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KODENGADA v. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP.

March 13, 2000

MICHAEL KODENGADA, PLAINTIFF,
V.
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Jr., District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael Kodengada ("Kodengada"), who is Indian and a member of the Hindu religion, brings this action against his former employer, defendant International Business Machines Corporation ("IBM"), alleging discrimination based on national origin, race and religion and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq., and New York State Executive Law § 290, et seq. Before this Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b). For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Summary judgment may not be granted unless "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, "[a]s a general rule, all ambiguities and inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts should be resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion, and all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial should be resolved against the moving party." Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n. 2, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2556 n. 2, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). The following facts are construed accordingly.

On March 18, 1996, IBM hired plaintiff Michael Kodengada as an Information Technology ("IT") architect. Kodengada was assigned to a project team, led by Frank DeRobertis, who served as team manager from the time Kodengada was hired until December of 1996. While Kodengada had an office at the IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York, he also worked at various other IBM sites and facilities. It was at one of these other sites that Kodengada alleges he was subjected to race-based hostile environment harassment.

From June 1996 through November 1996, Kodengada claims that when he visited the "war room," an open workspace in the Somers, New York facility, he was subjected to repeated harassment, in the form of racist remarks directed at him by a co-worker named George Baschiera. Kodengada went to the war room about two times a week for a few hours at a time. While there, Kodengada claims he was exposed to the following incidents:

• Baschiera told him that he did not believe in educating immigrants.
• Baschiera told him that he did not believe that Hare Krishna was a real religion.
• Baschiera said that he kept a gun in his boot "when he goes to Manhattan in case any colored guy approach him, shoot him, just like Mr. Bernard Goetz did, he supported him." [sic]
• Baschiera expressed an opinion supporting Bob Grant, WABC's conservative radio talk show host, when Grant was fired for making allegedly racist remarks.
• Baschiera used profanity to refer to the chief architect who was late for a meeting.
• In the course of a telephone conversation, an African-American co-worker, Ron Wood, said that he had gotten a tan while at a training class in Texas. Baschiera replied, "Were you a white boy before going to Houston, Texas, and now turn out to be a black boy?"

Kodengada claims he complained to DeRobertis in August of 1996 about Baschiera's offensive behavior and his disdainful comments about immigrants. DeRobertis denies that Kodengada complained to him about any such remarks before November of 1996. Kodengada also claims that he complained about Baschiera's alleged derogatory remarks to the Human Resources ("HR") Department.

In November 1996, Kodengada became angry at Baschiera because he believed Baschiera had wrongfully interfered with one of Kodengada's projects. On Sunday November 3, 1996, Kodengada sent an e-mail to Baschiera entitled "Intelligent Methods Are Best," accusing Baschiera of (1) talking to one of Kodengada's customers without permission, (2) having a "police officer character," (3) making racist comments towards an African-American co-worker, and (4) speaking badly about their manager. Kodengada forwarded this e-mail to DeRobertis. Upon receiving the e-mail, Baschiera complained to DeRobertis and demanded that Kodengada apologize.

DeRobertis claims he previously had experienced problems with Kodengada, including complaints about the quality of his work, a complaint about a sexually explicit story that plaintiff wrote and left on a printer which an IBM secretary discovered, and complaints from female employees that Kodengada had offended or intimidated them. Kodengada admits to printing a personal story using an IBM printer. DeRobertis learned, through his own investigation, that three women, Jill Alibrandi, JoAnne Martin, and Kathy Celona, had experiences with Kodengada that they found intimidating and/or offensive. Kodengada subsequently confronted one of the women who had complained about his behavior, leading DeRobertis to admonish him.

In November, DeRobertis began consulting with Human Resources to determine how to address the conflict between Kodengada and Baschiera. In an effort to address the problem, DeRobertis held a meeting in his office on November 6, 1996, attended by Kodengada and Baschiera. During the meeting, there was a heated exchange between the two men. The defendant claims that Baschiera was upset with plaintiff and told him he could be subjected to charges of harassment for his conduct towards several women. Kodengada claims that Baschiera shouted at him "Mike, I will sink you at IBM! I will bring sexual harassment charges against you! I will destroy you!" Baschiera again demanded an apology for the November 3rd e-mail.

That same day following the meeting, the men continued to communicate through e-mail. Baschiera received an e-mail containing an apology for the comment made at the meeting, which apparently was sent from Kodengada's computer. Kodengada claims he did not write the e-mail, but rather that DeRobertis composed and sent it from Kodengada's terminal. In another e-mail, DeRobertis scolded Kodengada about the ...


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