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Cortes v. MTA New York City Transit

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

September 4, 2015

JUAN E. CORTES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT, Defendant-Appellee. [*]

Submitted February 19, 2015

Appeal from a grant of summary judgment by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Eric N. Vitaliano, Judge) dismissing appellant's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We clarify the effect of prior administrative proceedings and arbitration awards in the dispute leading to the litigation and affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.

Stewart Lee Karlin (Natalia Kapitonova on the brief), The Law Offices of Stewart Lee Karlin, P.C., New York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Robert Kenneth Drinan (Lewis S. Finkleman and Kristen M. Nolan on the brief), New York City Transit Law Department, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: WINTER, POOLER, and SACK, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 227

WINTER, Circuit Judge.

Juan E. Cortes appeals from Judge Vitaliano's grant of summary judgment to MTA New York City Transit (" MTA" ), dismissing appellant's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § § 12112-12117. Before bringing the present action, appellant filed a

Page 228

substantially similar disability discrimination claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights (" NYSDHR" ), which dismissed it. Based on Collins v. New York City Transit Authority, 305 F.3d 113 (2d Cir. 2002), the district court gave almost preclusive weight to the NYSDHR's dismissal of this claim. Because Collins addresses only the effect of arbitration awards under a collective bargaining agreement and does not apply to the decisions of state administrative agencies, we vacate and remand the dismissal of appellant's disability discrimination claim. However, we affirm the dismissal of appellant's retaliation claim.

BACKGROUND

This is an appeal from a grant of summary judgment, and we view the factual record in the light most favorable to appellant. McGuinness v. Lincoln Hall, 263 F.3d 49, 52 (2d Cir. 2001).

On July 11, 1994, MTA hired appellant as a train conductor. He was promoted to passenger train operator in 1998. In late 2001, he became a work train (no passengers) operator. On October 15, 2006, appellant had a dispute with a supervisor. On that day or soon thereafter, he also injured his back. A subsequent MRI showed injury to four lumbar discs, and appellant's personal doctor ordered him not to work from November 3, 2006 until January 7, 2007.

Appellant's employment was governed by a collective bargaining agreement (" CBA" ) that required him, before returning to work, to undergo a full physical evaluation at MTA's Medical Assessment Center (" MAC" ) and to obtain a fit-for-duty certificate. On January 7, 2007, in the course of the physical evaluation, an EKG test revealed a potentially dangerous cardiac abnormality. MAC doctors barred appellant from operating trains until he had undergone complete cardiac testing. Because appellant's job was " safety sensitive," the MTA determined that there were no train-operator duties appellant could perform until he was medically cleared.

Appellant's doctor confirmed the abnormal EKG and referred him to a cardiologist, Dr. Jane Levine. On March 5, 2007, appellant submitted documentation to MAC showing that Dr. Levine confirmed the coronary artery disease diagnosis and, as a result, he could not perform train-operator duties. Dr. Levine recommended additional diagnostic procedures including a nuclear stress test and a cardiac catheterization or, alternatively, a cardiac CT angiogram.

On March 20, 2007, appellant met with MAC doctors again. The stress test revealed coronary artery disease, but appellant refused to undergo a catheterization. Appellant claimed that he refused catheterization only because was waiting for his insurer's approval of an angiogram. Because appellant had not provided the requisite documentation, MAC doctors left the work restrictions in place and gave him until May 15, 2007 to submit the results of an angiogram. Appellant failed to submit the results by the deadline. Consequently, his work restrictions ...


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