Williams did not replace Plaintiff, but instead replaced Plaintiff's supervisor, Mark Lesney.
Plaintiff bases her claim of sex discrimination on the following statements by Agway managers. According to Plaintiff, on being informed of her demotion she asked Hamilton about the change and "she was informed that such removal did not involve a structural or performance issue, but a cultural issue." (Plf's Aff. P 14). Plaintiff argues that Hamilton's use of the term "cultural," was a reference to Plaintiff's sex. On August 16, 1994, Plaintiff met with Mark Lesney and states: "I asked him why Kevin [Williams] was replacing me as Consumer Credit Manager. He indicated that it was because John Hamilton believed that Kevin could do my job better because he was a male." (Plf's Aff. P 15). Plaintiff then asserts that she spoke to Kevin Williams who told her that "John Hamilton had a problem with my 'outspoken honesty' and stated that 'John does not want the truth always from a man, much less a woman.'" (Plf's Aff. P 16).
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's allegations are unsupported hearsay and that Plaintiff's reduced job responsibilities were the result of the reorganization of her department. Defendants state that "culture" referred to the philosophy and tenor of the organization; and that Hamilton used the term in reference to the problems Agway was experiencing in shifting local credit management from the individual plants to a central credit office. (Hamilton Dep. at 49-50; McGraw Dep. at 86). Agway also asserts that the changes were in response to strong employee resistance to the consolidation of the credit functions and that some region and plant managers complained that Plaintiff was inflexible in dealing with them. (Hamilton Dep. at 58-60; Williams Dep. at 47).
According to Plaintiff, in September, 1994, she began performing the duties of Western Division Specialist Manager reporting to Kevin Williams. However, in April, 1995, Alan Lincoln replaced Williams as Plaintiff's supervisor. Plaintiff claims that Lincoln then engaged in a continuous campaign of harassment in order to force her to resign from her position. Specifically, Plaintiff states, inter alia, that "Alan Lincoln repeatedly and intentionally mischaracterized my comments as being negative statements about the company or evidence of my unwillingness to work with others in the company"; "Lincoln incorrectly indicated that I had expressed dissatisfaction with my present position"; and that Lincoln "falsely indicated that I had difficulty accepting [his] hiring approach [and] incorrectly claims that I was frustrated with my present level of authority and his management style." (Plf's Aff. P 22).
On May 22, 1995, Plaintiff learned that there was an opening for the plant manager's position in Newark Valley, New York. Prior to that time Plaintiff states that she told John Hamilton and Alan Lincoln that she was interested in a plant manager's job. On the day she learned of the Newark Valley position, Plaintiff again told Lincoln of her interest in the job. According to Plaintiff, "in response to my statement, he informed me that I had burned some bridges in Syracuse. When I asked him what he meant, he pointed to John Hamilton's office." (Plf's Aff. P 28).
After Plaintiff did not get the position, she discovered that Joe McGraw, the Human Resources Director, had not put her on the list of candidates. According to Plaintiff, when she met with McGraw on June 2, 1995, she was told that "I was not considered for the Newark Valley position because of problems interacting with others in the company. However, when asked to do so, they could not provide specifics of such problems." (Plf's Aff. P 37).
Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may grant summary judgment if it appears "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). It is the substantive law that will determine what facts are material to the outcome of a case. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
Initially, the moving party has the burden of informing the court of the basis of its motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The Court must then resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). However, the non-moving party must do more than simply show "that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Only when the Court concludes that no rational finder of fact can find in favor of the non-moving party should summary judgment be granted. Gallo v. Prudential Residential, Servs., Ltd., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994).
A. Sexual Discrimination
Initially, the Court notes that although summary judgment is no longer a disfavored process for the elimination of groundless claims, see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 (summary judgment favored to dispose of meritless claims), a district court should be wary of granting summary judgment in a discrimination case because the device is generally inappropriate where, as is typical, an employer's state of mind is relevant. Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224. This is not to say that summary judgment is wholly inappropriate; rather, as the Second Circuit has noted, "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. The purposes of summary judgment . . . apply no less to discrimination cases than to . . . other areas of litigation." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 1985). Considering the relative ease of bringing a suit alleging discrimination and the difficulty and expense of defending against such a suit, courts correctly find summary judgment proper where allegations of discriminatory intent are merely conclusory.
Title VII protects against, among other things, disparate treatment of employees due to sexual discrimination. An employer consequently is prohibited from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an individual on the basis of sex. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). A plaintiff claiming sexual discrimination can proceed under either of two theories: quid pro quo discrimination or hostile work environment harassment. See Karibian v. Columbia Univ., 14 F.3d 773, 777 (2d Cir. 1994). To establish a claim of quid pro quo discrimination, Plaintiff must show "that she was denied an economic benefit either because of gender or because a sexual advance was made by a supervisor and rejected by her." Kotcher v. Rosa and Sullivan Appliance Ctr., 957 F.2d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1992).
Plaintiff's claim that Defendants violated Title VII by intentionally discriminating against her on the basis of her sex requires the Court to apply the three-step burden shifting analysis articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 1824-25, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668 (1973). 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). Under this analysis, Plaintiff must first demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination by a preponderance of evidence. McDonnell Douglas, 93 S. Ct. at 1824. After Plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to Agway to articulate legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its alleged actions. See Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1226. If Defendants satisfy this burden, Plaintiff must then prove that the employer's reason was merely a pretext for discrimination, see St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 113 S. Ct. 2742, 2751-52, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407 (1993), and that her sex "played a motivating role in, or contributed to, the employer's decision." Renz v. Grey Advertising, Inc., 135 F.3d 217, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 19993, *12, 1997 WL 433675, *4 (2d Cir. 1997).
In order to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must show that "she was treated less favorably than comparable male employees in circumstance from which a gender-based motive could be inferred." See Montana v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 869 F.2d 100, 106 (2d Cir. 1989). For purposes of this motion, the Court will assume arguendo that Plaintiff has established her prima facie discrimination claim.
i. Defendants' Non-Discriminatory Reasons
Establishment of the prima facie case creates a presumption that the employer unlawfully discriminated against the employee. Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981). In order to rebut this presumption, the employer has the burden of producing evidence that the challenged action was taken for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254. The defendant, however, "need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254 (citing Board of Trustees of Keene State College v. Sweeney, 439 U.S. 24, 25, 58 L. Ed. 2d 216, 99 S. Ct. 295 (1978)). As the Supreme Court stated in Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine :
It is sufficient if the defendant's evidence raises a genuine issue of fact as to whether it discriminated against the plaintiff. To accomplish this, the defendant must clearly set forth, through the introduction of admissible evidence, the reasons for the plaintiff's rejection. The explanation provided must be legally sufficient to justify a judgment for the defendant. If the defendant carries this burden of production, the presumption raised by the prima facie case is rebutted.