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Calhoun v. Mastec

September 27, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge



Plaintiff Eddie Calhoun commenced this employment discrimination action by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. Therein, Plaintiff alleges several discrimination causes of action related to disparate treatment and hostile work environment based on race, color and national origin brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Civil Rights Act of 1870, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and § 290 of the New York Human Rights Law ("NY HRL"). He also alleges several state common law claims, including intentional infliction of emotional distress.

This Court has federal question jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1 For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in its entirety.


A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action on May 14, 2003. At that time he was represented by counsel. Plaintiff continued to be represented by counsel until December 27, 2004, when this Court granted counsel's Motion to Withdraw as Attorney of Record. Plaintiff was thereafter afforded approximately three months to obtain new counsel. Unable to do so, he filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel on April 4, 2005, which was denied by the Magistrate Judge on April 12, 2005. Plaintiff proceeded through what was left of discovery pro se, and continues to represent himself in this matter. On January 27, 2006, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, which this Court took under advisement after full briefing.

B. Facts*fn2

MasTec North America is a wholly owned subsidiary of MasTec, Inc. (collectively "MasTec"). (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 1.*fn3 ) MasTec is one of the largest end-to-end voice, video data and energy infrastructure solution providers in the United States. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 2.) Its primary business is the design, engineering, installation, and maintenance of internal and external telecommunications and energy networks that serve as the basis for telecommunications, Internet and energy systems. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 2.)

MasTec conducted business in Western New York first as Phasecom America and then as MasTec. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 3.) It worked as a contractor for Adelphia Communications Corporation providing Adelphia's residential and commercial customers with cable and broadband connections for cable television, digital services and high-speed Internet access. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff began his employment with MasTec in May of 1998 as a cable installation technician. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 4.) Plaintiff and other technicians were compensated on a "piece-rate" basis, meaning that their earnings were dependent on the number of jobs they satisfactorily completed in a day. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 4.) In general, the more jobs the technicians completed, the more money they earned. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 5.) However, MasTec management could also assign "add-ons" to the technicians, which, depending on the nature and length of the job, could result in the technician earning less money. (Plaintiffs' Statement, ¶ 5.*fn4

Plaintiff's duties required him to maintain a presentable and professional appearance and satisfactory customer relations while interacting with Adelphia subscribers. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 6.) He was expected to maintain his company vehicle, perform relatively error-free work, accept "add-ons" as directed by supervisors or dispatch, and report to dispatch his completed assignments throughout the day (known as "call-ins"). (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 6.) Plaintiff was expected to regularly report for work, to arrive at work on time, and to punch-in at MasTec's local office and receive his computer-generated assignments for the day. (Defendants' Statement, ¶¶ 6, 7.)

Upon receiving his assignments, Plaintiff was responsible for ensuring that he had the appropriate tools, parts and equipment for completion of the jobs. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 7.) Plaintiff spent the majority of his workday in the field driving between his various appointments installing, connecting, disconnecting, or troubleshooting cable services and other telecommunications equipment for Adelphia subscribers. (Defendants' Statement, ¶¶ 8, 9.)

James Young served as MasTec's district manager. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 9.) He was responsible for most personnel matters and occasionally consulted with human resource specialists in MasTec's corporate offices with respect to complex issues. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 11.) Four supervisors -- Daniel Hudson, James Tant, Eric Wasmund and Daniel D'Amato -- assisted Young in managing MasTec's Western New York operations and helped supervise the technicians and dispatchers. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 10.) Hudson was responsible for technical matters; Tant was responsible for personnel matters; Wasmund was responsible for the fleet and safety issues; D'Amato was the field supervisor. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 12.)

On March 20, 2002, Young terminated Plaintiff's employment with the company. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 32.) Defendants assert that in the fifteen months prior to Plaintiff's termination, supervisors Tant, Hudson, Wasmund and D'Amato regularly counseled and warned Plaintiff (both verbally and in writing) about deficiencies in his job performance. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 21.) They contend that Plaintiff's personnel file contains numerous written reprimands and documents reflecting work performance deficiencies throughout the fifteen-month period preceding his termination, including twelve Adelphia service quality reviews indicating a failure to maintain its technical and other requirements. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 22.) Plaintiff asserts that he was never counseled by any manager or warned that his work performance was unsatisfactory. (Plaintiff's Statement, ¶ 21.) He contends that any reprimands or other evidence documenting his poor performance has been either forged or fabricated by Defendants. (Plaintiff's Statement, ¶¶ 21, 22.)

Young met with Plaintiff on March 20, 2002, to discuss his unsatisfactory work performance and to determine whether Plaintiff had been using his company vehicle to perform unauthorized side jobs. (Defendants' Statement, ¶¶ 29, 30.) Defendants assert that Plaintiff initially denied using the company vehicle for unauthorized work, but then admitted doing so. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 31.) Plaintiff alleges that he never misused the vehicle and never admitted doing so. (Plaintiff's Statement, ¶¶ 31, 32.) Young advised Plaintiff that he was terminating his employment with MasTec based on his unauthorized use of a company vehicle and due to his inconsistent and unsatisfactory work performance. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 33.) Young made this determination on his own, without consulting or obtaining approval from any other MasTec employee. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 34.) Plaintiff contends that he was fired because he is African-American.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is warranted 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." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A "genuine issue" exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Id.

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the evidence and the inferences drawn from the evidence must be "viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Addickes v. S.H. Kress and Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct.1598, 1609, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). "Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991). The function of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

In the context of employment discrimination cases, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has explicitly cautioned district courts to use extra care when deciding whether to grant summary judgment because "the ultimate issue to be resolved in such cases is the employer's intent, an issue not particularly suited to summary adjudication." Eastmer v. Williamsville Cent. Sch. Dist., 977 F. Supp. 207, 212 (W.D.N.Y. 1997) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). Nonetheless, "[t]he summary judgment rule would be rendered sterile . . . if the mere incantation of intent or state of mind would operate as a talisman to defeat an otherwise valid motion." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 1985). Indeed, the Second Circuit has noted that "the salutary purposes of summary judgment -- avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials -- apply no less to discrimination cases than to commercial or other areas of litigation." Id.

B. Plaintiff's Discrimination Claims*fn5

1. Title VII Framework

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for an employer*fn6 to "discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa, 539 U.S. 90, 123 S.Ct. 2148, 2150, 156 L.Ed.2d 84 (2003). It is now well settled that discrimination claims brought under Title VII are analyzed under the burden-shifting analysis first set forth by the United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411U.S. 792, 802-04, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142-43, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2106, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).

The burden-shifting test first requires that the plaintiff establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) he is qualified for his position, (3) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the circumstances of the adverse action give rise to an inference of discrimination. Weinstock v. ...

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