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Stokes v. Kaleida Health

February 23, 2007

VIRGINIA STOKES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KALEIDA HEALTH, DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Virginia Stokes, acting pro se, commenced this action on July 30, 2004, by filing a Discrimination Complaint with the Clerk for the United States District Court, Western District of New York. Thereafter, Plaintiff sought leave to amend her complaint. Her motion was granted and Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 5, 2005. Therein, Plaintiff alleges that her employer, Defendant Kaleida Health, discriminated against her and subjected her to a hostile work environment based on her race, color and sex, and retaliated against her for complaining of discrimination, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.

Presently before this Court is Kaleida Health's Motion for Summary Judgment dismissing the Amended Complaint in its entirety and with prejudice, filed on August 18, 2006. (Docket No. 55.)*fn1

For the reasons stated below, Kaleida Health's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and the Amended Complaint is dismissed.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed by Kaleida Health or one of its predecessors, Buffalo General Hospital, from July 19, 1993 through September 12, 2005. (Loretto Decl. ¶¶ 4-5). Throughout her employment, Plaintiff was a Staff Counselor in the Emergency Room Psychiatric Unit at the Buffalo General Hospital location ("Psychiatric ER"). (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff's duties included conducting initial assessments of patients for admission to the hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit, or, where appropriate, transfer to another facility. (Id. ¶ 14.)

In or about October 2000, the administration of the Psychiatric ER was transferred from the Outpatient Psychiatric Department to the Inpatient Behavioral Health Department. (Id. ¶ 15.) As part of the reorganization, the rotating four-shift structure then in place in the Psychiatric ER was replaced with the three-shift structure applicable to the inpatient psychiatric unit employees. (Id.) In addition, Psychiatric ER employees began reporting to a different supervisor. (Id.)

On or about March 29, 2002, Plaintiff submitted a typewritten complaint to Kaleida Health's Human Resources Department in which she complained that she had been subjected to ongoing harassment since the change in her department's management. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that she had been "shadowed" by a co-worker and supervisor and accused by Karen Jones, an RN, of stealing a pen. (Id. ¶ 17; Docket 57-2, Ex. I.)

Raymond Konieczek, a Senior Employee Relations Specialist, met with Plaintiff on April 3, 2002, as a first step in an investigation of her complaint. During that meeting, Plaintiff also stated her concerns that she was being "shadowed" by security, that coworkers were going into her purse when she left it in her desk and that she was being disciplined unfairly. At the end of their meeting, Konieczek asked Plaintiff to provide additional information about her complaints, which she agreed to do. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 18; Docket 57-2 Ex. M.) Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff provided Konieczek with handwritten notes stating that there had been subtle hints that she was taking items from the office, and that two co-workers were harassing and intimidating her by attempting to look for instances of professional misconduct. (Docket 57-2 Ex. J.)

In May 2002, Konieczek conducted interviews with Plaintiff's supervisors and coworkers, including alleged harassers, to which Plaintiff and her union representative were invited. (Loretto Decl. ¶¶ 20-21; Docket No. 57-2 Exs. M-O.) Konieczek also contacted the hospital's security manager to determine whether anyone had requested that security watch or follow Plaintiff. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 22; Docket No. 57-2 Ex. M.) Konieczek was advised that there had been no such request and there was no internal investigation relating to Plaintiff. (Id.) He relayed that information to Plaintiff via telephone on June 20, 2002. (Id.)

After Plaintiff complained of dissatisfaction with her union representation, Konieczek met with Plaintiff and her union's vice-president on June 27, 2002. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 23; Docket No. 57-2 Ex. M.) During that meeting Konieczek advised Plaintiff and her union that there was a lack of supporting evidence for Plaintiff's allegations and that the results of his investigation were, at that time, inconclusive. (Id.) At the close of that meeting, Plaintiff presented Konieczek with an additional written complaint which alleged that she had been harassed by security guard Petruzzi when he stepped between her and a coworker with whom she was conversing. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 24; Docket No. 57-2 Exs. L, M.) Plaintiff claimed that when she later confronted Petruzzi, he accused her of being paranoid and delusional. (Id.) Konieczek conducted additional interviews with security officers and Plaintiff's coworkers relative to her complaint against Petruzzi. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 25, Docket No. 57-2 Exs. M, N.)

On August 26, 2002, Konieczek informed Plaintiff that he had completed his investigation of her complaints and would be preparing a written report. (Loretto Dec. ¶ 26; Docket No. 57-2 Ex. M.) When Konieczek asked how things were going, Plaintiff reported that security was no longer following her. (Id.)

On or about September 19, 2002, prior to her receipt of Konieczek's written report, Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("DHR"), alleging that she was subjected to disparate [treatment], harassed by coworkers, falsely accused of theft and constantly watched by security because of her race/color, Black. (Docket No. 57-2 Ex. A.)

Less than one week later, on September 25, 2002, Konieczek issued his promised written report detailing Plaintiff's complaints, the steps taken to investigate, and Konieczek's conclusion that there was no evidence of the harassment and intimidation that she alleged. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 27, Docket No. 57-2 Ex. M.)

Shortly after receiving the report, on October 3, 2002, Plaintiff submitted a further written complaint to Konieczek stating her unhappiness with his September 25 report and alleging that on September 28, 2002 she had been further harassed by a male coworker, Gruchy, who opened the door to a restroom she was using. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 30; Docket No. 57-2 Ex. P.) Within one week, on October 8, 2002, Konieczek met with the accused coworker, Plaintiff and her union representative. Gruchy explained that the bathroom door was unlocked and he did not know anyone was inside when he opened it. (Loretto Decl.

¶ 31, Docket No. 57-2 Ex. S.)

Several months later, on March 12, 2003, Plaintiff submitted another written complaint to Koneiczek alleging that security was monitoring her telephone calls and that a male coworker, Izquierdo, was watching her on monitors in the security office. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 32; Docket No. 57-2 Ex. Q.) On April 16, 2003, Konieczek and other Human Resources Department employees met with Plaintiff in the security office, where it was demonstrated to Plaintiff that the security cameras were in a fixed position that did not allow for observation of the Psychiatric ER office. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 33; Docket 57-2 Exs. R, S.) Konieczek also had Kaleida Health's Director of Information Systems & Engineering and Director of Safety & Security investigate whether Plaintiff's phone line could be monitored. It was determined that telephone extensions in the Psychiatric ER could not be accessed by any lines outside that unit. (Loretto Decl. ¶ 34; Docket No. 57-2 Exs. R, S.) Upon completing his investigation of the March 12, 2003 ...


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