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STERN v. TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIV. IN NEW YORK

November 3, 1995

IRWIN STERN, Plaintiff, against THE TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BAER

 HAROLD BAER, JR., United States District Judge.1

 Plaintiff filed this claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging that he was denied permanent appointment as Director of the Spanish Language Program at Columbia University because of his national origin when a minority candidate was selected for the position. Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure asserting that the plaintiff's claim is devoid of any triable issue of fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

 Defendant's motion was made on submission. For the reasons which follow, I hereby grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

 I. Facts

 Plaintiff Irwin Stern, an American of Eastern European descent worked as a part-time language instructor in defendant Columbia University's Department of Spanish and Portuguese ("Department") since 1978. After the Director of the Spanish Language Program resigned during the Spring 1991 academic term, the University selected plaintiff to fill the position for the 1991-92 academic year on an interim basis. University policy provides interim positions are not "renewable without a complete search in accordance with the University's Affirmative Action Program." Meisel Aff. para. 5. The University reappointed plaintiff for a second year, 1992-93, as interim director under the same conditions.

 In 1993, the Department decided to fill the position permanently. The Department conducted an open search in accordance with its policy. Prior to the search, the Vice President for Arts and Sciences, Martin Meisel, attempted to have another faculty member, Frances Boyd, a woman, appointed to the position without a search. After the Department denied Mr. Meisel's attempt, he appointed a five member faculty committee to conduct an open search. Of the sixty-three applicants responding to an ad for the position, thirty-five were Latino. The committee invited three candidates including plaintiff, for day-long interviews during which each candidate was to teach a model class. Prior to the completion of the interview process one of the invited candidates accepted another position and dropped out of contention. The search committee then selected Augustus Puleo, an American of Hispanic national origin, as an additional candidate.

 The committee offered the position to Mr. Puleo subject to the approval of the University Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee in accordance with Columbia's hiring policies. On May 20, 1993, the Committee approved Mr. Puleo.

 II. Discussion

 A moving party is entitled to summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) if, "when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Cianfrano v. Babbitt, 851 F. Supp. 41, 44 (N.D.N.Y. 1994); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). There need be evidence of a disputed issue of fact for the nonmovant to survive summary judgment. The nonmovant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indust. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1985). "Summary judgment is properly regarded . . . as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to 'secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986) (quoting Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 1).

 The Second Circuit stated that "when deciding whether [summary judgment] should be granted in a discrimination case, additional considerations should be taken into account. A trial court must be cautious about granting summary judgment to an employer when . . . its intent is at issue." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Services, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). However, it is not a hard and fast rule that summary judgment is precluded in employment discrimination cases. See McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 38 F.3d 67, 68 (2d Cir. 1994) (holding summary judgment is available in employment discrimination cases). A district judge must "exercise [the] decision making authority entrusted to him [or her]." Id. at 68.

 In the case at bar, summary judgment is proper even though the plaintiff asserts a discrimination claim. A plaintiff's burden to defeat summary judgment is to produce de minimis evidence in opposition of the movant's claim that there are no triable factual issues. Goenaga v. March of Dimes Defects Foundation, 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995). "Nonetheless, the plaintiff cannot meet this burden through reliance on unsupported assertions. . . . The motion 'will not be defeated merely . . . on the basis of conjecture . . . .'" Id. (quoting Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849, 112 S. Ct. 152, 116 L. Ed. 2d 117 (1991)).

 In the case at bar, plaintiff claims that defendant discriminated against him (by not appointing plaintiff to the position of Director) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., which states in relevant part: "It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual's . . . national origin." The Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973) set out the test by which a Title VII claim must be proven. Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. If plaintiff does so, the burden shifts and the employer must proffer a "legitimate, non-discriminatory reason" for the challenged action. If the defendant succeeds, the plaintiff must then put forth evidence to prove that defendant's offered reasons were a pretext for discrimination. See id.; see also Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S. Ct. 1089, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207 (1981).

 "For a plaintiff to make out a prima facie case of discriminatory [denial of employment], he must show that: (1) he belongs to a protected class; (2) his job performance was satisfactory; (3) he was denied employment; (4) the discharge occurred in circumstances giving rise to an inference of racial discrimination." Cianfrano v. Babbitt, 851 F. Supp. 41, 45 (N.D.N.Y. 1994) ...


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