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DOUGLAS v. EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY

June 15, 2005.

DONALD R. DOUGLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY and RISTO SIFKAROVSKI, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID LARIMER, Chief Judge, District

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Donald Douglas, commenced this action, pro se, alleging employment discrimination against defendant Eastman Kodak Company ("Kodak" or "defendant"), in violation of Tile VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.*fn1 Plaintiff, an African-American and Seventh-Day Adventist, claims that he was subjected to race and religious discrimination, and that he was terminated in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

  Kodak now moves for summary judgment (Dkt. #30).*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, Kodak's motion is granted.

  PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff began working for Kodak in July 1995. On November 30, 2000, Kodak terminated him for violating its sexual harassment policy after two female coworkers complained that plaintiff had engaged in inappropriate conduct. On January 1, 2001, plaintiff filed an administrative charge of discrimination and retaliation both with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

  After an investigation, the NYSDHR found that there was no probable cause to believe that Kodak discriminated against plaintiff and it dismissed his administrative charge. (Brown Aff., Ex.B). The NYSDHR based its dismissal on the following findings of fact after investigation:
The respondent made reasonable accommodation based on the complainant's religious Sabbath observance. The complainant was allowed the use of vacation, personal and unpaid leave time. Investigation revealed the complainant declined an opportunity to work A shift. Investigation revealed the respondent attempted to assist the complainant in looking for other positions within the plant by rescinding the bar to transfer brought about by the Awareness Warning. The complainant was terminated for reasons relating to alleged misconduct. There is no evidence the respondent influenced the women who complained of complainant's conduct as a pretext for complainant's dismissal. There is insufficient evidence to support that complainant's participation in the Peer Review process was a contributing factor to his dismissal as participation by complainant was not known until the date of his termination.
(Id.). The EEOC thereafter adopted the findings of the NYSDHR, dismissed plaintiff's EEOC complaint, and issued plaintiff a Right to Sue letter on January 9, 2002. (Id., Ex.C). On April 9, 2002, plaintiff commenced this action.*fn3

  DISCUSSION

  I. Timeliness

  Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1), plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination under Title VII within 300 days of the discriminatory conduct. This provision functions as a statute of limitations and bars claims based on acts that occurred more than 300 days before the administrative charge is filed. See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 110 (2002) ("A party, therefore, must file a charge within . . . 300 days of the date of the act or lose the ability to recover for it.").

  Plaintiff's complaint alleges that certain discriminatory acts took place in 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2000. Plaintiff, however, did not file his administrative charge until January 1, 2001. Only those claims based on conduct that occurred on or after March 7, 2000 (300 days from the January filing date), therefore, are timely. In this regard, plaintiff's religious discrimination and retaliation claims based on incidents that occurred in June and November of 2000 are timely. However, plaintiff's race discrimination claims based on incidents alleged to have occurred in 1995, 1996, and 1998 are time-barred, and they are dismissed.

  II. Summary Judgment in Discrimination Cases

  The general principles regarding summary judgment are well-established and apply equally to discrimination actions.*fn4 See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 148 (2000) (quoting St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 524 (1993)) (reiterating "that trial courts should not `treat discrimination differently from other ultimate questions of fact.'"). Although courts should be cautious about granting summary judgment in cases where motive, intent or state of mind are at issue, see Dister v. Cont'l Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988), "the salutary purposes of summary judgment — avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials — apply no less to discrimination cases than to . . . other areas of litigation." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 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).

  The Court analyzes discrimination claims in accordance with the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting paradigm. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); see also Reeves, 530 U.S. at 148. First, plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden then shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business rationale for its actions. "If the defendant has stated a neutral reason for the adverse action, `to defeat summary judgment . . . the plaintiff's admissible evidence must show circumstances that would be sufficient to permit a rational finder of fact to infer that the defendant's employment decision was more likely than not ...


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