The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCURN, Senior District Judge.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
From August 2 through August 5, 1999, the court conducted a
bench trial in this action. Plaintiff Kathleen M. Cifra brought
suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., claiming that her
supervisor, Kenneth Meashey ("Meashey"), subjected her to adverse
and discriminatory working conditions on account of her gender,
which ultimately resulted in her termination. At the end of
plaintiff's case, defendants moved pursuant to Rule 52(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for judgment as a matter of
law.*fn1 The court reserved on that motion. At the end of all
the proof, defendants renewed their motion and the court once
again reserved decision. The court now denies defendants' Rule
52(c) motions. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds
in favor of defendants and dismisses plaintiff's complaint. Based
upon the evidence presented at trial with respect to the relevant
issues in this matter, the following constitutes the court's
findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Rule
In 1986, plaintiff was hired by General Electric Company ("GE")
as an industrial hygienist. She was responsible for recognizing,
evaluating and controlling environmental, health and safety
hazards to employees. She was primarily responsible for the
industrial hygiene program at GE's three sites in Syracuse, New
York, which encompassed at least twenty buildings. Her
performance evaluations were good. Consequently, plaintiff
received a promotion to senior industrial hygienist in 1987.
Unlike plaintiff, Meashey did not have a formal educational
background in environmental, health and safety issues. Rather, he
held undergraduate and graduate degrees in management, and had
served as a law enforcement and counter-intelligence officer in
the U.S. Air Force.
Aside from his lack of formal education in environmental,
health and safety matters, Meashey had a different leadership
style than his predecessor. Many employees, including plaintiff,
did not respond well to him. Credible testimony from several
witnesses established that Meashey could be verbally
intimidating, disrespectful and demeaning. Much of this behavior,
though directed at all employees, was particularly trained on
plaintiff. This may have been the result of an early gaffe by
plaintiff, when she questioned Meashey's qualifications to lead
the EHS department.
While it is undisputed by the parties that plaintiff had
excellent technical skills, Meashey required plaintiff and other
EHS employees to take responsibility and "ownership" roles over
projects they were involved in. He emphasized time and time again
that he wanted plaintiff and others under his direction and
control to not only identify the environmental problems in the
Syracuse General Electric facilities, but once identification had
been made to devise a correctional plan and then to assume
responsibility for implementing the same. Plaintiff, however,
viewed her role as confined to her expertise in environmental
analysis and recommendations as to corrective action to be taken,
leaving implementation up to others in the chain of command.
These different views of plaintiff's employment requirements were
apparently never resolved between Meashey and plaintiff.
Meashey soon started documenting plaintiff's performance
problems, which may have sprung, in part, from their differing
views as to her job requirements. In September, 1990, Meashey
first wrote her up. See Pl.'s Ex. 8. Plaintiff was warned that
she was "close" to being put on a performance improvement plan,
which would require her to quickly improve, or be terminated.
Plaintiff responded to Meashey in writing, disputing the
appraisal point-by-point. See Def.Ex. 32. Meashey had never
received a written rebuttal from a dissatisfied employee before.
Plaintiff was again written up for poor performance in January,
1991. See Def. Ex. 42. She was then written up in February,
1991, and placed on a performance improvement plan. See
Def.Exs. 46 and 47. Plaintiff again disputed the performance
appraisal in writing. See Pl.'s Ex. 48. At no point did
plaintiff ever admit to having a performance problem, or for that
matter, conform to Meashey's expectations. Plaintiff was
terminated on June 5, 1991. See Pl.'s Ex. 78. Another female
was hired to replace her.
The McDonnell Douglas three part test applies to gender
discrimination claims under Title VII. See McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668
(1973). First, plaintiff is required to establish a prima facie
case. See Austin v. Ford Models, Inc., 149 F.3d 148, 152 (2d
Cir. 1998). If plaintiff makes this showing, the burden shifts to
the employer to provide "a legitimate, non-discriminatory purpose
for its adverse employment action." Id. at 153. "Any such
stated purpose is sufficient to satisfy the defendant's burden of
production; the employer does not have to persuade the
court that the stated purpose was the actual reason for its
decision." Id. Plaintiff is then required to show that the
employer's proffered reasons are a pretext for discrimination.
A prima facie case of gender discrimination under Title VII
consists of four elements: (1) membership in a protected class;
(2) qualification for the position; (3) an adverse employment
decision or termination; and (4) that the discharge or adverse
decision took place under circumstances giving rise to an
inference of discrimination.*fn2 See Austin, 149 F.3d at 152;
Shumway v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 118 F.3d 60, 63 (2d Cir.
1997); Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 110 F.3d 210, 215 (2d Cir.
1997); McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir.
1997); Fitzgerald v. Henderson, 36 F. Supp.2d 490, 503 (N.D.N Y
1998); Cleveland v. Int'l Paper Co., 1998 WL 690915, at *3
(N.D.N.Y. 1998); Passonno v. State Univ. of New York at Albany,
889 F. Supp. 602, 606 (N.D.N.Y. 1995); and Harker v. Utica
College of Syracuse Univ., 885 F. Supp. 378, 387 (N.D.N.Y. 1995).
While it is a close question, the court finds that plaintiff
made out a prima facie case. Plaintiff testified that she was
treated differently than her male co-workers, not allowed to
attend a certification test and training courses, targeted for
termination, exposed to hostile attitudes of her male colleagues,
and not given the same support as male co-workers to get jobs
done. Anthony Maiurino, though equivocating, testified that
Meashey was particularly tough on plaintiff, and forced him to
"mentor" plaintiff. Mary Delay broadly accused Meashey of
targeting plaintiff and other females, and testified that Meashey
questioned females to a higher degree. Frank Collis testified
that plaintiff was the focus of much more intense treatment by
Meashey than other employees. He also testified that both he and
plaintiff received identical poor ratings, and were placed on
nearly identical performance improvement plans, though plaintiff
was fired and he was not. While the vast majority of this
evidence failed to show that plaintiff was treated differently
because she was a woman, the evidence, taken together, allowed
plaintiff to narrowly make out a prima ...