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August 27, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, District Judge.


Plaintiff Charles Minton, an employee of defendant Lenox Hill Hospital (the "Hospital") for more than 19 years, alleges that the Hospital wrongfully terminated his employment on the basis of race, and that the Hospital subjected him to a hostile work environment because of his race. Specifically, plaintiff complains that his supervisors wrongfully credited false, racially motivated allegations made against him by employees whom he supervised, and then relied on the allegations to discharge him. Plaintiff brings these claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 ("NYHRL"). Plaintiff further claims that the Hospital's conduct constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract under New York law.

Defendant moves for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and asserts that plaintiff was dismissed for harassing other employees, not for any discriminatory reason. As set forth below, because no reasonable jury could find that defendant discharged plaintiff because of his race or that defendant subjected plaintiff to a hostile work environment, defendant's motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed, with prejudice.


A. Plaintiff's Employment

Plaintiff, an African-American male, was hired by the Hospital in 1979 to work in the histology department. (Minton Dep. at 6). During his employment at the Hospital, plaintiff earned three promotions and stellar evaluations. (Id. at 10, 14, 17, 23). In 1996, after the retirement of his supervisor Tia Krummins, plaintiff was promoted to supervisor of the histology department. (Id. at 17). In that role, plaintiffs responsibilities included payroll, scheduling, and generally overseeing the eight or line employees in the histology department, including lab technologists John Varghese, Mark Chmielewski, and Leyda Palma. (Id. at 19, 20).

Throughout plaintiffs tenure in the histology department, the Hospital employed a Human Resources Department to "address complaints of discrimination." (Bodee-Isidore Aff. ¶ 4, Exs. 1, 2).

B. Complaints About Plaintiff

After plaintiffs promotion to supervisor in 1996, Varghese and Chmielewski brought complaints to the Hospital about plaintiffs performance. In January 1998, Varghese complained to Cynthia Felski, Administrative Director of the Pathology Lab, that: (1) plaintiff misappropriated overtime pay; (2) plaintiff permitted a non-supervisor to handle payroll; (3) plaintiff made derogatory remarks about employees; and (4) plaintiff failed to give notice of his absences from the office.*fn1 (Minton Dep. at 24-25; Varghese Aff. ¶ 4). At an ensuing meeting with Felski, plaintiff denied each of Varghese's allegations, and he was not disciplined. (Minton Dep. at 25-28; Felski Aff. ¶ 7).

In February 1998, plaintiff again met with Felski, and with Dr. Terzakis, Director of Surgical Pathology, to address complaints by Chmielewski that plaintiff had made a derogatory remark about him and that plaintiff had failed to grant him overtime for work performed. (Minton Dep. at 28-31; Felski Aff. ¶ 8). After plaintiff denied Chmielewski's allegations, Felski advised plaintiff about "the need to avoid engaging in any of the alleged actions," and she instituted a new payroll policy. (Felski Aff. ¶ 9, Ex. 1; see Minton Dep. at 31-32).

C. Other Employees' Conduct

Both before and after his promotion to supervisor, plaintiff heard other employees in the histology department direct derogatory, racial remarks at him.*fn2 (Minton Dep. at 80-93). Specifically, plaintiff heard Varghese: call plaintiff a modern slave; refer to plaintiff as "Schwartzkopf Dumkopf," which plaintiff understood to mean "Stupid Blackhead"; and, prior to plaintiffs promotion to supervisor, say that the Hospital never would hire plaintiff as supervisor because he is black. (Id. at 8586). Plaintiff heard Palma say more than once that the worst thing the Hospital could do is hire a black person. (Id. at 80). Julia Melan, another technologist in the department, heard Varghese state that if plaintiff were not black then his superiors never would have questioned him concerning overtime. (Melan Aff. ¶ 7).

There is nothing in the record to suggest that plaintiff complained about these remarks at the time they were purportedly made. Moreover, at his deposition, after describing these comments, plaintiff stated that he and Varghese were "friends," and that Palma's comments did not offend him. (Minton Dep. at 83, 84). Plaintiff also stated that the Hospital's histology lab was "the best department in New York or America," and that the employees at the Hospital "were one family." (Id. at 89, 117).

D. The Letters

E. The Tape Recorder

That same month, on two separate occasions, plaintiffs tape recorder was found recording in the histology department without plaintiff present. (Minton Dep. at 51, 52; Varghese Aff. ¶ 7; see also Felski Aff. Ex. 4). Varghese reported discovering the tape recorder the first time, but, according to Felski, there was no real proof that plaintiff planted the tape recorder. (Felski Aff. ¶ 14).

The second time, on the morning of March 19, 1998, Varghese and Palma found a tape recorder recording in a drawer in the lab. (Minton Dep. at 55; Varghese Aff. ¶ 8; Palma Aff. ¶ 5). When plaintiff arrived at the lab, he responded that the tape recorder was his. (Minton Dep. at 55).

Later that day, plaintiff informed Palma that he was changing her hours to a later shift. (Id. at 59; Palma Aff. ¶ 6). Plaintiff contends that he attempted to change Palma's hours to attain better coverage of the lab. (Minton Dep. at 59). Palma contends, however, that the change was "odd" because the histology lab is under pressure to get work done in the morning. (Palma Aff. ¶ 6).

Due to the repeated complaints about plaintiff, defendant suspended plaintiff for one week with pay. (Minton Dep. at 5960; Felski Aff. ¶ 15).

F. Plaintiff's Termination

On March 30, 1998, Felski and Mary Ann Bodee-Isidore, the Hospital's Director of Employee and Labor Relations, met with plaintiff to discuss the second tape recorder incident. (Minton Dep. at 63-70; Felski Aff. ¶ 15; Bodee-Isidore Aff. ¶ 12). In an effort to account for the placement of the tape recorder, plaintiff explained that he had attempted to tape a human resources meeting and that his tape recorder is voice activated. (Minton Dep. at 66; Bodee-Isidore Aff. ¶ 13). Bodee-Isidore and Felski, however, inspected the tape recorder at their meeting with plaintiff, and, upon finding that the machine records only when the record button is pushed down, doubted the veracity of plaintiffs explanation. (Bodee-Isidore Aff. ¶ 14; Felski Aff. ¶ 16). Bodee-Isidore and Felski also informed plaintiff that changing Palma's hours so soon after the tape recorder incident appeared retaliatory. (Minton Dep. at 70). At the meeting's conclusion, Bodee-Isidore told plaintiff that he was still "under investigation." (Bodee-Isidore Aff. ¶ 15).

On March 31, 1998, Varghese and Palma met separately with Felski to discuss the second tape recorder incident. (Felski Aff. ¶ 18). Both reported that early on March 19, Palma heard plaintiff drop something in a desk drawer before leaving the lab, and then she and Varghese found the tape recorder in the drawer, running, and called security. (Id.; Varghese Aff. ¶ 9; Palma Aff. ¶ 8). Based on the interviews with ...

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