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Nix v. Cino

September 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, U.S. District Judge


Plaintiff, Luvenia Nix ("Nix"), brings this action against defendant, Maria Cino, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation,*fn1 in her official capacity alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Defendant now moves for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For the reasons set forth below, defendant's summary judgment motion is granted.


Plaintiff, a female of African-American ancestry, has been a part-time employee of the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") since 1987. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Beginning in 1992, plaintiff worked in the Human Resources Department of the FAA's regional office at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, New York and was responsible for, among other things, processing applications for health benefits, life insurance, workers compensation and processing retirements. (Healey Decl. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Dep. 27: 16-19.) Plaintiff worked part-time, three days a week, for a total of 24 hours. (Pl.'s Dep. 20: 19.) From 1992 to 1998, Patricia Healey directly supervised plaintiff as her Team Leader. (Healey Decl. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Dep. 24: 2-9.) In October 1996, the FAA promoted Ms. Healey to branch manager and appointed Sandra Labissiere, a female of African-American ancestry, as plaintiff's Team Leader. (Healey Decl. ¶ 3.) Both plaintiff and Ms. Labissiere describe their relationship as "hostile." (Pl.'s Dep. 43-44; Labissiere Decl. ¶ 2.)

1. March 1997 Discrimination Complaint

In February 1997, Ms. Healey informed plaintiff that she would not be promoted from a GS-7 to a GS-9 pay level because plaintiff did not complete certain work assignments on time and she failed to meet the Office of Personnel Management's ("OPM") requirement that she have the equivalent of one year of full-time experience as a GS-7 before she could become a GS-9. (Healey Decl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was promoted to a GS-7 pay level on or about September 17, 1995 but, because she only worked 24 hours per week, plaintiff was required to work at least 21 months before she would be eligible for a GS-9 promotion. (Id.) Two other members of plaintiff's team, Omilana Thomas and Vanetta Simmons, both females of African-American ancestry who worked full-time in the same position as plaintiff, were promoted at that time from a GS-7 to a GS-9. (Id.)

In March 1997, plaintiff filed a request for Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") counseling with the Department of Transportation Office of Civil Rights, claiming that she was not promoted because of her race and gender. (Pl.'s Dep. 53; Healey Decl. ¶ 5.) However, at her deposition in this action, plaintiff stated that Ms. Healey did not promote her because she did not like plaintiff and "because she could." (Pl.'s Dep. 59-60; 74.)

2. August 1997 Letter of Reprimand

In April 1997, plaintiff sought permission from Ms. Healey to attend a training session in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Monday, May 12, 1997. (Healey Decl. ¶ 6.) Ms. Healey granted plaintiff permission to attend the session on the condition that plaintiff train her co-workers on what she learned upon her return. (Id.) Ms. Labissiere repeatedly asked plaintiff to confirm a date for the training, but plaintiff refused to do so. (Pl.'s Dep. 94: 22-25; 126: 7-14; Labissiere Decl. ¶ 3.) On Wednesday, May 7, 1997, plaintiff's last day in the office before the training session, Ms. Labissiere sent plaintiff an email again requesting that plaintiff provide a date for training her co-workers. (Labissiere Decl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff did not respond to the email. Ms. Labissiere then approached plaintiff's desk to try and obtain a date from plaintiff for the training. (Id.) Plaintiff responded by telling Ms. Labissiere to "leave me alone" and to "get out of my face." (Labissiere Decl. ¶ 5; Pl.'s Dep. 96-98; 120-21.)

The next day Ms. Labissiere called plaintiff at her home and sent her a letter to inform her that Ms. Healey had revoked plaintiff's permission to attend the training session due to plaintiff's inappropriate response and unwillingness to train her co-workers. Ms. Labissiere also instructed plaintiff to call Ms. Healey at the office and to report to the office for work on Monday, May 12, 1997. (Healey Decl. ¶¶ 8-9; Pl.'s Dep. 103-06.) Plaintiff ignored both requests. (Id.) Instead, plaintiff called Office of Civil Rights representative, Sandra Concepcion. (Id.)

In response to this incident, Ms. Healey issued plaintiff a proposed Letter of Reprimand on June 10, 1997, charging plaintiff with disorderly conduct and disobeying a supervisor's direction. However, in the finalized Letter of Reprimand, dated August 1, 1997, Ms. Healey rescinded the disobeying an order charge, and only reprimanded plaintiff for disorderly conduct. (Healey Decl. ¶ 10.) The Letter of Reprimand did not affect plaintiff's work responsibilities, seniority, pay or job benefits. (Pl.'s Dep. 129: 17-25.)

3. November 1997 Administrative Leave

On November 10, 1997, Ms. Labissiere informed plaintiff that she was being promoted to the GS-9 pay level. (Labissiere Decl. ¶ 7.) Ms. Labissiere contends that plaintiff responded hostilely to the news. (Id.) Later that day, Ms. Labissiere and three of plaintiff's other team members overheard plaintiff make remarks on the telephone including, among other things:

* "They are gonna pay for this."

* "They think they can throw me a bone and I'll be happy."

* "I don't care who hears me."

* "They are all rats anyway."

* "I am going to get every last ...

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