE had a reasonable amount of time to take appropriate action. (Id.).
Finally, they deny that she has set forth a claim of constructive discharge absent facts
demonstrating that her work environment was so intolerable that she was forced to resign. (Id.).
A, Claimsaeainst City
City is not a proper party to actions arising out of torts allegedly committed by DOE or its
employees. (Perez ex re1 Torres v City oflvew York, 41 AD3d 378 [lStDept 20071, Zv denied 10
NY3d 708 ).
J3.Civil Sewice Law 6 75 -b c l a K ainst DOE
Pursuant to CPLR 321 1(a)(7), a party may move at any time for an order dismissing a
cause of action asserted against it on the ground that the pleading fails to state a cause of action.
In deciding the motion, the court must liberally construe the pleading, accept the alleged facts a
true, and accord the non-moving party “the benefit of every possible favorable inference.” (Leon
v Martinez, 84 NY2d 8 3 , 87 ; Thomas v Thomas, 70 AD3d 588, 590 [l” Dept 20101).
However, “conclusory allegations-claims consisting of bare legal conclusions with no factual
specificity- are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.” (Godfiey v Spano, 13 NY3d 358, 373
Pursuant to Civil Service Law $ 75-b(2):
A public employee shall not dismiss or take other disciplinary or other adverse personnel
action against a public employee regarding the employee’s employment because the
employee discloses to a governmental body information: (i) regarding a violation of a
law, rule or regulation which violation creates and presents a substantial and specific
danger to the public health or safety; or (ii) which the employee reasonably believes to be
true and reasonably believes constitutes an improper governmental action.
Prior to disclosing [this] information , . . , an employee shall have made a good faith
effort to provide the appointing authority or his or her designee the information to be
disclosed and shall provide the appointing authority or designee a reasonable time to take
appropriate action unless there is imminent and serious danger to public health or safety.
“LPersonnelaction’ shall mean an action affecting compensation, appointment, promotion,
transfer, assignment, reassignment, reinstatement or evaluation of performance” (Civil Service
Law $ 75-b[l][d]). “Constructive discharge occurs when an employer, rather than acting
directly, deliberately makes an employee’s working conditions so intolerable that the employee is
forced into an involuntary resignation.” (Morris u Schroder Capital Mgmt. Intl., 7 NY3d 616,
Here, even assuming that plaintiff reasonably believed that DOE’S failure to remove the
mercury constituted an improper governmental action and that the entities to which she reported
the incident were governmental bodies, absent any indication of when she did so, she has failed
to plead facts from which it may be inferred that she made a good faith effort to give DOE a
reasonable amount of time to take appropriate action. (See Godfiey, supra). Moreover, even
assuming that her work environment became so intolerable that she was forced to resign, absent
any indication that DOE continued to refuse to remove the mercury because plaintiff reported the
initial failure to do so to outside authorities, she has failed to plead facts demonstrating that she
was subject to an adverse personnel action. Accordingly, plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action pursuant to Civil Service Law 5 75-b against DOE.
In light of this determination, the parties' remaining contentions, including those as to the
sufficiency of plaintiffs notice of claim, need not be considered.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED, that defendants' motion for an order dismissing plaintiff's complaint is
granted, and the complaint is hereby dismissed in its entirety.
April 2, 2012
New York, New York