and plaintiff's suspension may have been unwarranted. However,
plaintiff had the opportunity to present his side of the story in
the scheduled disciplinary hearing. It is impossible to know
whether the hearing could have actually remedied the situation or
addressed the supervisor's misconduct because plaintiff chose not
to participate in the process. Nonetheless, the fact that a fair
hearing was scheduled to address the situation prevents any
reasonable inferences of discrimination from arising in
connection with plaintiff's suspension.
Because plaintiff has not presented evidence in support of a
reasonable finding that the employment actions took place in
circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination, the
court finds that plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a prima
facie case of disparate treatment as to either his transfer or
C. Hostile Work Environment
The Supreme Court has held that Title VII extends to hostile
work environment complaints in Harris v. Forklift Systems Inc.,
510 U.S. 17, 21, 114 S.Ct. 367, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993). In order
to prevail under a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff
must establish that "[t]he workplace is permeated with
`discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult,' that is
`sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the
victim's employment and create an abusive working environment."
Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21, 114 S.Ct.
367, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993) (quoting Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v.
Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 65, 67, 106 S.Ct. 2399, 91 L.Ed.2d 49
(1986)); See Quinn v. Green Tree Credit Corp., 159 F.3d 759 (2d
Cir. 1998). The court must consider the totality of the
circumstances in assessing whether the plaintiff has a viable
hostile work environment claim. See Distasio v. Perkin Elmer
Corp., 157 F.3d 55, 62 (2d Cir. 1998). "Conduct that is not
severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or
abusive work environment — an environment that a reasonable
person would find hostile or abusive — is beyond Title VII's
purview." Harris, 510 U.S. at 20, 114 S.Ct. 367.
In the instant case, plaintiff points to seven incidents in
support of his claim that his workplace was a hostile
environment: (1) Mr. Matarangelo told plaintiff he was "different
than other minorities in the office;" (2) Mr. Matarangelo
referred to black youths as "animals" in a conversation about
killings at a concert; (3) Mr. Matarangelo repeatedly referred to
Mayor David Dinkins as a "washroom attendant;" (4) Mr. Raykowski
called plaintiff an "uppity nigger;" (5) an anonymous note was
left on his desk saying "dump the dink;" (6) a black doll was
hung on a doorframe near plaintiff's workstation; and (7) Mr.
Friedman called him "boy."
As to the complaints about Matarangelo's comments, the
anonymous doll hanging and "dump the dink" note, the plaintiff
has not shown that these were anything more than offensive
comments. "[M]ere utterance of an . . . epithet which engenders
offensive feelings in an employee . . . does not sufficiently
affect the conditions of employment to implicate Title VII."
Harris, 510 U.S. at 20, 114 S.Ct. 367 (internal quotations
omitted). On the contrary, "uppity nigger" and "boy" statements
legitimately evince racial hostility.
Overall, seven instances over three years does not create a
work environment permeated with racial hostility. See Carter v.
Cornell University, 976 F. Supp. 224, 232, aff'd. 159 F.3d 1345
(2d Cir. 1998) (finding that six comments over three years did
not constitute a hostile or abusive work environment). Plaintiff
has simply failed to present evidence to support a finding that
his workplace was objectively abusive and hostile.
To establish a prima facie claim of retaliation, plaintiff must
prove (1) plaintiff filed a good faith complaint of
discrimination; (2) that the employer had knowledge of; (3) the
employer took adverse employment
action against plaintiff; and (3) there existed a causal
connection between plaintiff's protected activity and defendant's
action. See Sumner v. United States Postal Service,
899 F.2d 203, 208 (2d Cir. 1990). The analysis in retaliation cases
follows the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting. See Sumner, 899
F.2d at 208.
Plaintiff claims that his transfer and suspension were
instituted in retaliation for his discrimination complaints. The
parties do not dispute the first two elements of the
claim-plaintiff's filing of a good faith complaint and
defendants' knowledge of the complaint. As for the third element,
adverse employment action, the court has found that both the
transfer and the suspension constitute adverse employment
decisions. Thus, the only issue remaining is whether a causal
connection existed between the employment actions and plaintiff's
employment discrimination complaint. Plaintiff has demonstrated a
causal connection with respect to the transfer, but not the
Plaintiff has failed to support a finding that a causal
connection existed in relation to his suspension. Plaintiff has
not produced any evidence to connect his discrimination
complaints to his suspension. Beyond plaintiff's "unsupported
assertions," a rational factfinder would have no evidentiary
basis for justifying a finding that a causal connection exists
between plaintiff's complaint and his suspension. See Goenaga v.
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir.
1995) (stating that in a summary judgment case, "[p]laintiff
cannot meet [his] burden through reliance on unsupported
assertions." Id.) Therefore, plaintiff has not presented a
viable claim for retaliation regarding his suspension.
As to plaintiff's transfer, plaintiff has, at the very least,
presented a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the
transfer was motivated by his formal discrimination complaints.
For one, the Employee Relations Office notified plaintiff of the
potential transfer approximately one month after the second
discrimination complaint was filed. Plaintiff was, in fact,
temporarily reassigned one month later. Additionally, the
memoranda stating the reasons for the transfer indicated that
plaintiff was being transferred pending final resolution of the
discrimination investigation. Based on these facts, a factfinder
could logically conclude that defendant transferred plaintiff in
retaliation for plaintiff's formal complaints.
Once plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden
shifts to defendants to articulate a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for transferring plaintiff. McDonnell
Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817. In satisfaction of this
burden, defendant claims that the reason for the transfer was
plaintiff's disruptive behavior and the rising tensions at PCU.
Def.'s Mem. Supp. Summ. J. at 13-14; Weiss Ex. 16. These
explanations suffice in meeting defendant's burden of
If defendants articulate a nondiscriminatory reason, plaintiff
must present evidence to support a finding that 1) defendants'
reasons are pretextual and 2) that defendants were actually
motivated by racial discrimination. Plaintiff has failed to do
so. As stated above, the transfer memoranda and the timing of the
transfer present a genuine issue of fact as to whether defendant
was acting with a retaliatory motive. However, the court finds
that the plaintiff has not made out a viable claim of retaliation
as it relates to his transfer. He has presented no evidence from
which a jury could reasonably conclude that defendants' reasons
were pretext and that race discrimination played a role in his
For the reasons articulated above, the court now grants summary
judgment to defendants as to plaintiff's disparate treatment,
hostile work environment, constructive discharge and retaliation
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