The opinion of the court was delivered by: Constance Baker Motley, U.S. District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On a motion for summary judgment, "the evidence of the non-movant is to
be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his
favor." Reeves v. Johnson Controls World Servs., Inc., 140 F.3d 144, 149
(2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
255 (1986)). Therefore, unless otherwise indicated, the following recital
of the facts represents plaintiffs version of events.
Plaintiff Ireneo Ames is a male of Filipino descent. Defendant
Cartier, Inc. ("Cartier") is a purveyor of fine jewelry and other luxury
items. In October 1998 Mr. Ames commenced employment with Cartier's Fifth
Avenue store. He was hired as a temporary holiday sales associate and was
assigned to the gift and stationery department. His immediate supervisor
was Ms. Lorraine Littles. Ms. Littles reported to Cynthia Fiske. Ms.
Fiske reported to Mary Grieve-Smith who was the manager of the Fifth
In February 1999 Mr. Ames became a regular full-time employee in the
gift and stationery department. In May 1999 Mr. Ames had his ninety-day
performance evaluation with Ms. Fiske. Cartier's performance evaluation
form had several performance categories (attendance/punctuality,
appearance, cooperation, dependability, initiative, production, potential
stability, and overall) with check-boxes corresponding to a ratings scale
(outstanding, good, satisfactory, marginal, and unsatisfactory). Mr. Ames
received "satisfactory" or higher performance ratings for attendance,
appearance, cooperation, initiative, production, stability, and overall.
For attitude and dependability, Mr. Ames received "satisfactory/marginal"
or "marginal" ratings (it is unclear from the form which box was
checked). He received no "unsatisfactory" ratings. At the bottom of the
evaluation, it indicated that he had successfully completed his
introductory period. In the "additional comments" section, Ms. Fiske
wrote, "Rene has made an attempt to adapt to his environment despite
interpersonal difficulties that existed in the department. The main area
of improvement is security compliance regarding locking of merchandise.
Rene left earrings in a desk drawer which is a security violation."
Shortly after the store opened. Mr. Ames asked for personal leave. Ms.
Belkadi denied his request. Ms. Gut was permitted to take one personal
day in July 1999; that day had been requested prior to her acceptance of
her position at the new boutique. Mr. Ames had asked for one personal day
to be taken during August. Ms. Belkadi initially denied his request,
stating that as a transferee, he was not eligible to take vacation time
— contradicting what the human resources department had told Mr.
Ames prior to his transfer. Eventually, however, Ms. Belkadi granted Mr.
Ames's request. Although Ms. Belkadi approved the request for leave, Mr.
Ames's employment was terminated prior to the scheduled date.
At the new Madison Avenue boutique, Cartier displays high value items
in the display windows. Ms. Belkadi preferred that the employees not
handle the display window jewelry so as to avoid misplacement of the
items. Ms. Belkadi assumed responsibility for arranging items in the
display windows. She claims that when an employee demonstrates his or her
ability to display the merchandise properly, only then does she issue the
employee a set of keys to the window display. Eventually Ms. Gut, Ms.
Adams, and Ms. Caissie were all given keys to the window display, while
Mr. Ames never was. As for keys to the display cabinets, Ms. Belkadi did
distribute a set to all of the sales associates.
The Madison Avenue boutique maintains a single marble restroom which is
used by employees and customers alike. Since customers use the restroom,
Ms. Belkadi requested that it be kept in a neat and presentable
condition. Ms. Beilcadi claims that she told the whole staff, without
reference to any particular employee, to wipe up any excess water around
the sink and to always put the toilet seat down. Mr. Ames contends that
Ms. Belkadi specifically singled him out — blaming, humiliating,
and publically admonishing him for the unclean state of the bathroom in
front of the entire sales staff
In July 1999 a "Russian couple" entered the boutique, and Mr. Ames
approached them, offering his assistance. Although the party had not yet
made a decision as to what, if anything, they were going to purchase,
they requested to see an item in the display window. Mr. Ames excused
himself and went to the back of the store to retrieve Ms. Belkadi's
display window keys. During Mr. Ames's absence. Ms. Caissie showed the
party additional items. Upon his return to the sales floor, Mr. Ames saw
Ms. Caissie assisting the party and became upset.
Mr. Ames approached Ms. Belkadi and informed her that Ms. Caissie had
improperly assumed his sale. In response, Ms. Belkadi told Mr. Ames not
to interfere with the sale. She told him, "Oh, he's Russian and Russian
men like to flirt with pretty blonds [sic]." At a staff meeting shortly
thereafter, Mr. Ames brought up the incident. Ms. Belkadi stated that
"from [her] long selling experience [she feels] that some people [can]
sell more effectively than others because [they] share . . . certain
elements of their lives with [the customer]." In addition, when Ms.
Caissie stated that "most people would relate to people who look like
themselves and have some things in common," Ms. Belkadi concurred. The
Russian couple did not buy anything. Two days after the encounter, Ms.
Belkadi told Mr. Ames that he would
have received a commission if a sale had occurred.
Shortly thereafter, a rotation system was implemented wherein each
sales associate would take a turn waiting on customers. Ms. Belkadi
claims that she implemented the system because of Mr. Ames's overly
aggressive sales tactics — he was allegedly trying to steal all the
customers from his co-workers. In response, Mr. Ames says that the system
was implemented by the associates themselves. Ms. Gut testified in her
deposition that Mr. Ames was a team player and fair when it came to
On August 7, 1999, Ms. Beilcadi terminated Mr. Ames, approximately five
weeks after he had started at the boutique. Ms. Belkadi filled out a
performance evaluation form for Mr. Ames on August 6, 1999. The form
itself was identical to the type completed by Ms. Fiske in May 1999. In
stark contrast to the May evaluation, however, Mr. Ames now had earned
unsatisfactory" ratings in attitude, cooperation, dependability,
initiative, production, potential, and overall. In the "additional
comments" section, the evaluation lists five specific reasons for Mr.
Ames's termination: (1) his "poor penmanship"; (2) his "constant
challenge of [Ms. Belkadi's] directions, citing [the Fifth Avenue store's
practices] as the criteria for [his] actions"; (3) his "inability to
display a showcase case properly and within a reasonable time"; (4) his
mistakenly selling a ring for far less than its actual retail price"; and
(5) his contacting the Fifth Avenue store for a discount authorization
when Ms. Beilcadi was out of town. Cartier continues to rely on these
reasons as justifications for Mr. Ames's termination.
Mr. Ames responds that these purported reasons are merely pretext for
discrimination. As for the poor handwriting, Mr. Ames points out that no
manager at the Fifth Avenue store had a problem with his handwriting, nor
did Ms. Adams, the assistant manager at the Madison Avenue boutique. As
for challenging Ms. Belkadi's directions, Mr. Ames claims that Ms.
Belkadi invited suggestions from the staff and that he merely responded
to her invitations by volunteering his experiences at the Fifth Avenue
store. As for the inability to arrange a display case in a reasonable
period of time, Mr. Ames concedes that it took him up to thirty minutes to
arrange the case, rather than the ten minutes demanded by Ms. Belkadi.
However, Mr. Ames states that he took longer because he was merely
following the instructions given in his on-the-job training and in the
written materials he received; the other employees did not follow those
directions and therefore could complete the job faster. As for selling
the ring at the wrong price, Mr. Ames states that someone else ...