The opinion of the court was delivered by: MOTLEY
Plaintiff, a black male, was terminated from employment with defendant under circumstances which, he alleges, indicate that the basis for this termination was his race. Plaintiff also alleges that his termination was retaliatory in nature for plaintiff having complained about unfair treatment of blacks at the worksite. Defendant has moved for summary judgment dismissing these claims. As more fully set forth below, plaintiff's allegations in opposition to the motion are sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact to withstand summary judgment on the race discrimination claim. On the other hand, defendant's motion related to plaintiff's claim of retaliatory discharge is granted because plaintiff has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact with regard to this claim.
Plaintiff Arthur Sykes (hereinafter "plaintiff") was terminated from his position as supervisor in the Traffic and Information Department of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center (hereinafter "defendant"). Prior to his termination, plaintiff had been employed by defendant for fourteen years. (See Affidavit of Stephen C. Jackson, Esq., dated July 22, 1996, (hereinafter "Jackson Aff."), Exh. A (plaintiff's statement pursuant to Rule 3(g) of the Southern District of New York), at P 1.) Although his service with defendant was marred by apparently poor relations with the individuals he supervised, (See Affidavit of James H. Walls, dated June 12, 1996, (hereinafter "Walls Aff."), Exhs. 2-14 (reports documenting poor relations between plaintiff and co-workers)), he generally received satisfactory reviews. (See Jackson Aff. Exhs. D-I (employee evaluation reports pertaining to plaintiff).)
On July 26, 1994, plaintiff was in his office with several co-workers when one of plaintiff's supervisees, Albert Rivera, a Latino male with whom plaintiff had poor relations
and who, at the time, had been employed by defendant for approximately 15 months, (Walls Aff. at P 20), walked into plaintiff's office uninvited. An argument ensued wherein plaintiff and Rivera exchanged words and apparently threatened each other. (Jackson Aff. Exh. C (Plf's Dep.), at pp. 216-226.) Soon after the argument, defendant investigated the incident and Rivera was given a light sanction because, it is alleged, he had no record of similar conduct in the past. (Walls Aff. at P 20.) On the other hand, on August 4, 1994, because of plaintiff's higher position and purported history of poor relations with co-employees, plaintiff was terminated. (Id.) Plaintiff argues that he was ultimately terminated from his employment based on his race because he was fired although Rivera, a Latino male, was retained.
(See Jackson Aff. Exh. C (Plf.'s Dep.) at 216-226.)
I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD.
A motion for summary judgment shall only be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).
II. PLAINTIFF'S DISCRIMINATORY DISCHARGE CLAIM.
A. Plaintiff's Burden Under Title VII.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful "to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (hereinafter "Title VII"). Based upon the evidence adduced at trial, the court considers plaintiff's allegations under the familiar three-step burden shifting analysis set forth by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973), and Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253-54, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981), and further described in St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 505-512, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407, 113 S. Ct. 2742 (1993).
In McDonnell Douglas, the Court established "an allocation of the burden of production and an order for the presentation of proof in Title VII discriminatory-treatment cases." Hicks, 509 U.S. at 506 (footnote omitted). Under the standards set forth in McDonnell Douglas, plaintiff must first prove by a preponderance of the evidence a "prima facie " case of racial discrimination by proving: 1) that he is a member of a protected class (i.e., that he is black); 2) that he was qualified for the position to which he applied; 3) that he was rejected or terminated in circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. 411 U.S. at 802. The prima facie burden serves an "important function" in Title VII litigation, Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253-54, because it "raises an inference of discrimination only because we presume these acts, if otherwise unexplained, are more likely than not based on the consideration of impermissible factors." Furnco Construction Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 577, 57 L. Ed. 2d 957, 98 S. Ct. 2943 (1978).
Once plaintiff has established a prima facie case of discrimination based on race, "the burden shifts to the defendant 'to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection.'" Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253 (quoting McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802). See also Hicks, 509 U.S. at 506-507. At this stage, defendant "'must clearly set forth, through the introduction of admissible evidence,' reasons for its actions which, if believed by the trier of fact, would support a finding that unlawful discrimination was not the cause of the employment action." Hicks, 509 U.S. at 507 (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254-255 and n.8). See also Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 46 F.3d 196, 203 (2d Cir. 1995) (same).
Once defendant carries this burden of production, plaintiff must show that the reasons articulated for the adverse decision were pretextual and that plaintiff was the victim of discrimination. Hicks, 509 U.S. at 507. As reiterated by the Court in Hicks, "'the ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at ...