Watman v Physician Affiliate Group of N.Y., P.C.

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Watman v Physician Affiliate Group of N.Y., P.C. 2021 NY Slip Op 30651(U) March 4, 2021 Supreme Court, Kings County Docket Number: 527615/2019 Judge: Pamela L. Fisher Cases posted with a "30000" identifier, i.e., 2013 NY Slip Op 30001(U), are republished from various New York State and local government sources, including the New York State Unified Court System's eCourts Service. This opinion is uncorrected and not selected for official publication. [*FILED: 1] KINGS COUNTY CLERK 03/05/2021 10:32 AM INDEX NO. 527615/2019 NYSCEF DOC. NO. 19 RECEIVED NYSCEF: 03/05/2021 At Part 94, of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, held in and for the County of Kings, at the Courthouse located at 360 Adams Street, Brooklyn, New York, on this 23 day of February 2021 4 March P R E S E N T: HON. PAMELA L. FISHER, J.S.C. ---------------------------------------------------------------------x JERRY WATMAN Plaintiff, -and- DECISION/ORDER Index No. 527615/2019 PHYSICIAN AFFILIATE GROUP OF NEW YORK, P.C., NEW YORK CITY HEALTH AND HOSPITALS CORPORATION, and CONEY ISLAND HOSPITAL Defendants. ---------------------------------------------------------------------x Defendants P H a C a ca A a dC aeG e I a dH Ne Y a (c , P.C ( PAGNY ) a d NYC Hea ec e + HHC ) motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) is denied. On December 18, 2019, plaintiff commenced this action by the filing of a Summons and complaint alleging two causes of action for age discrimination. On January 15, 2020, the parties a ed e e d de e da e a e, Now, defendants move to dismiss the complaint e e a e e d e complaint. CPLR 3211(a)(7) a a complaint fails to state a prima facie cause of action for age discrimination under the New York SaeH a R La 296 ( SHRL ) a d e Ne Y C H a R La , Administrative Code of the City of New York 8-101 ( CHRL ) The complaint alleges the following salient facts: Plaintiff, Dr. Watman is a 62 year old neonatologist who completed his residency and fellowship in neonatology at HHC. Dr. Watman joined HHC as a pediatrician in its Pediatrics Department in 1987. He received hundreds of commendation letters from patients and their families as well as awards from members of the New York City Council, March of Dimes and numerous insurance companies during his decades long career at HHC. Dr. Watman regularly received praise from the Chair of the Department and his supervisor at HHC. Dr. Watman served as Director of Neonatology at HHC from 1988 until 1 of 4 [*FILED: 2] KINGS COUNTY CLERK 03/05/2021 10:32 AM INDEX NO. 527615/2019 NYSCEF DOC. NO. 19 RECEIVED NYSCEF: 03/05/2021 2013, when he assumed the role of Director of Newborn Services. Dr. Watman continued in the role of Director until he was terminated. Dr. Watman alleges that on April 19, 2019, he was summoned to a meeting with two HHC representatives and his supervisor during which he was informed his employment with HHC was being terminated, effective immediately. Dr. Watman claims he learned that his termination was allegedly because of complaints made against him regarding minor infractions that would not amount to discharge of a physician with an excellent track record. The complaint a e e a D . Wa a e a a a a a e b HHC of terminating or forcing out older doctors and staff and replacing them with substantially younger employees. Dr. Watman further alleges that he was subjected to discriminatory c e e ec ec e e da c a e ea e b a e . S ec ca a ab e e e , a e ed de a d . T e complaint states that these remarks were reflective of how senior personnel at HHC viewed Dr. Watman. The complaint further states that Dr. Watman was replaced by a younger doctor following his termination. De e da de e da a e a a e ed a e a complaint contains conclusory allegations about a ed c a , ad ed b ac a ce ae a claim of age discrimination under the SHRL or CHRL. Defendants contend that the complaint plainly fails to allege facts evincing an inference of discrimination on the basis of age with e ad a e a younger doctor but failed . Specifically, plaintiff alleges that he was replaced with a a ea ac a a e a ab d d a de purported age. a In opposition, plaintiff argues that a a e a e e b a a e e ca e a a e e e d c ed c c a d a e e a a e e de d c e be ( .Pa e a a e a a a d aff and replacing c e d a de e da ced e a ) numerous doctors and staff over the age of 50 and replaced them with doctors and staff who are e 20 a d 30 .Pa e c e d a e a a e ed ac e ab a a facie case of age