The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Everett Stembridge, an African-American male,
brought this employment discrimination suit against his former
employer, the New York City Department of Transportation ("DOT")
and the City of New York, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
("Title VII"). He alleged discrimination based on race and/or
national origin, with respect to: termination of employment,
constructive discharge, failure to promote, unequal terms and
conditions of employment, hostile work environment and
harassment, retaliation for opposing unlawful employment
practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander
per se, defamation of character, assault and battery, and
continuing violation. Plaintiff initially acted pro se but
ultimately obtained counsel.
In a prior decision in this case, defendants were granted
summary judgment on all causes of action except the constructive
discharge, retaliation, hostile work environment and disparate
treatment claims. Defendants now move for summary judgment under
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on all of the
remaining causes of action, seeking to dismiss the action in its
entirety. As discussed in the opinion below, the court now grants
defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff's
disparate treatment claims relating to his transfer and
suspension, his claim of hostile work environment, constructive
discharge claim and his retaliation claim.
Plaintiff, an African-American male, began working for the New
York City Department of Transportation in 1989. Amended Complaint
¶ 2 ("Am.Compl."). Plaintiff interviewed with Richard
Matarangelo, Chief of the Parking Control Unit ("PCU"), and was
offered a position in the newly formed PCU. Id. On or about
August 7, 1989, Matarangelo assigned plaintiff the position of
Associate Staff Analyst. Declaration of John Weiss Ex. 1. In his
new post, plaintiff's immediate supervisor was Matarangelo. Id.
At the start of his tenure at the PCU, plaintiff's superiors
gave him positive performance evaluations and recommended him for
raises and special programs. For the periods between August 1989
and December 1991, plaintiff received overall performance ratings
of "outstanding." Weiss Ex. 3. On May 29, 1990, Matarangelo
recommended plaintiff for a merit raise. Weiss Ex. 4. On November
2, 1990, in a memorandum addressed to "All Personnel,"
Matarangelo assigned plaintiff to the position of Assistant Chief
of Operations Analysis. Weiss Ex. 5. Later, in 1991, Matarangelo
recommended plaintiff for the Career Development Program,
describing plaintiff as one of the unit's "most dedicated and
enthusiastic employees." Weiss Ex. 6.
After 1991, plaintiff became the subject of disciplinary
actions and close monitoring. He then began to complain that he
was the subject of discrimination by his supervisors. On May 27,
1992, Matarangelo sent a memorandum to plaintiff limiting the
flexibility of plaintiff's work schedule and requesting weekly
progress reports from plaintiff. Weiss Ex. 9. Shortly thereafter,
on June 1, 1992, plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint with
the DOT's Equal Employment Opportunity Office ("EEO") alleging
racial discrimination, complaining of Matarangelo's "overbearing
behavior" and "dominance/supremacy problem." Weiss Ex. 10. On
July 1, 1992, plaintiff received a formal reprimand from
Matarangelo for walking out of a training session. Weiss Ex. 12.
Matarangelo then withdrew plaintiff from participation in the
telecommuting prorgram on July 6, 1992. Pl.'s Aff. Opp'n to Summ.
J. Ex. G. In a July 31 report, after meeting with Matarangelo and
plaintiff separately, the EEO director found that there was no
evidence of discrimination or harassment by Matarangelo. Weiss
Plaintiff alleges that Matarangelo made several offensive
comments while plaintiff was assigned to PCU. Plaintiff claims
that Matarangelo referred to him as being "different from other
minorities in the office." Pl's Aff. Opp'n to Summ. J. ¶ 8.
Plaintiff also alleges that Matarangelo referred to
African-American youths as "animals" during a conversation about
a murder at a local rap concert. Id. Finally, plaintiff
complains that Matarangelo repeatedly referred to then Mayor
David Dinkins as a "washroom attendant." Id.
Towards the end of September 1992, a controversy arose
surrounding plaintiff's use of the facsimile machine, resulting
in further discrimination allegations by plaintiff. In the course
of attempting to send a personal facsimile, a dispute ensued
between plaintiff and the Authorized Fax Operator. Pl's Aff.
Opp'n to Summ. J. ¶ 13. This dispute resulted in a several-week
long exchange of memoranda regarding the episode. Weiss Ex. 14.
