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STERLING v. MENDON LEASING CO.

July 18, 1997

SYLVAN D. ROSE and ORVILLE STERLING a/k/a IRVING STERLING, Plaintiffs, against MENDON LEASING CO., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLOCK

 BLOCK, District Judge:

 Plaintiffs Sylvan D. Rose ("Rose") and Orville Sterling ("Sterling"), two African-American males, commenced this action against their former employer, defendant Mendon Leasing Co. ("Mendon"), alleging, inter alia, racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. *fn1" Presently before the Court is Mendon's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the Court grants defendant's motion as to the federal law claims and dismisses plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety.

 BACKGROUND

 Rose worked as a mechanic at Mendon's garage, located at 362 Kingsland Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, from April 13, 1982 until May 11, 1992, when Mendon terminated his employment. Sterling, also employed by Mendon, was a yard attendant at the same facility from 1983 until May 11, 1992, when Mendon terminated his employment as well. Mendon's proffered reason for terminating Rose and Sterling was that they and two other employees, who were also terminated, had stolen gasoline from company pumps.

 In their complaint, Rose and Sterling admit that they took the gasoline at issue, but claim that they had a legitimate work-related purpose for taking the gasoline: namely, to clean their tools and run some machines, which they claim was a customary practice at Mendon. Plaintiffs contend that their race was the real reason for their termination, as evidenced by the fact that other employees, who were Caucasian, had engaged in similar conduct but had not been disciplined. Mendon disputes this version of the facts and argues that in a similar recent incident two Caucasian employees were fired for engaging in comparable activity.

 As was required by a collective bargaining agreement, Mendon notified the union of plaintiffs' termination, communicated the reasons for their termination, and showed union representatives a copy of a video surveillance tape which had recorded plaintiffs' allegedly wrongful activity. The union thereafter declined to arbitrate on plaintiffs' behalf. The union did, however, decide to arbitrate on behalf of the shift manager, not a party to this suit, who was also fired in connection with the same incident but was not directly implicated. The union lost its case before the arbitrator.

 Mendon has moved for summary judgment claiming that its proffered reason for terminating plaintiffs was legitimate and that plaintiffs have produced no evidence of racial discrimination. Plaintiffs filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the motion, contending that: (1) summary judgment is not appropriate since they have produced evidence of disparate treatment between Caucasian and African-American employees; and (2) the reason for termination proffered by the defendant was a pretext for discrimination.

 DISCUSSION

 A. Summary Judgment Standard

 A court may grant summary judgment only where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Accordingly, the Court's task is not to "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); see Skubel v. Fuoroli, 113 F.3d 330, 334 (2d Cir. 1997). Summary judgment is inappropriate when, in resolving all ambiguities as well as inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, there exists a dispute about a material fact "such that a reasonable juror could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

 To survive a motion for summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). There must be some material in the record which favors the nonmoving party; thus, "if the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

 B. Discrimination Claims

 Claims of discrimination under Title VII are subject to the well-established three-step burden shifting analysis first articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). See St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506-08, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407, 113 S. Ct. 2742 (1993); see also de la Cruz v. New York City Human Resources Admin. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 82 F.3d 16, 20 (2d Cir. 1996). *fn2" Initially, the Court must determine whether plaintiffs have alleged facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination. See Holt v. KMI-Continental, Inc., 95 F.3d 123, 129 (2d Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 137 L. Ed. 2d 1027, 117 S. Ct. 1819 (1997). The quantum of proof necessary to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination is de minimis. See Woroski v. Nashua Corp., 31 F.3d 105, 108-09 (2d Cir. 1994). If that burden is met, defendant then has the burden of producing evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating plaintiffs' employment. See Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd., 22 F.3d 1219, 1226 (2d Cir. 1994). ...


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