The opinion of the court was delivered by: NAOMI BUCHWALD, District Judge
William Chamberlin brings this action pursuant to Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as
amended by 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Title VII"), for alleged gender
discrimination and unlawful retaliation in his workplace. The
parties having completed discovery, defendant now moves for
summary judgment against all of plaintiff's claims. For the
reasons set forth herein, defendant's motion is granted.
The parties agree generally on the following facts for purposes
of this motion. To the extent there are factual disputes, they
will be noted below.
I. Plaintiff's Employment at the VA Hudson Valley Healthcare
Plaintiff received his doctorate in education in the field of
psychological counseling from Columbia University in 1993. In late 1992,
while he was pursuing that degree, plaintiff was selected for a one-year internship in the psychology service of the VA Hudson
Valley Healthcare System (the "VA Hospital"). In March 1994,
after he received his degree, plaintiff was selected for the
permanent position of Admissions and Aftercare Coordinator
("AAC") for the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD") Unit of
the hospital. The Chief and Assistant Chief of the psychology
service at the time were Dr. Andrew Eichmann and Dr. Leslie
Green, respectively. As Chief of the psychology service, Dr.
Eichmann approved plaintiff's hiring.
A. Plaintiff's Elevation to and Tenure as Director of the PTSD
In August 1995, Dr. Jay Buckiewicz announced that he would
resign from his position as Director of the PTSD Unit. At a
meeting shortly thereafter, the unit's Treatment Coordinators
recommended that plaintiff be promoted to succeed Dr. Buckiewicz.
Drs. Eichmann and Green approved that recommendation, and, in
December 1995, plaintiff was promoted. Subsequent to his
promotion, plaintiff continued to fulfill duties on the unit as
an AAC and as a Treatment Coordinator, practicing individual and
Also in the fall of 1995, Helaine Shimel, a clinical nurse
specialist on the PTSD Unit, was promoted to the position of
Clinical Coordinator. Shimel had been employed as a Treatment
Coordinator on the PTSD Unit since 1985, when the unit was first
created. As a result of Shimel's long tenure and experience on the unit, she was often referred to as an Assistant Director, and she
frequently assumed program responsibility for the unit when other
Directors were not present.*fn1
B. The Deterioration of Plaintiff's and Shimel's Relationship
Plaintiff alleges that, notwithstanding her promotion to
Clinical Coordinator, Shimel often ignored or otherwise violated
basic hospital rules, which threatened the PTSD Unit's orderly
and effective operation. For example, plaintiff alleges that
Shimel frequently reported to work between 30 and 45 minutes
late, failed to file treatment plans and assign Treatment
Coordinators in a timely manner and failed timely to log progress
notes into patient charts. As the unit's Director, plaintiff
attempted to correct these problems by talking to Shimel. When
the problems persisted, plaintiff attempted to address them with
Drs. Eichmann and Green, even going so far as to suggest that
Shimel be "counseled" by the hospital's nursing supervisor.
Plaintiff alleges that Drs. Eichmann and Green not only refused
to take his complaints seriously, but also directed him not to speak to the nursing
supervisor about Shimel.
According to plaintiff, beginning in early April 1996, Shimel
began acting "very hostile[ly]" toward him. Among other things,
plaintiff alleges that Shimel refused to speak to him about unit
business, refused to make eye contact with him, criticized his
performance as Director during unit staff meetings, repeatedly
told PTSD employees that he should be replaced as the unit's
Director, yelled and screamed at him, failed to provide him with
important work and patient related information and refused to
follow his directives. Plaintiff contends that he complained
frequently to Drs. Eichmann and Green about this behavior but
that they never took any action to correct it.
On May 6, 1996, Drs. Eichmann and Green provided plaintiff with
a yearly written evaluation that denoted an ultimate performance
rating of "Fully Successful." That rating was lower than the
"Highly Successful" rating plaintiff had received the previous
On May 16, 1996, in a private meeting with Shimel, plaintiff
advised Shimel that if she did not correct her tardy submission
of various forms he would recommend her removal from the PTSD
Unit. Plaintiff contends that, during a subsequent meeting with
Dr. Eichmann on May 22, 1996, Dr. Eichmann "berat[ed him] for
`threatening' Shimel" with removal from the unit. Plaintiff responded to Dr. Eichmann by stating his impression that Dr.
Eichmann was treating him and Shimel differently as a result of
In the weeks that followed, plaintiff's and Shimel's
relationship deteriorated even further. According to plaintiff,
Shimel continued to refuse to comply with plaintiff's work
related directives, and plaintiff continued to complain about
this conduct to Dr. Eichmann, but to no avail. During meetings on
May 31, 1996 and June 21, 1996 among plaintiff, Shimel and Drs.
Eichmann and Green, Shimel voiced her dissatisfaction with
plaintiff's handling of unit business. After one of those
meetings, as Shimel and plaintiff returned to the PTSD Unit,
Shimel allegedly screamed at plaintiff, "Get out of my way."
C. Shimel's Replacement of Plaintiff as Director of the PTSD
On July 10, 1996, Drs. Eichmann and Green notified plaintiff
that he would be replaced as Director of the PTSD Unit by Shimel.
During that meeting, Dr. Green allegedly told plaintiff that
plaintiff "deserved what [he] was getting" and that "now the shoe
was on the other foot." Plaintiff contends that he then requested
that Drs. Eichmann and Green take measures to protect him from
"retaliation" by Shimel but that they ignored that request.
On July 18, 1996, Shimel took over the job of Director and
plaintiff returned to performing his previous duties as a
Treatment Coordinator and the PTSD Unit's AAC, the position he had held
prior to being promoted to Director.
D. Plaintiff's Administrative Complaints and the Alleged
1. The First EEO Complaint
On August 23, 1996, plaintiff contacted an Equal Employment
Opportunity ("EEO") counselor at the VA Hospital and submitted a
complaint alleging gender discrimination (the "EEO complaint").
In the complaint, plaintiff detailed many of the facts outlined
above, arguing that: (i) the conduct directed toward him in the
period from December 1995 through July 1996 constituted a hostile
work environment; and (ii) both his "downgraded" evaluation of
"Fully Successful" in May 1996 and his ultimate demotion from the
Director position in July 1996 were the result of unlawful gender
According to plaintiff, Shimel and Drs. Eichmann and Green
began to retaliate against him shortly after he submitted his EEO
complaint. In the fall of 1996, for example, plaintiff repeatedly
attempted to convince Shimel and Dr. Eichmann to allow him to
lead an Anger Management Group, but Shimel refused and Dr.
Eichmann ignored his requests. Beginning in September 1996,
plaintiff repeated his complaints to Dr. Eichmann that Shimel and
other female employees on the unit were reporting to work late,
but Dr. Eichmann ignored these complaints. During a September 27,
1996 meeting, Shimel proposed that plaintiff be replaced as
leader of an Awareness Group.*fn2 During morning staff meetings, when
plaintiff repeatedly volunteered to serve as a replacement group
leader or a focus group leader, Shimel ignored him and either
gave the assignments to others or combined groups so that
replacement leaders would not be necessary. Similarly, Shimel
denied plaintiff's requests to lead Community Meetings, at which
staff and patients discussed issues important to the PTSD Unit.
Plaintiff alleges that, throughout this time, Shimel kept from
him important ...