The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS McAVOY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff Caroline Wilson commenced the instant action pursuant
to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e,
and N.Y. Executive Law § 296 ("Human Rights Law" or "HRL")
alleging that Defendant International Business Machines ("IBM")
terminated her employment on account of her gender and/or
pregnancy. Presently before the Court are Defendants IBM and Frank Urban's motions for summary judgment
pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint
in its entirety.
IBM hired Plaintiff in 1984. In 1997, Plaintiff became the
account manager within the Test Design Automation ("TDA") team of
the Microelectronics Division. In this position, Plaintiff was
responsible for selling a certain software product. From 1997
through July 2000, Plaintiff's first-line manager was Randy Kerr.
From July 2000 through the end of Plaintiff employment, her
first-line manager was Dennis Meehl. Kerr and Meehl reported to
In April 2000, Plaintiff informed Kerr that she was pregnant.
In May or June 2000, Plaintiff sought permission to take a
one-year leave of absence following the birth of her child. This
request was granted. IBM hired Dean Rittenhouse to fill the
vacancy created by Plaintiff's leave of absence. On August 11,
2000, Plaintiff went out on maternity leave. After exhausting her
paid time off, Plaintiff commenced a year-long unpaid leave of
In the Fall of 2001, IBM began plans for a reduction in force.
The TDA team recommended certain personnel for layoff. The TDA
team decided that, because there were two persons in the sales
and marketing position (Plaintiff and Rittenhouse), one of the
positions had to be eliminated. Plaintiff was selected for
layoff. Rittenhouse was retained. According to Meehl, he
recommended that Plaintiff be laid off because Rittenhouse had
built relationships with customers and was closing deals, from
which IBM needed revenue, and removing Rittenhouse at that time
could jeopardize those deals that were in progress. Meehl made
his recommendation on October 31, 2001. See Meehl Aff., Ex. D.
The recommendation was reviewed by Dale Hoffman on November 14,
2001. Id. On November 19, 2001, Plaintiff returned to work from her leave
of absence. On November 28, 2001, Meehl notified Plaintiff that
she was to be laid off. Plaintiff inquired of Meehl why she, as
opposed to Rittenhouse, was being laid off. Rittenhouse referred
Plaintiff to Urban. Plaintiff then asked Urban why she was being
laid off. Urban responded that "it was easier this way.
[Rittenhouse] was working on some contracts. It was easier to
keep him rolling along." Wilson Dep. at 49. During the course of
the conversation with Urban, Urban briefly discussed breast
feeding. Id. at 51-52. The conversation then turned to a
discussion of mothers, unions and why IBM never built a facility
in Pennsylvania. Id. Plaintiff was laid off effective January
A few months after Plaintiff's termination, IBM underwent
another set of layoffs. In June 2002, Rittenhouse was laid off
effective August 5, 2002 because IBM eliminated the remaining
sales and marketing position in TDA. In October 2002, IBM sold
the entire TDA operation to Cadence Design Systems, Inc.
Plaintiff then commenced the instant action claiming that she
was terminated on account of her gender and/or pregnancy.
Currently before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss the
Complaint in its entirety pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56.
It is well settled that on a motion for summary judgment, the
Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, see Tenenbaum v. Williams,
193 F.3d 581, 593 (2d Cir. 1999), and may grant summary judgment only
where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
. . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). An issue is genuine if the relevant
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party
seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court
of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of
the record that the moving party believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact as to a dispositive issue.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the
movant is able to establish a prima facie basis for summary
judgment, the burden of production shifts to the party opposing
summary judgment who must produce evidence establishing the
existence of a factual dispute that a reasonable jury could
resolve in his favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A party opposing a
properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon
"mere allegations or denials" asserted in his pleadings, Rexnord
Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994),
or on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.
Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998). With this
standard in mind, the Court will address the pending motions.
The framework for review of Title VII discrimination claims is
well-settled. To establish a claim of disparate treatment,
Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) she is a member of the
protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position; (3) she
was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (4) that the
adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving
rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. See Terry v.
Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 138 (2d Cir. 2003). Under the familiar
McDonnell Douglas burden shifting scheme, McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973), if Plaintiff
establishes a prima facie case, there is a presumption of
unlawful discrimination. The burden then shifts to the employer
to proffer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its
action. If the employer satisfies this burden, any presumptions of
discrimination are erased and Plaintiff is left to submit
sufficient evidence (which may include the evidence in support of
the prima facie case) from which a fair-minded trier of fact
could reasonably conclude that "the defendant's employment
decision was more likely than not based in whole or in part on
discrimination.'" Terry, 336 F.3d at 138 (quoting Stern v.
Trustees of Columbia Univ. in City of New York, 131 F.3d 305,
312 (2d Cir. 1997)).
Here, there is no dispute that Plaintiff satisfies the first
three elements of her prima facie case. There is dispute whether
Plaintiff can demonstrate that her termination occurred under
circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.
Plaintiff contends that such circumstances exist because, among
other things, Plaintiff was replaced by a male (Rittenhouse). The
Second Circuit has held that being replaced by someone outside
the protected class suffices to establish a prima facie case.
See Zimmerman v. Associates First Capital Corp.,