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Stoddard v. Eastman Kodak Co.

March 27, 2007

MARIANNE STODDARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Marianne Stoddard, ("Stoddard"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.); the Equal Pay Act of 1963,(codified at 29 U.S.C. § 206 et. seq.); New York State Human Rights Law, and New York State Labor Law against her former employer, Eastman Kodak Company ("Kodak" or "defendant") claiming that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender, and retaliated against for complaining of discrimination. Defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation, and that even if plaintiff has stated a prima facie case, she has failed to rebut the defendants' legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating her employment. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Marianne Stoddard began working for defendant Eastman Kodak Company on March 21, 1981. Deposition Transcript of Marianne Stoddard (hereinafter referred to as "T.") at p. 37. Stoddard was hired as a "machine hand" and received compensation at a level 5 wage. (T. at 37). According to the plaintiff, shortly after being hired it was "common knowledge" that she was being "blacklisted" by a non-supervising manager. (T. at 38-39). Plaintiff, however, never complained of the alleged blacklisting. (T. at 39)*fn1 . Plaintiff undertook a sheet metal apprenticeship for approximately two years, but did not graduate from the program, allegedly because two-managers conspired to prevent her from graduating. (T. at 74-78). Thereafter, plaintiff worked for approximately nine months as an assembler. (T. at 80). In 1984, plaintiff became a writer in the Business Imaging Systems Department, where she worked until 1990. (T. 83-84). Although plaintiff admits that she was not aware of what salary allegedly similarly situated male employees received, nor what the educational or occupational histories of those male employees was, she contends that she was discriminated against during her entire tenure with the Business Imaging Systems Department because she was paid less than three male co-employees. (T. 85-90)

In 1990, plaintiff began employment in the Customer Equipment Services Department as a Technical Writer. (T. 84-85, 94-95). According to the plaintiff there were approximately 120 writers in her department, and although she does not know how many of the writers were men or women, what the backgrounds of the writers were, or what salary they received, she contends that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender with respect to her pay. (T. at 94-99). Plaintiff alleges that although she did not know the salary of her co-employees, her salary was less than that of her male co-employees, and that the discrepancy was unjustified because she was "the highest performer". (T. 97-100).

In 1995, Stoddard received a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the Empire State College. (T. at 33-34). Plaintiff's school tuition was paid in full by Kodak. (T. at 34). That same year, as part of her Bachelor's degree program, plaintiff also received a certification in training design from Mager and Associates. (T. at 34-35).

From 1997 to 2000, Stoddard worked as a Quality Improvement Facilitator within Kodak. (T. at 114) She testified that although she did not know how many quality improvement facilitators worked at Kodak, or how many of those facilitators were men, or how much any other facilitator was paid, she was discriminated against by being paid less than male employees. (T. at 122-124).

In 2000, plaintiff assumed a new job at Kodak in the Corporate Quality department as a benchmarking coordinator. (T. at 125-126). Plaintiff claims that she was discriminated against in this position because the person who had previously held the position, a male, was given the title of a "director" rather than coordinator. According to Stoddard, the position of director had more "stature," because the person who had held the position before her (and who had held it for eight years) was invited on trips to which she was not invited, and reported directly to higher-level managers than she did. (T. at 126).

In January, 2001, plaintiff took what was to be her final job at Kodak, as a quality manager in the High Performance Imaging Systems Manufacturing department. (T. at 148). Although plaintiff had never worked as a manager before (T. at 161), she applied for the position at the urging of a Kodak manager named Willy Edmonds, ("Edmonds") whom the plaintiff described as her "mentor". (T. at 148). Although the application period for the position had already closed, Edmonds forwarded Stoddard's resume to Charlie Braun, ("Braun") the person to whom the quality manager would be reporting, and Braun thereafter contacted Stoddard to arrange an interview. (T. at 150-151)(May 12, 2006 Affidavit of Marrianne Stoddard at ¶ 11). Braun and several other managers interviewed Stoddard, and she received the highest evaluation score of all the applicants. She was offered the position, and began working in the position in January, 2001. (T. at 153-156).

