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Rowe v. Atlantic

February 7, 2006

MARY ROWE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BELL ATLANTIC AND MARK QUIELLO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Mary Rowe ("Plaintiff") brought the present action against defendants Bell Atlantic and Mark Quiello (collectively "Defendants") for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") § 296, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981") claiming she was discriminated against on the basis of her race. In a Memorandum and Order dated March 16, 2004 (hereinafter, "March 16 Order"), the Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all Title VII and NYSHRL claims. As to the § 1981 claim, the summary judgment motion was denied without prejudice to renew. (See March 16 Order at 20.) Defendants now move for summary judgment as to the § 1981 claim. Plaintiff did not submit any opposition papers to Defendants' motion. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is hereby GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The following summary of facts is drawn from the Court's March 16 Order, Defendant's Local 56.1 statement, and the evidence submitted in Defendants' moving papers. The facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff Mary Rowe ("Plaintiff"), an African-American female, began working for Defendant Bell Atlantic ("Bell Atlantic") in October 1966.*fn1 Thirty-one years later, on July 18, 1998, Plaintiff voluntarily retired from Bell Atlantic. Plaintiff does not claim that any aspect of her retirement or the preceding thirty-one years of employment was discriminatory.

At the time of her retirement, Plaintiff worked in the Accounts Reconciliation department of Bell Atlantic. After Plaintiff's retirement, a "Working Retiree Program" ("Program") was codified as part of the collective bargaining agreement between Bell Atlantic and Plaintiff's former union, the Communications Workers of America ("Union"). Under the Working Retiree Program, Bell Atlantic offered certain recent retirees--referred to in the program as "working retirees"-- temporary paid positions. The terms of the Program further stated that "[t]he Company may at its discretion employ a Working Retiree which it considers qualified for the position . . . to meet service needs related to workload peaks, service emergencies, [etc.] . . . . The Company will determine available job opportunities and the qualifications required for Working Retirees." (Defs.' Summ. J. Mem., Ex. D at 200 ¶ 4.)

Plaintiff testified that she received a copy of the collective bargaining agreement, which contained the relevant terms of the Program, from the Union in 1998. At some point thereafter, Plaintiff asked her former supervisor about any available opportunities in the Accounts Reconciliation department to return as a working retiree. Plaintiff was not rehired. A total of eight retirees were rehired by the Accounts Reconciliation department in 1999 and 2000, four of whom were African-American women.

Defendant Mark Quiello ("Quiello") was a senior specialist at Bell Atlantic during the relevant period, performing mainly human resources functions. Quiello's responsibilities included ensuring that the necessary working retiree paperwork for Working Retirees had been completed and forwarded to the Human Resources department. Quiello performed no role in the selection of working retirees and possesses no knowledge regarding how the Accounts Reconciliation department selected working retirees. Quiello did not work with the Accounts Reconciliation department after 1999.

STANDARD

Summary judgment is generally appropriate where 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." Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion," and identifying those materials "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Plaintiff did not submit any papers in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. That fact does not alter the Court's analysis. "Even when a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the district court is not relieved of its duty to decide whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Vermont Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 242 (2d Cir. 2004). "Moreover, in determining whether the moving party has met this burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue for trial, the district court may not rely solely on the statement of undisputed facts contained in the moving party's Rule 56.1 statement. It must be satisfied that the citation to evidence in the record supports the assertion." Id. at 244; see also Giannullo v. City of N.Y., 322 F.3d 139, 143 n.5 (2d Cir. 2003) (stating that not verifying in the record the assertions in the motion for summary judgment "would derogate the truth-finding functions of the judicial process by substituting convenience for facts").

DISCUSSION

Section 1981 provides that "[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). Section 1981 has been interpreted to prohibit race discrimination in the private employment context. See Johnson v. Ry. Express Agency, 421 U.S. 454, 459-60 (1975).

The burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), and its progeny applies to employment discrimination claims under § 1981. Mudholkar v. Univ. of Rochester, 229 F.3d 1136 (2nd Cir. 2000); see also Choudhury v. Polytechnic Inst., 735 F.2d 38, 44 (2d Cir. 1984) (applying McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting to ยง 1981 claim). Under the McDonnell-Douglas standard, (1) a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination; (2) the burden then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions; and (3) the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove that the employer's stated reason for its actions is merely pretextual, and that discrimination was an actual reason for the adverse employment action. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143 (2000). Although intermediate ...


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