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ALFIERI v. SYSCO FOOD SERVICES — SYRACUSE

September 14, 2001

MARY E. ALFIERI, PLAINTIFF,
V.
SYSCO FOOD SERVICES — SYRACUSE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Larimer, Chief Judge.

      DECISION AND ORDER

Procedural Background

Plaintiff Mary Alfieri ("Alfieri") instituted the instant action against her former employer, SYSCO Food Services of Syracuse ("SYSCO"). Alfieri alleges that SYSCO has discriminated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) ("EPA"). Currently before the Court, is SYSCO's motion, under FED. R. Civ. P. 56, for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, SYSCO's motion is granted.

Factual Background

Plaintiff, who was born in October 1954, was hired by SYSCO in November 1996 at the age of 42 as a marketing associate. Alfieri had been employed by SYSCO for little more than two years when she tendered her resignation on April 23, 1999.

During the short time she had been employed, plaintiff experienced a number of performance problems. In February 1998, for example, plaintiff received a performance evaluation in which she was rated less than satisfactory in a number of areas. In March 1998, as a result of her deficiencies in performance, plaintiff was placed on probation. Although plaintiff complained that a performance plan on which she had been placed was unfair, she never indicated that she thought she was in any way being treated unfairly because of her age or because she was female.

On October 14, 1999, plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), in which she claimed that SYSCO discriminated against her between December 31, 1998 and April 23, 1999. The EEOC investigated plaintiffs charge, and on March 14, 2000, the EEOC notified plaintiff that it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of statutes." Although it is not binding upon me, I note the following from a letter, dated March 14, 2000, that the EEOC issued to plaintiff:

[t]he evidence fails to indicate that a violation of the law occurred and it is not likely that additional investigation will result in our finding of a violation. More specifically, you alleged that you were subjected to difference [sic] terms and conditions of employment, given unrealistic sales goals, received unfavorable evaluations and references and felt forced to resign because of your age over 40 and sex, female. . . . We learned that more than once you were placed on probation because of failing to meet sales goals. You have failed to provide us any comparative evidence, specifically, names of sales associates whose sales were equal to or below your level of achievement, who were not treated in the same manner. . . . Furthermore, we learned that the Respondent was unaware of any comments or jokes that were unwelcome by you. Unless management was aware or of the situation they would have been unable to stop the alleged activity. Also, we learned that your replacement was a female, older than yourself.

In her pro se complaint, plaintiff alleges a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, gender and age discrimination in violation of Title VII and the ADEA, respectively, and EPA violations. More specifically, she alleges that she received less training and less pay than male employees, she was intimidated by her supervisor and evaluated more often than others, and she was forced to resign. SYSCO counters that many of the allegations in plaintiffs complaint are untimely, that plaintiff has failed to raise a prima facie case under either Title VII, the ADEA, or the EPA, and that upon plaintiffs resignation, she was replaced by an older female.*fn1

In violation of this Court's Local Rule 7.1(e), plaintiff failed to submit any affidavit or memorandum in response to this motion.*fn2 Instead, plaintiff filed a variety of unauthenticated pages of personal notes and other documents pertaining to various sales figures at SYSCO, and requested that the court "see between the lines" in evaluating the case. By order entered January 11, 2001, I granted plaintiff an additional opportunity to set forth her argument as to why the case should not be dismissed. Dkt. # 13. On January 22, 2001, plaintiff submitted an additional letter in opposition to SYSCO's motion. Dkt. # 14.

DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment — General Standards

The standard for deciding summary judgment motions is well established. Rule 56(c) provides that a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings and supplemental evidentiary materials "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." Under the rule, the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact rests on the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). After the moving party has carried its burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). "[T]he non-moving party must come forward with `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (emphasis in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

"Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348. When perusing the record to determine whether a rational fact-finder could find for the non-moving party, however, all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Murray v. National Broadcasting Co., 844 F.2d 988, 992 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 955, 109 S.Ct. 391, 102 L.Ed.2d 380 (1988).

The general principles underlying a motion for summary judgment fully apply to discrimination actions. Although courts should be cautious about granting summary judgment in cases where motive, intent or state of mind are at issue, Dister v. Continental Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988); Montana v. First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Rochester, 869 F.2d 100, 103 (2d Cir. 1989), "the salutary purposes of summary judgment — avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials — apply no less to discrimination cases than to commercial or other areas of litigation." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 (1985) (summary judgment rule would be rendered sterile if mere incantation of intent or state of mind would act as a talisman to defeat an otherwise valid motion). Consequently, once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party in a discrimination action must come forward with evidence upon which a rational fact-finder could return a verdict in his favor. For a plaintiff in a discrimination case to survive a motion for summary judgment, he or she must do more than present "conclusory allegations of discrimination," Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 (1985); he or she must offer "concrete particulars" to substantiate the claim. Id. (cited in Duprey v. Prudential Ins. Co., 910 F. Supp. 879 (N.D.N.Y. 1996)).

Where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court will liberally construe the plaintiffs pleadings, and "interpret them `to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). Nevertheless, proceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve a litigant of the usual requirements of summary judgment, and a pro se party's bald assertions, unsupported by evidence, are ...


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