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Kauffman v. Maxim Healthcare Services

July 13, 2006


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


Defendant, Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Maxim"), moves the Court pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment on all claims asserted by Plaintiff, Brian Kauffman ("Plaintiff" or "Kauffman"). Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has failed to state prima facie claims of retaliation and discrimination. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.


Plaintiff, a white male, brought this suit against his erstwhile employer, Maxim, a privately-held company that provides nurses, home health care aides and similar employees to nursing homes, hospitals, home health care agencies and the like. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1). Plaintiff alleges that Maxim terminated his employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) ("Section 1981"), and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"). Plaintiff does not claim that he suffered discrimination or retaliation based upon his own race or gender; rather, he alleges that he was terminated: (I) on account of his association with women and/or non-white employees against whom Defendant discriminated, and (ii) in retaliation for failing to participate in an alleged company policy which sought to minimize or bar the hiring of women and/or non-white employees for recruiters and more senior positions (the "Policy").

Maxim hired Plaintiff in April 1999 as a recruiter. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 46). Within four months of his hiring, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of senior recruiter. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 46). In June 2000, Plaintiff was again promoted to the position of Account Manager ("AM") and asked to open and operate Defendant's Hempstead, New York office. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 47). While in Hempstead, Plaintiff received a performance-based bonus of stock options and was awarded a trip to Cancun, Mexico. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 47). Plaintiff alleges that he ran afoul of the Policy when he hired as his first recruiter, a woman named Kristen Dassylva ("Dassylva"). (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48). Plaintiff further alleges that he was: chastised for hiring Dassylva by his Regional Account Manager ("RAM"), Jim Miller ("Miller"), and another RAM, Duffy English ("English"); warned not to forget a previous admonition he had received that Defendant was a "white male driven company;" and urged repeatedly by Miller and another RAM, Lee Shipman ("Shipman"), to terminate Dassylva. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 48-51, 58).

Plaintiff refused to terminate Dassylva*fn1 and in fact recommended her promotion when he was transferred in July 2001, without explanation, to Defendant's New Haven, Connecticut office, located an hour and a half away from Plaintiff's Long Island home. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 58-62). Once in New Haven, Plaintiff alleges that he was rebuked again for hiring another female recruiter, Julia Mastantuono ("Mastantuono"). (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 63). Although Mastantuono left voluntarily for health reasons, Plaintiff alleges that he was repeatedly told to terminate her. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 67, 69). Similarly, Plaintiff alleges that he was rebuked for hiring Mastantuono's replacement, an African-American male named Andre Wright ("Wright"), whom Shipman admittedly referred to as "too ghetto." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 100, 105-09). Plaintiff later terminated Wright, allegedly at Shipman's insistence, on the unverified ground that Wright was seeking another job. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 110-11).

In July 2002, Plaintiff and his colleagues in the New Haven office were rewarded for good financial performance with a dinner at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 64-65). Within a few months thereafter, in October 2002, however, Plaintiff was terminated for what Maxim viewed as the poor performance of the New Haven office. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 65). Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated for his complaints to his superiors about Defendant's illegal hiring practices and his unwillingness to engage in such practices. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 91). Plaintiff states that he was told by Shipman that his "hiring practices don't fit within the company's culture." (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 113).

Following his termination, Plaintiff filed an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming that he was discriminated and retaliated against when he was terminated due to his practice of hiring qualified female and minority applicants. (Bernbach Decl., Ex. 32). The EEOC determined that there was sufficient evidence to prove that Plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for his hiring practices but insufficient evidence to conclude that he was discriminated against on his race and sex. (Bernbach Decl., Ex. 32).


I. Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless the Court determines 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 255; Castle Rock Entm't, Inc. v. Carol Publ'g Group, 150 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 1998). "A party opposing a properly brought motion for summary judgment bears the burden of going beyond the [specific] pleadings, and 'designating specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Amnesty Am. v. Town of W. Hartford, 288 F.3d 467, 470 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving party on a material issue of fact, summary judgment is improper. Chambers v. TRM Copy Centers Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994).

II. Standing

Before addressing the standards applicable to Plaintiff's substantive claims of retaliation and association discrimination, the Court must first determine whether Plaintiff, as a white male, has standing to assert claims under Title VII, Section 1981, and the NYHRL. Title VII provides, in relevant part:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because ...

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