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Raia v. Illinois Tool Works Inc.

February 23, 2006

ROBERT RAIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS INC., D/B/A HOBART CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Robert Raia ("Plaintiff") filed the present Title VII and New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") action against his former employer, Illinois Tool Works Inc., d/b/a Hobart Corporation ("Defendant"), claiming that he was retaliated against for opposing alleged discriminatory actions taken by Defendant against a former employee. Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The material facts, drawn from the Complaint and the parties' Local 56.1 Statements, are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff began working for Defendant in 1989 as a field service technician. His job was to fix and repair commercial restaurant equipment. Plaintiff reported to Paul Todoro ("Todoro"), the branch manager, who in turn reports to Don Stairs ("Stairs"), Defendant's Region Manager for Service.

Plaintiff alleges that Todor and Stairs retaliated against him for opposing alleged discriminatory actions taken by Defendant against former employee Anthony Garnier ("Garnier"), who is of Haitian descent. Garnier filed a complaint of discrimination with the New York State Department of Human Rights in January 2002 and a lawsuit against Defendant in January 2004.

Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to a hostile work environment after he complained about Defendant's treatment of Garnier. Specifically, he claims that he was threatened with termination if he called the main office with his complaints, denied proper safety equipment, constantly berated and threatened, and sent to dangerous work locations. Plaintiff resigned from his job on April 8, 2005.

Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ("EEOC") on May 22, 2004. Thereafter, Plaintiff's claims were dismissed and Plaintiff was granted a Notice of Right to Sue. Plaintiff commenced the instant action on August 17, 2004. He filed an Amended Complaint on January 31, 2005. His Amended Complaint asserts two causes of action, one for retaliation under Title VII and one for retaliation under the NYSHRL.*fn1

Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is denied

DISCUSSION

I. Applicable Law and Legal Standards

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is only appropriate where admissible evidence in the form of affidavits, deposition transcripts, or other documentation demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and one party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994). The relevant governing law in each case determines which facts are material; "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). No genuinely triable factual issue exists when the moving party demonstrates, on the basis of the pleadings and submitted evidence, and after drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in favor of the non-movant, that no rational jury could find in the non-movant's favor. Chertkova v. Conn. Gen'l Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 86 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

To defeat a summary judgment motion properly supported by affidavits, depositions, or other documentation, the non-movant must offer similar materials setting forth specific facts that show that there is a genuine issue of material fact to be tried. Rule v. Brine, Inc., 85 F.3d 1002, 1011 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-movant must present more than a "scintilla of evidence," Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), or "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Aslanidis v. U.S. Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), and cannot rely on the allegations in his or her pleadings, conclusory statements, or on "mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are not credible." Gottlieb v. County of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted).

The district court considering a summary judgment motion must also be "mindful of the underlying standards and burdens of proof," Pickett v. RTS Helicopter, 128 F.3d 925, 928 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), because the evidentiary burdens that the respective parties will bear at trial guide district courts in their determination of summary judgment motions. Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 211 (2d Cir. 1988). Where the non-moving party will bear the ultimate burden of proof on an issue at trial, the moving party's burden under Rule 56 will be satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-movant's claim. Id. at 210-11. Where a movant without the underlying burden of proof offers evidence that the non-movant has failed to establish her claim, the burden shifts to the non-movant to offer "persuasive evidence that [her] claim is not 'implausible.' " Brady, 863 F.2d at 211 (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587).

Summary judgment is generally inappropriate where questions of the defendant's state of mind are at issue, Gelb v. Board of Elections of the City of New York, 224 F.3d 149, 157 (2d. Cir. 2000), and should thus be granted with caution in employment discrimination cases. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994); Carlton v. Mystic Transp., Inc., 202 F.3d 129, 134 (2d Cir. 2000). Nonetheless,"summary judgment remains available to reject ...


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