The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR MARRERO, District Judge
Plaintiff Mary Ascione ("Ascione"), a Hispanic female over the age of
40, alleges that her former employer, defendant Pfizer, Inc. ("Pfizer"),
denied her promotions and ultimately fired her because of her age,
national origin, and gender, in violation of federal and state
anti-discrimination laws. Pfizer, moving for summary judgment, denies the
allegations and counters that Ascione was caught falsifying her overtime
records. Pfizer also moves for summary judgment on its counterclaim
alleging that Ascione has failed to return a laptop computer. The Court
sconcludes that Ascione has failed to raise a genuine issue of material
fact suggesting unlawful discrimination, and that there is no dispute
that Ascione is wrongfully in possession of Pfizer's laptop computer.
Pfizer's motion is granted.
Ascione began working at Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, in 1990 as
an administrative assistant. By all accounts, she performed well at her
position. In November 2000, Ascione's direct supervisor at the time,
Stephen Rynkowski ("Rynkowski"), formally requested that Ascione be
promoted to a position as a manager. According to Pfizer, it denied the
request because the department's budget would not support another
managerial position at the time.
In February 2001, Everton Cranston ("Cranston") was promoted and took
over as Ascione's direct supervisor. According to Ascione, Cranston was
promoted instead of her. Upon assuming his new position, Cranston met
with each of his new team members, including Ascione. Ascione alleges
that in that meeting, Cranston told her that he was promoted over Ascione
because Ascione was an older, Hispanic woman. According to Ascione,
Cranston also told her that Pfizer had also denied a promotion to Cecilia
Otero ("Otero"), another Hispanic female over the age of forty under
Rynkowski's supervision, and that he would continue to work on Ascione's
In March 2001, Pfizer awarded Ascione an 8 percent salary increase, but
did not assign her a new position. Ascione continued to press the issue
of her promotion with Cranston throughout early 2001 and Cranston,
according to Ascione, kept assuring her that the promotion was on the
way. Ascione alleges that sometime in the summer of 2001, Pfizer promoted
Carolyn Forte ("Forte") to manager, instead of Ascione. Ascione contends
she was much more qualified than Forte for that position.
In August 2001, Cranston made a formal request to give Ascione her
"long overdue" promotion to manager, which Pfizer approved. (Rynkowski
Decl. Ex. D). Ascione's promotion meant that she would no longer be
eligible for overtime pay based on an hourly rate; instead, she would be
paid at a fixed salary. To determine the appropriate salary, Pfizer
reviewed Ascione's compensation (including overtime) for 2001. Pfizer
discovered that, by the end of September 2001, Ascione had earned over
$63,000 in overtime pay alone, which exceeded her annual salary of
$45,357. Thus, Ascione was on pace to earn nearly double her base salary
in overtime pay alone.
Pfizer investigated Ascione's substantial overtime, and determined that
she had likely falsified her hours. Ascione used an electronic keycard to
gain access to the floor of the
building in which she worked, and the security system maintained
records of the times at which employees used their keycards. Pfizer found
significant discrepancies in Ascione's reported arrival times and the
electronic records of her arrival. Ascione worked in a building which
required all persons leaving after 6:30 p.m. to print their names and
departure times in a log in the lobby. Even though Ascione reported
regularly working late, there is no record that she ever signed the
building log. Pfizer also discovered that Ascione often improperly filled
out her time sheets to record regular hours as overtime hours.
In October 2001, Rynkowski and Cranston confronted Ascione about her
excessive overtime. Ascione denied falsifying her time sheets. She
explained that she did much of her work from home, and she provided
copies of emails she had sent at late hours of the evening. Pfizer
determined that those emails did not corroborate the substantial
discrepancies and errors in Ascione's overtime record and fired Ascione.
II. STANDARD FOR A SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION
The Court may grant summary judgment only "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
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as
a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court must first look to the
substantive law of the action to determine which facts are material;
"[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Even if the parties dispute material facts, summary judgment will
be granted unless the dispute is. "genuine," i.e., "there is
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a
verdict for that party." Id. at 249.
In a case such as this one where the non-moving party would bear the
burden of proof at trial, the movant first has the burden to make a
prima facie case that it is entitled to prevail on the motion.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 331 (1986). The movant
can meet this burden by either "submit[ting] affirmative evidence that
negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim" or
"demonstrat [ing] to the Court that the nonmoving party's evidence is
insufficient to establish an essential element" of the claim.
Id. After such a showing, the non-moving party must respond
with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). To this end, "[t]he non-moving party may not
rely on mere conclusory allegations nor speculation, but instead must
offer some hard evidence showing
that its version of the events is not wholly fanciful."
D'Amico. v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998).
In other words, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under
Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd, v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
Throughout this inquiry, the Court must view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all inferences in
favor of that party. See Hanson v. McCaw Cellular ...