had suicidal thoughts and was eventually committed to a mental hospital for a month (Tr. 141-42). Moodie now resides in Detroit, living on his social security disability check and a $ 130 a month pension from the Federal Reserve Bank (Tr. 144).
To prevail on a claim of race discrimination, a plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the conduct of the defendant in terminating him was motivated, at least in part, by his race; in other words, that race was a "determinative factor" in the employer's decision to dismiss him. Hagelthorn v. Kennecott Corp., 710 F.2d 76, 82 (2d Cir. 1983). The factfinder "is entitled to infer, but need not infer, that this burden has been met" if the plaintiff has established a prima facie case and if the factfinder "disbelieve[s] the defendant's explanation." Cabrera v. Jakabovitz, 24 F.3d 372, 382 (2d Cir. 1994), citing St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, U.S. , 113 S. Ct. 2742, 2749, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407 (1993) ("The factfinder's disbelief of the reasons put forward by the defendant . . . may, together with the elements of the prima facie case, suffice to show intentional discrimination"). However, the defendant "need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons." Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981). The employer's burden is satisfied "if he simply 'explains what he has done' or 'produces evidence of legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons.'" Id. at 256 (citation omitted).
Moodie contends that the Bank's decision to dismiss him was racially motivated and that its stated reason for doing so -- that he started the physical altercation with Riolo -- was a pretext or coverup for discrimination. He argues that Furey's investigation and Leffler's recommendation to dismiss him were tainted by racial prejudice. The Bank denies this charge, contending that its officers, in good faith, believed and continue to believe that Moodie was the aggressor and that the Bank terminated him in accordance with its uniformly-applied personnel practice of discharging the aggressor in incidents of workplace violence.
The determination of this case depends on whether (1) the Bank's internal investigation was conducted in discriminatory fashion; (2) the Bank uniformly discharged the aggressor in cases of violence between the employees and, if so, (3) the policy was discriminatorily applied in Moodie's case. Although what actually occurred between Moodie and Riolo is relevant, it is not decisive. Nor does the disposition of this case rest on the factfinder's view of whether the Bank's decision to terminate Moodie was wise or fair. The sole question is whether the Bank's conduct as to Moodie was lawful or whether it violated Title VII.
As proof that his discharge, and in particular Furey's investigation, was tainted by racial prejudice, Moodie points to several facts that he claims support an inference of discrimination: (1) unlike Riolo, he was not given the opportunity to tell his side of the story in the presence of the black supervisors Howard and Burgess; (2) Furey did not ask Howard and Burgess for their opinions or conclusions; (3) he was sent home, whereas Riolo was permitted to remain at work; (4) in evaluating the evidence, Furey failed to consider Moodie's reputation among co-workers as a peaceful person and Riolo's reputation as an aggressive and argumentative person; (5) Furey failed to check whether the incident had been captured on the CCC's video security cameras.
However, I find that Furey's testimony and that of other witnesses provide credible non-discriminatory explanations to each of the propositions raised by Moodie.
(1) The evidence shows that when Moodie first came to talk to Furey on the morning of October 5, Furey had little idea of what had happened the night before and had no reason to ask any of his supervisors to be present. Furey testified that he only began conducting more formal interviews after he heard a conflicting story from Riolo and found out that three computer operators had witnessed the altercation (Tr. 638). After all three neutral witnesses indicated that there had been an altercation and that, as Furey put it, "supposedly Vinnie attempted to choke Tony," Furey gave Moodie another opportunity that afternoon to tell his side of the story (Tr. 639). Moodie again told Furey that they were only fooling around. (Id.)
While it would have been prudent for Furey to have arranged for Howard and Burgess to be present at the second meeting with Moodie, nothing suggests that his failure to do so was racially motivated. Moreover, even though Howard and Burgess were present to hear Riolo's version, they were never called upon by Furey to give their opinions as to what actions should be taken or even as to what conclusions either of them drew from the statements made by Sanchez, Barnett and Cantave. The sole contribution which Burgess and Howard were called on to perform was to validate the accuracy of Furey's notes of what Sanchez, Barnett and Cantave had said took place. In any event, Burgess testified at trial that he did speak to Moodie privately and that Moodie stated "he did not choke Tony Riolo, but he went over to tickle Tony" (Tr. 391). Although Burgess did not report this to Furey, what Moodie told Burgess was not much different from what he told Furey and was clearly at odds with what the witnesses reported.
(2) Furey did not ask the black supervisors, Howard and Burgess, for their opinions, but neither did Furey himself express an opinion or conclusion in the memorandum he prepared for Leffler. Furey saw his job as the fact finder and, as Burgess testified, asked Howard and Burgess to be present during the interviews in order to verify his notes of the neutral witnesses' statements (Tr. 387). There is no evidence to suggest that Furey deliberately limited the role of Howard and Burgess for sinister or racial reasons. Although Burgess testified at trial that he thought Riolo was exaggerating his injuries -- at one point wearing a neck brace to work and feigning a hoarse voice, Burgess never expressed these doubts to Furey (Tr. 388). Howard, the CCC's assistant chief, also questioned Riolo's honesty but likewise kept it to himself (Tr. 435-36). Although Howard was not asked his opinion at the time as to who was the aggressor, at trial he testified that he believed Moodie was:
Q. Did you have any doubt as to who the aggressor was in this altercation?
A. No, I did not.