did not even rise to the level of an accusation. During the exchange with Evans, Lapsley expressed displeasure at a colleague's good fortune in having been recently promoted and speculated that she "would" hate to feel discriminated against. At best, the casual comment suggests that she felt discrimination had occurred, but she did not explain the basis of her feeling, and, in any event, the topic was quickly dropped. Lapsley never again raised the issue with a coworker or superior; nor did she lodge any complaint. Hence, Lapsley's remark can hardly be said to rise even to an "informal complaint."
Second, given the casual and vague nature of her remark to her supervisor, that she never articulated the basis for her belief of discrimination, and that "there was no semblance of gender-oriented motivation in the events" described by Lapsley, id. 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 1793, *48, 1998 WL 50126 at *17, one cannot say that Lapsley's subjective belief that discrimination had occurred, however intensely felt and even if in good faith, was a reasonable one. As discussed earlier, Lapsley has provided no evidence tending to show that race played any role in either defendant's decision to promote Ellison or its decision not to reclassify Lapsley's position. See Galdieri-Ambrosini, 136 F.3d 276, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 1793, *48, 1998 WL 50126, at *17 (summary judgment on retaliation claim appropriate where plaintiff's "genuine" belief that discrimination had occurred was unfounded).
Moreover, even if her comments constitute protected activity and she had a good faith, reasonable basis for her belief of discrimination, Lapsley could not demonstrate causation. She offers no proof of causation other than the mere fact that she was discharged at some point after this conversation with Evans. Although proximity in time between an employee's protected activity and her termination may under certain circumstances give rise to an inference of causation, see Nielsen v. New York City Comm'n on Human Rights, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 413, No. 94 Civ. 6360, 1998 WL 20004, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 20, 1998), "conversely, causation is less likely if there is a long hiatus between the protected activity and the termination." Id. at *10. Lapsley allegedly had the conversation with Evans in January of 1994, but she was not terminated from her position until the end of the year. Where, as here, nearly a full year passed between Lapsley's comments and defendant's decision to lay her off, a finding that her passing remark led to her dismissal a year later would be unreasonable. See Van Zant, 80 F.2d at 714 (summary judgment appropriate where plaintiff "put forward nothing other than conclusory allegations to suggest a causal relationship between her complaints . . . [and] her termination."). A rational jury, therefore, could not find that she was dismissed in retaliation for her statements to Evans in January.
3. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
As a final matter, I hold that Lapsley is not entitled to a trial on her claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
To sustain a claim under New York law for intentional infliction of emotional distress, an at-will employee must prove that defendant engaged in "extreme and outrageous conduct" and that defendant intentionally or recklessly caused plaintiffs to suffer emotional distress. Murphy v. American Home Prods. Corp., 58 N.Y.2d 293, 461 N.Y.S.2d 232, 236, 448 N.E.2d 86 (1983); Fischer v. Maloney, 43 N.Y.2d 553, 402 N.Y.S.2d 991, 992-93, 373 N.E.2d 1215 (1978).
The offending conduct must "consist of more than mere insults, indignities, and annoyances and must be so shocking and outrageous as to exceed all reasonable bounds of indecency." Nestlerode v. Federal Ins. Co., 66 A.D.2d 504, 414 N.Y.S.2d 398, 400 (4th Dep't 1979).
Here, no reasonable jury could find defendant liable for any "shocking and outrageous" conduct. Plaintiff states in her affidavit that Evans told her that she should "choose her company more carefully since [he] did not know how long" certain low-level African-American employees would be around. (Lapsley Aff. P 52). In addition, she claims to have "experienced intentional emotional distress at various staff meetings and insults in the presence of various employees." (Id. P 56). Her submissions, however, contain no other specifics concerning the alleged insults she suffered on these occasions.
Even if true, such conduct would not meet the exacting standard required for the imposition of this type of tort liability. See, e.g., Bradley v. Consolidated Edison Co., 657 F. Supp. 197 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) (negative evaluations and disparaging statements insufficient to state claim); Brink's Inc. v. City of New York, 533 F. Supp. 1123 (S.D.N.Y. 1982) (harassment and verbal abuse insufficient to make out claim). Indeed, these purely "conclusory allegations," without any concrete particulars or proof as to the source of these statements, the content of the statements, and when they transpired, do not create a question of fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment. See National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Deloach, 708 F. Supp. 1371, 1379 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Accordingly, this count is dismissed.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety, and the complaint is dismissed with prejudice but without costs. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of defendant.
Dated: New York, New York
March 26, 1998
United States District Judge