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GREENE v. COACH

July 31, 2002

IRSA GREENE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
COACH, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Irsa Greene ("Greene" or "plaintiff") brings this action against Coach, Inc. ("Coach" or "defendant"), alleging racial discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Civil Rights Act of 1971, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), New York State Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law § 290 et seq. ("NYHRL"), and the New York City Administrative Code § 8-101 et seq. ("NYCAC"). Presently before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment on liability, or alternatively, to dismiss certain of plaintiffs damages claims. For the following reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied as is defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs claims for punitive damages. However, defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs claims for reinstatement, front-pay, and some back-pay is granted.

BACKGROUND

In late September of 1999, Betonte-Middleton announced her resignation as Store manager. See id. at 24-25. After gaining Betonte-Middleton's support for her desire to be considered for the Store manager position, Greene twice contacted Young to discuss her candidacy for the position. See Greene Aff. ¶ 9. Young told Greene she would meet with her to discuss it. See id. ¶¶ 9-10. However, at her deposition, Young explained that she had not considered Greene for the position but rather selected Karen Diaz ("Diaz"), who was then the store manager at Coach's closing Trump Tower location, to be the new store manager. Levy Aff. Ex. U, Young Depo. at 126. Further, Young transferred Raquel Cruz ("Cruz"), a recently hired assistant manager at the Trump Tower location, to fill the position of assistant manager at the Store.*fn3

Shortly after the change in management, Diaz took a vacation, leaving Greene as the ranking manager at the Store. See Greene Aff. ¶ 11; Levy Aff. Ex. T, Diaz Depo. at 188. In that capacity, Greene continued her cleaning and reorganizing of the stockroom, a project that she had commenced several days earlier with Diaz's knowledge. See Greene Aff. ¶ 11. On October 20, 1999, Greene stayed in the store after her scheduled shift ended in order to complete this project. See id. ¶ 12. In addition to accumulating garbage, Greene determined that broken glass and wooden shelving that had been stored for weeks against the wall in the Store's small bathroom needed to be removed. As Greene describes this shelving, it was "unuseable and posed a safety hazard to employees and customers using the bathroom." Id. She asked a neighboring Verizon store manager, Fernando Carrington ("Carrington"), to come to the store and help to remove the "heavy and unwieldy" shelving. Id. While Carrington and Greene removed the shelving, sales associates Elisa Moore ("Moore") and Valencia Joseph ("Joseph"), as well as assistant manager Cruz, were present and aware of what Carrington and Greene were doing. After depositing the shelving in Coach's designated garbage disposal site, Greene closed the store, including following Coach procedures requiring that all employees have their bags checked before departing. See Greene Aff. ¶ 13.

Diaz's version of this same phone conversation is somewhat different. Diaz testified at her deposition that Cruz had told her that Greene invited a non-employee friend into the store and then asked all the other Coach employees to leave while the money from the register was still out, meaning it was neither in the register nor the safe. See Wilde Aff. Ex. A, Diaz Depo. at 230. Further, according to Diaz, Cruz said that Greene and Carrington discarded items that were not checked by another member of management pursuant to store policy. See id. at 235. After receiving the call from Cruz, Diaz relayed to District Manager Young what had transpired at the Store. Pursuant to Young's instructions, Diaz then notified Coach's Loss Prevention Department of what Cruz had reported to her.

On October 28, 1999, Regional Loss Prevention Investigator Paul DeMasi ("DeMasi") met with Greene in the stockroom at the Store. First, according to Greene, DeMasi accused her of being responsible for a $400 cash discrepancy that had occurred on a day when Greene was not working at the Store. After more than three hours of interrogation, DeMasi was unable to connect Greene to the discrepancy. Greene Aff. ¶ 14; Levy Aff. Ex. S, Greene Depo. at 335-36. Then, Director of Loss Prevention Daniel Hafford ("Hafford") came into the stockroom. Hafford and DeMasi informed Greene that they had investigated her actions in allowing Carrington into the stockroom on October 20, and had concluded that she had violated Coach's building access policy. Greene signed a statement acknowledging that allowing an unauthorized person into the work area was a violation of company policy. See Levy Aff. Ex. J.

As explained by Young, after DeMasi concluded his investigation, he reported his findings to Young, who then contacted Human Resources representative Noreen McLaughlin ("McLaughlin"). Young told McLaughlin, who had never met Greene and did not know she that she is African-American, about the events of October 20 and informed McLaughlin that both she and DeMasi recommended termination. McLaughlin told Young to "go ahead and terminate." See Valenza Aff. Ex. B, Young Depo. at 153-54. Later that same day, Young met with Greene and told her that she was being terminated. See Greene Aff. ¶ 17. Although Young testified at her deposition that she told Greene that she was being terminated both for removal of company property as well as allowing an unauthorized person in the stockroom, Greene asserts that Young gave her only the latter reason at the time of termination.

DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is properly granted "`if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate the entry of summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

In reviewing the record, we must assess the evidence in "a light most favorable to the nonmoving party" and resolve all ambiguities and "draw all reasonable inferences" in its favor. American Casualty Co. v. Nordic Leasing, Inc., 42 F.3d 725, 728 (2d Cir. 1994); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Our inquiry is limited to identifying material issues of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505. We must refrain from resolving such issues or making credibility ...


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