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,
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).
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 ...