One of the cases, Cunliffe-Martin v. Princeton University, involves former McCosh Health Center nurse Ann Cunliffe-Martin, who had worked at University Health Services for almost 14 years before being fired on Nov. 20, 2009 after an alleged incident with a co-worker.
According to a fact-finding memo written shortly after the incident by a University employee relations specialist, Cunliffe-Martin was arrested and charged with burglary, assault and harassment after a dispute with another McCosh nurse, Marimargaret Miller, over a wedding dress. Miller allegedly tried to sell Cunliffe-Martin’s wedding dress on eBay on Cunliffe-Martin’s behalf. The report then states Cunliffe-Martin went to Miller’s house to get the dress back, which allegedly lead to a violent altercation between Cunliffe-Martin and Miller’s son. Cunliffe-Martin was arrested as a result of the incident, and both she and Miller were fired.
More than two years after she was fired, Cunliffe-Martin filed an antidiscrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the complaint, she claims that this incident was a pretext to fire her. The real reason she was fired, she argues, is that she was unable to insert IVs into patients without assistance, as a result of bilateral hand surgeries, in addition to her veteran status and her age.
“[I] would like reinstatement after 14 years of employment [with a] record of outstanding dedication, loyalty and dependability,” Cunliffe-Martin wrote, outlining her desired outcome from the court case.
Cunliffe-Martin is representing herself in court. The University’s legal team, headed by attorney Michael A. Spero of the Trenton firm Sterns & Weinroth, responded to Cunliffe-Martin’s complaint with a motion to dismiss the case.
In its defense, the University argued that Cunliffe-Martin filed the complaint too late. She filed the complaint on Oct. 31, 2011 — nearly two years after her firing — but EEOC regulations require that a charge must be filed within 300 days of the alleged violation. Additionally, she claimed that the alleged discriminatory acts occurred in February 2011, even though her employment was terminated in 2009.
“Even if Plaintiff’s claims were meritorious, which they are not, Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred and must be dismissed as a matter of law,” Spero wrote in his motion for dismissal. The University also argued that Cunliffe-Martin had not stated any facts that allowed the court to infer University misconduct.
The judge presiding over the case, Michael Shipp, gave Cunliffe-Martin an opportunity to respond to the University’s motion for dismissal. Her rebuttal, however, did not respond to the arguments put forth by the University’s legal team regarding the filing time frame. Instead, she reiterated many of the same points she made in her initial complaint.
“My past 14-year work history as a nurse at Princeton University has been exemplary and loyal,” Cunliffe-Martin wrote in her response to the University’s motion for dismissal. “My only desire is to obtain reinstatement as a staff nurse on the second-floor unit. I miss my colleagues and my friends a great deal.”
The motion to dismiss will now be decided by Shipp based solely on the documents submitted; neither Cunliffe-Martin nor the University’s counsel will be required in court for the time being. If Shipp grants the motion to dismiss, Cunliffe-Martin’s case will be closed. A denial of the motion to dismiss, meanwhile, would mean that the case would continue normally.
Cunliffe-Martin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Another case, Nathan v. Princeton University, may face dismissal as well. The plaintiff, Steven Nathan, worked as a contractor for the University in the early 2000s and is a current Dining Services employee working in Forbes College. He filed his complaint on July 31, 2012, claiming he was “denied opportunity both as a contractor and employee” and was told that he “was there for racial and economic diversity.” Furthermore, he argued that he was eventually fired due to his request for equal opportunity to bid on jobs contracted out to others.
Judge Joel Pisano, who is presiding over the case, dismissed Nathan’s initial complaint, writing in his ruling that it “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.”
Pisano did, however, allow Nathan an opportunity to amend his complaint. On Aug. 31, Nathan filed his amended complaint, fleshing out in more detail his arguments against the University.
Nathan, who is representing himself but has filed for pro bono counsel, said in his amended complaint that his initial termination led to “all kinds of financial and emotional issues.”
According to Nathan’s amended complaint, he later attained part-time employment again through the University, this time with Dining Services, where he has worked for two years. He claims that he has applied for full time positions eight times without any response. When the position he wanted opened, he argued that someone else was given the job and that he never had any opportunity to apply.
Pisano has not yet announced whether Nathan’s amended complaint is enough to allow the case to continue.Nathan also did not respond to requests for comment.
Sankar Suryanarayan, a member of the University’s Office of General Counsel, declined to comment about the ongoing Cunliffe-Martin case. He added that at this point, the University has not received any official information regarding the Nathan case and so far has not been involved.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/08/31414/