The opinion of the court was delivered by: TELESCA
AMENDED DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff commenced this employment discrimination suit in May of 1981, alleging that his discharge was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e et seq. By an Order of this Court on February 3, 1984, plaintiff was allowed to amend his complaint to include an additional cause of action for a violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. Presently before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment and attorney's fees, as well as several other motions by plaintiff. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and all other motions by both parties are denied.
The plaintiff was hired by defendant in July of 1979, to begin employment on August 13, 1979. He was fired slightly more than two months later, on October 26, 1979. According to plaintiff's own affidavit, both of those decisions were made by Mary Ellen DuCharme, the Area Manager for defendant.
Shortly after his termination, plaintiff filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the New York State Department of Labor. After his initial application was denied, he received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Rosario DiLorenzo on the issue of whether his termination was the result of his own misconduct. After a full hearing, the ALJ found that plaintiff was discharged "as a result of his failure to comply with the employer's instructions relating to the payroll, falsely advising the employer that he had completed the payroll, and also for not being on a 24 hour availability basis." Plaintiff appealed that decision to the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, and then to the New York State Appellate Division, which both affirmed the decision of the ALJ.
In an order issued by this Court on February 3, 1984, I held that plaintiff is collaterally estopped from challenging in this action any of the factual determinations made in the prior state proceedings as set forth in the decision of the Administrative Law Judge. For the purposes of this action, therefore, it has already been established that defendant had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for discharging plaintiff. Nevertheless, plaintiff's claims of racial discrimination could not be ruled out at that time, because Title VII forbids an employer from using even legitimate reasons to fire an employee as a pretext for discrimination. McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 804, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). I therefore denied defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint, pending further discovery to determine whether plaintiff might be able to make such a showing.
Now that discovery is virtually completed in this case, defendant has renewed its motion for summary judgment, and plaintiff has cross-moved for summary judgment. The issue to be decided is whether plaintiff has been able to raise any genuine issue of racial discrimination, notwithstanding the established fact that defendant possessed a non-discriminatory reason for his discharge.
Under the federal law governing plaintiff's two causes of action, plaintiff must prove that he was the victim of intentional discrimination.
Plaintiff has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case, by proving with a preponderance of the evidence that he was discharged "under circumstances which give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination." Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981). Once plaintiff passes that threshold, the burden shifts to the defendant "to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection". McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). Of course, "the defendant need not persuade the Court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons", Burdine, supra, at 254, for the ultimate burden of proving intentional discrimination remains at all times with the plaintiff.Cooper v. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 467 U.S. 867, 104 S. Ct. 2794, 2799, 81 L. Ed. 2d 718 (1984).
Once a defendant has articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for an employee's discharge (as defendant certainly has in this case), plaintiff has the burden of proving "that the presumptively valid reasons for his rejection were in fact a coverup for a racially discriminatory decision". McDonnell Douglas, supra, 411 U.S. at 805. Plaintiff must prove that defendant's explanation for the decision "was a pretext or discriminatory in its application". Id. at 807. In other words, "it is the plaintiff's task to demonstrate that similarly situated employees were not treated equally". Burdine, supra, 450 U.S. at 258.
As the Supreme Court observed in describing this burden, "[e]specially relevant to such a showing would be evidence that white employees involved in acts against [the employer] of comparable seriousness . . . were nevertheless retained or rehired". McDonnell Douglas, supra, 411 U.S. at 804. The question now before me is whether plaintiff had produced any such evidence in the present case.
The first justification offered by defendant for plaintiff's discharge was the fact that plaintiff failed to obey his employer's instructions relating to the payroll and deliberately misrepresented that he had completed the payroll. Plaintiff does not dispute that such allegations, if true, would constitute a legitimate basis for his discharge. Nor has plaintiff produced any evidence that any white employees deliberately lied to defendant but were nevertheless retained.
Rather, plaintiff seeks to attack defendant's proffered explanation indirectly, by arguing that he was guilty only of an honest mistake, not deliberate falsehood, and that the ALJ never found to the contrary. Plaintiff's ...