Included in this exchange was a memorandum from the Fax Operator
to an Assistant Chief in the PCU complaining that she felt
harassed by plaintiff during the incident. Id. Finally, on or
about October 5, 1992, Deputy Chief Michael Gregorio called
plaintiff in for a meeting to discuss the matter. Id. In an
October 7, 1992 memorandum to Matarangelo, Deputy Chief Gregorio
suggested that plaintiff should seek counseling. Id. In
response, plaintiff wrote a memorandum complaining that
Gregorio's statement constituted racial discrimination. Id. On
October 16, 1992, plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York
State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR") alleging that
Matarangelo and Gregorio had been treating him in a
discriminatory manner-specifically referring to Gregorio's
comment in the addendum to the complaint. Weiss Ex. 15.
On December 3, 1992, after receiving notice of plaintiff's
second discrimination complaint, the Employee Relations Office
decided to transfer plaintiff to the Safety Engineering Unit
("SEU") pending resolution of the discrimination complaint. Weiss
Ex. 16, 17. Plaintiff complained of several discriminatory acts
occurring both at PCU and at SEU. On December 24, 1992, on
plaintiff's last evening at PCU, plaintiff claims that Michael
Raykowski, a member of the management team at PCU, threatened to
lock plaintiff in the office or to have him arrested if he did
not leave by 6:30 p.m., and then called plaintiff an "uppity
nigger." Pl's Aff. Opp'n to Summ. J. ¶ 15; Weiss Ex. 18. As of
December 31, 1992, plaintiff received an overall performance
rating of "good," with a notation that his "[l]evel of
performance declined sharply." Weiss Ex. 19. Plaintiff complains
that while he was working at SEU, a co-worker hung a black doll
on an office door which was taken down the next day after
plaintiff brought it to the attention of his supervisor. Pl's
Aff. Opp'n to Summ. J. ¶ 18; Pl's Aff. Opp'n to Summ. J. Ex. F.
Plaintiff also alleges that an anonymous note was left on his
desk saying "dump the dink." Plaintiff believes this was a
reference to then Mayor David Dinkins. Id. at ¶ 19.
On July 14, 1993, an altercation occurred between plaintiff and
one of his supervisors which led to plaintiff's suspension and
ultimate resignation from DOT. According to plaintiff, during the
dispute, his supervisor, Joel Friedman, called him "boy," hit
plaintiff in the chest, and slammed plaintiff up against a file
cabinet. Pl's Aff. Opp'n to Summ. J. Ex. I at 78-79. The
encounter ended with the police escorting plaintiff from the DOT
building. Id. On July 15, 1993, plaintiff was suspended without
pay. Weiss Ex. 24. The suspension was subsequently lifted
effective July 26, 1993, and a disciplinary hearing was scheduled
for August 18, 1993. Weiss Ex. 28; Weiss Ex. 24; Def.'s Mem.
Supp. Summ. J. at 6. Plaintiff had been charged with, among other
things, grabbing Friedman's arm during the July 14, 1993 episode.
Weiss Ex. 25. When plaintiff returned to work, he was directed to
perform a research assignment at Police Plaza. Weiss Ex. 27. On
August 18, 1993, plaintiff resigned from his position at DOT and
the disciplinary hearing was canceled at his attorney's request.
Weiss Ex. 28.
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on October 27, 1995,
adding claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress,
slander and defamation. In a March 31, 1997 order, Judge Wood
dismissed plaintiff's state law claims and granted partial
summary judgment in favor of defendants, finding that: (1)
plaintiff's state law claims were time barred, (2) plaintiff
failed to allege facts to support claims of termination and
failure to promote, and (3) plaintiff's continuing violation
claim does not constitute a distinct cause of action. Order dated
March 31, 1997. Accordingly, the claims remaining before this
court are plaintiff's claims of disparate treatment involving his
transfer and suspension, hostile work environment, retaliation
and constructive discharge causes of action. The case was
reassigned to this court from Judge Wood on October 30, 1998.
At the close of discovery, defendants moved for partial summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, claiming that plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a
prima facie case of racial discrimination under Title VII and
that plaintiff has not met his burden of proof in establishing
his claims. At this point, plaintiff finally retained counsel.
The motion for partial summary judgment having been fully briefed
by both parties, and hearing having been held on the motion, in
accordance with the discussion below, the court now grants
defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all of plaintiff's
remaining claims: disparate treatment, hostile work environment,
retaliation and constructive discharge and
dismisses this action in its entirety with prejudice.