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STAINKAMP v. CHANGES INT'L OF FORT WALTON BEACH

June 20, 2005.

CRISTINA L. STAINKAMP, Plaintiff,
v.
CHANGES INTERNATIONAL OF FORT WALTON BEACH, INC., TWINLAB LABORATORIES, INC., TWINLAB CORPORATION and W. STEVEN COGGIN Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SANDRA J. FEUERSTEIN, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Cristina Stainkamp ("Plaintiff" or "Stainkamp") initiated this action against defendants Changes International of Fort Walton Beach, Inc. ("Changes"), Twinlab Laboratories, Inc., Twinlab Corporation (together with Twinlab Laboratories, Inc., "Twinlab") and Changes' Chief Executive Officer, W. Steven Coggin (collectively "Defendants") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and the New York State Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law § 290 et seq. ("New York Human Rights Law"), alleging pregnancy discrimination. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

  II. Background

  Stainkamp was employed by Changes from February 16, 1999 until December 1, 1999. (Stainkamp Dep. at 5-6; Def. 56.1 Stmt, ¶ 4). Originally hired as a Senior Director of Sales Support & Field Communication, she was the Senior Director of Special Events at the time of her termination. (Stainkamp Aff. at 2). Changes is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Twinlab; both companies market and sell nutritional supplements. (Def. 56.1 Stmt., ¶ 27; Coggin Aff., ¶ 2; Stainkamp Dep. at 90). As Director of Special Events, Stainkamp was responsible for organizing Changes' annual national convention and its "President's Club Incentive Trip." (Stainkamp Dep. at 10; Def. 56.1 Stmt., ¶ 4).*fn1

  In September or October of 1999, as a result of declining sales, Coggin testified that he was told to cut approximately $700,000 from his proposed budget. (Coggin Dep. at 16). Coggin asked Stainkamp to reduce expenditures for the convention and the incentive trip by a total of $120,000. (Stainkamp Dep. at 10). Coggin also claims that he decided to terminate Stainkamp at some point in September or October, along with three other employees, as part of these budget cuts. (Coggin Dep. at 16-17). Coggin informed Fran Colombi, Changes' comptroller, of this decision shortly thereafter. (Colombi Dep. at 11).

  On October 4, 1999, Stainkamp discovered that she was pregnant. (Stainkamp Dep. at 37). Stainkamp informed her secretary, Carol Ann Scolaro, and Colombi of her pregnancy and asked them to keep it a secret. (Id. at 40-41). According to Colombi, Stainkamp told her that she did not want to publicize her pregnancy until after the first trimester. (Colombi Dep. at 27).

  Thomas Lupo, Changes' Vice President of Sales, testified that Coggin informed him that Stainkamp was going to be terminated in early November. (Lupo Dep. at 11). On November 23, 1999, Richard Perles, a Vice President in Changes' Human Resources department, sent a memo to Joe Conklin requesting that Conklin "prepare a General Release & Agreement . . . related to the termination of Christina [sic] Stainkamp which is part of a headcount reduction (position elimination) in the Change organization." (Pietrantonio Aff. Ex. J) (emphasis in original).

  Colombi testified that she approached Lupo towards the end of November and informed him of Stainkamp's pregnancy. As Colombi explained, "I told Tom Lupo, `Tom, listen, I don't know what's the hold-up, but Cristina is pregnant and she is going to announce it soon, and you know that might put the company in a weird predicament." (Colombi Dep. at 80). According to Colombi, Lupo responded "It's all in HR. There's nothing we can do. Twinlab handles all that kind of stuff." (Id.) Colombi also testified that, other than Lupo, she did not tell anyone that Stainkamp was pregnant. (Id.; see also Stainkamp Dep. at 41).

  On November 29, Stainkamp informed Coggin that she was pregnant. (Stainkamp Dep. at 7). Stainkamp also testified that, other than Colombi and Scolaro, she had not informed anyone else at Changes until this point. (Id. at 38, 48). According to Stainkamp, Coggin responded by asking her if it "was planned," stating that he hoped it was not "contagious," and telling her "That's what you get for fooling around." (Id. at 75-76). On December 1, 1999, Stainkamp was terminated. (Id. at 6).

  III. Summary Judgment Standard

  Summary judgment should not be granted unless "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material "if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir. 2001). An issue of fact is genuine only if a jury could reasonably find in favor of the nonmoving party based on that fact. Id. The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, after which the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of a factual question that must be resolved at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). The trial court is required to construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Id. at 252; Cifarelli v. Vill. of Babylon, 93 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1996).

  The Second Circuit has recognized that direct evidence of discriminatory intent is rare, and often must be inferred from circumstantial evidence found in the pleadings. Holtz, 258 F.3d at 69. Thus, granting summary judgment in such cases should be done with an extra measure of caution. However, if a discrimination case is void of genuine issues of material fact, summary judgment may be appropriate. Id. (citing McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 135 (2d Cir. 1997)); see also Abdu-Brisson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 239 F.3d 456, 466 ...


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