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THOMAS v. FLAGHOUSE INC.

October 16, 1997

BARBARA SCOTT and EUNICE THOMAS, Plaintiffs, against FLAGHOUSE INC., Defendant.

William C. Conner, Senior United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

Conner, Senior D.J.:

 Plaintiffs Barbara Scott and Eunice Thomas bring this action against Flaghouse, Inc. ("Flaghouse"), their former employer, alleging that they were wrongfully terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.1 Defendant Flaghouse moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, we grant Flaghouse's motion for summary judgment.

 Because the claims of Scott and Thomas are factually independent, we will address them separately.

 I. Summary Judgment Standard

 Summary judgment is appropriate 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. P. 56(d). A genuine issue for trial exists if, based on the record as a whole, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, all evidence must be viewed and all inferences must be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. City of Yonkers v. Otis Elevator Co., 844 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir. 1988).

 The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Upon the movant's satisfying that burden, the onus then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 250. At this stage, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). Bald assertions or conjecture unsupported by evidence are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment. Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991); Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990).

 Summary judgment should be employed sparingly in employment discrimination cases where the employer's intent, motivation, or state of mind are at issue. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994); Dister v. Continental Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 1985)). A plaintiff "must nevertheless offer 'concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in [her] favor,' Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 256 . . ., and is not entitled to a trial simply because the determinative issue focuses upon the defendant's state of mind." Dister, 859 F.2d at 1114. Moreover, "the summary judgment rule would be rendered sterile . . . if the mere incantation of intent or state of mind would operate as a talisman to defeat an otherwise valid motion. Indeed, the salutary purposes of summary judgment -- avoiding protracted, expensive, and harassing trials -- apply no less to discrimination cases than to commercial or other areas of litigation." Meiri, 759 F. Supp. at 998; cf. McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 38 F.3d 67 (2d Cir. 1994) (issuing writ of mandamus where the district judge, under the impression that the Second Circuit had precluded grants of summary judgment in employment discrimination cases, declined to consider whether summary judgment was appropriate). This is particularly true where, as here, full discovery has taken place. Dister, 859 F.2d at 1114.

 II. Barbara Scott

 A. Background

 Barbara Scott was hired by Flaghouse in 1986. She became a customer service sales representative in 1990, the position she held until her termination on November 28, 1994.

 In the fall of 1994, Margaret Banks became a supervisor in Scott's department. From the beginning, their relationship was strained. Scott maintains that Banks was rude and treated her unfairly, overly scrutinizing and criticizing her work. Scott experienced increased stress as a result of her sour relationship with Banks and requested a transfer to another department. The request was denied.

 Banks, both at her deposition and in an internal memo dated October 7, 1994, detailed several instances of Scott's "insubordination." Scott met with Banks and Steve Jones, another member of Flaghouse's management, to discuss the incidents detailed in the Banks memo. At the meeting, Jones told Scott to "cooperate, otherwise we will get rid of you." (Scott Dep. at 81.)

 Immediately after the October 7 meeting, Scott began to experience chest pains. Four days later she was examined by Dr. Seung O. Lee, a cardiologist who since 1986 had been monitoring Scott's irregular heartbeat. Scott indicated to Dr. Lee that she wanted to take a few days off from work, so Dr. Lee wrote a letter to Flaghouse explaining that stressful situations and excessive work could exacerbate Scott's heart condition. (See Letter, dated Oct. 11, 1994, attached as Exh. E to Pl. Mem.; Lee Dep. at 72.) Scott took a medical leave from October 17 to November 21.

 On November 23, 1994 -- two days after Scott returned from her leave and the last workday before the Thanksgiving holiday -- Flaghouse held meetings with its employees to discuss imminent organizational restructuring and the consequent changes in the employees' duties. Scott failed to attend the meeting and left for the holiday. ...


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