discrimination sufficient to defeat a pre-answer motion to dismiss. On a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211, a court must accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true and accord the plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference and strive to determine only whether the facts alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory (see, Leon v. Martinez, 84 N.Y.2d 83, 614 N.Y.S.2d 972; Rovello v. Orofino Realty Co., 40 N.Y.2d 2 of 4 [*FILED: 3] KINGS COUNTY CLERK 03/05/2021 10:32 AM INDEX NO. 527615/2019 NYSCEF DOC. NO. 19 RECEIVED NYSCEF: 03/05/2021 633, 389 N.Y.S.2d 314; Roth v. Goldman, 254 A.D.2d 405, 406, 679 N.Y.S.2d 92). T e criterion is whether the proponent of the pleading has a cause of action, not whether he [or she] a a ed e (Godino v. Premier Salons, LTD, 140 A.D.2d 1118, 35 N.Y.S.3d 197 (2nd Department 2016), Guggenheimer v. Ginzburg, 43 N.Y.2d 268, 275, 401 N.Y.S.2d 182, 372 N.E.2d 17; Leon v. Martinez, supra; Rovello v. Orofino Realty Co., supra). To state a cause of action alleging age discrimination under the New York Human Rights Law (Executive Law ยง 296), a plaintiff must demonstrate (1) that he or she was a member of a protected class, (2) that he or she was actively or constructively discharged (3) that he or she was qualified to hold the position for which he or she was terminated, and (4) that the discharge occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination. Under the CHRL, a plaintiff sustains an adverse employment action if he or she endures a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment, which must be more disruptive than mere inconvenience or alteration of job responsibilities (see Ferrante v. American Lung Assn., 90 N.Y.2d 623, 665 N.Y.S.2d 25; Ehmann v. Good Samaritan Hosp. Med. Ctr., 90 A.D.3d 985, 935 N.Y.S.2d 639; Balsamo v. Savin Corp., 61 A.D.3d 622, 877 N.Y.S.2d 146; Wiesen v. New York Univ., 304 A.D.2d 459, 758 N.Y.S.2d 51; Terranova v. Liberty Lines Tr., 292 A.D.2d 441, 738 N.Y.S.2d 693; Kassner v. 2nd Avenue Delicatessen Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 238 [2d Cir.] ). In addition, employment discrimination cases are themselves generally reviewed under notice pleading standards. For example, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it has been held that a plaintiff alleging employment discrimination need not plead specific facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination but eed e a ce e a e eca a d its grounds (Vig v. NY Hairspray Co., 67 A.D.3d 140; Artis v. Random House, Inc., 34 Misc.3d 858, 936 N.Y.S.2d 479; Swierkiewicz v. Sorema NA 534 US 506, 122 S Court 992 (2002)). Applying these liberal pleading standards, the court finds that plaintiff has stated causes of action for violations of both NYS HRL 296 and NYC HRL 8-101. Though analyzed under a similar framework as the NYS HRL, the more broadly construed NYC HRL has been interpreted a e a a d c a a e a e e dec (Bennett v. Health Mgt. Sys., Inc., 92 A.D.3d 29, 936 N.Y.S.2d 112, Williams Jr. v. New York City Transit Authority, 171 A.D.3d 990, 97 N.Y.S.3d 692). The court notes that defendants do not dispute that the complaint satisfies three (3) of the four (4) elements necessary to state a claim for age discrimination. Here, plaintiff has stated a claim for age discrimination under NYS HRL 296 by 3 of 4 [*FILED: 4] KINGS COUNTY CLERK 03/05/2021 10:32 AM INDEX NO. 527615/2019 NYSCEF DOC. NO. 19 RECEIVED NYSCEF: 03/05/2021 alleging the four elements of the claim namely that: 1) at age 62 he is a member of a protected class, 2) that he was discharged on April 19, 2019, 3) that he is qualified to hold his position as neonatologist and Director of Newborn Services having the required licenses, training and qualifications, and 4) that the discharge occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination; namely that there were no legitimate grounds for discharge. Plaintiff states in his complaint that he was not subject to any malpractice or disciplinary actions. He states that his termination was part of de e da pattern of terminating older doctors and staff and replacing them with younger doctors and staff and that older and younger employees are treated differently. Further, plaintiff states that CIH personnel have directed specific ageist comments at him. Acc d ORDERED, a , de e da e de e da 3211(a)(7) motion to dismiss is denied. d a o CPLR 3211(a)(7) is denied. The foregoing constitutes the decision and order of this Court. ENTER: J.S.C. HON. PAMELA L. FISHER 4 of 4