As Quality Manager in the High Performance Imaging Systems Manufacturing department, Stoddard was responsible for implementing quality control standards that could be adopted throughout the department. (T. 157-58). Stoddard was also responsible, for the first time in her career, for managing a staff. (T. 166). After several months in the position, however, Braun became dissatisfied with Stoddard's performance, and noted this in a memo to plaintiff's personnel file on October 3, 2001. (T. at 170). Plaintiff contends that during her entire tenure as a Quality Manager, Braun and other white male managers impeded her ability to perform her job by not providing her with necessary resources, withholding information from her, failing to provide her with adequate staff, and not providing her with a budget. (T. at 173-176).

Stoddard claims that any performance deficiencies were a result of discrimination against her in her position as a quality manager. She claims that she was not given adequate funding or resources to do her job. (T. at 173-174). She contends that she was excluded from information and educational opportunities. (T. at 174). Stoddard contends that another manager "was allowed to take highly skilled . . . engineers that really belonged under [her] organization to be effective. . ." and she was therefore deprived of "a major skill set." (T. at 175) Upon further examination, however, plaintiff admitted that the engineers she sought had reported to that manager prior to her arriving, and simply continued to report to that manager throughout her 11 month tenure as a quality manager. (T. at 176, 305).

Plaintiff alleges that she was not paid comparably to other men, but admitted that she was the only quality manager in her department, and that she was not aware of the salaries received by other male quality managers in other departments (T. at 223-224, 248, 252, 334-335) Indeed, Stoddard testified that she did not know whether or not she was paid more or less than other quality managers, male or female. (T. at 336).

Stoddard contends that she was impeded by the Human Resources department at Kodak, which made it very difficult to staff her department. (T. at 177). She alleges that she was singled out for disparaging treatment by her supervisor Charlie Braun. She claims that Braun yelled at her, belittled her ideas, yet approved of those same ideas if they came from "white male managers" (T. 177, 261-262). She claims that the other managers working in her department had offices with "mahogany doors," and that she was forced to work in a cubicle. (T. 178) She contends that she was not afforded the opportunity to hire interns. (T. 179).

Stoddard contends that she was subjected to more scrutiny than were male employees, and that her accomplishments were not recognized. (T. at 255, 256). According to the plaintiff, although nobody told her that she was subjected to more intense scrutiny, she could tell from the "demeanor" of her supervisors that she was being more harshly scrutinized than male employees. (T. at 257). Plaintiff also admitted that although she was not aware if other male employees were subject to scrutiny, she surmised that they were not because their performance was so poor. (T. at 257-258).

Plaintiff contends that she was not given a budget to work with, and that all male managers were given budgets. She concedes, however, that another female manager in her department was given a budget. (T. at 301).

In November, 2001, plaintiff was informed via a memo sent to all employees of an impending downsizing and restructuring of her department. (T. at 199-200). Plaintiff alleges that had Kodak been managed better, such downsizings would not have been required. (T. at 195). In December, 2001, plaintiff was notified that as part of the downsizing, her position was being eliminated. She was given an opportunity to take a different, full time permanent position in Kodak, still in a quality capacity, at the same wage, and with no diminution in benefits. (T. at 186, 201-202) Plaintiff also had the opportunity to seek any other position within Kodak over the next 60 days. (T. at 193). Plaintiff contends, however, that she was the only person downsized, that the position being offered to her was unattractive because it required her to report to a "peer" and that "the white males" in her department "were all taken care of" in that positions were created for them. (T. at 185, 186). Plaintiff admits, however, that she was unaware of the educational or occupational background of the person she considered to be her peer, but conceded that the "peer" had been a manger longer than she had, was mor experienced, and had managed more people than she had. (T. at 187-189, 291-292). Plaintiff also admitted that she was unaware of the educational or occupational backgrounds of the persons that she complained were "taken care of" during the restructuring. (T. at 214-220). Plaintiff further admitted that she was aware that the downsizing plan was intended to reduce a department of 418 employees to 338 employees, and that several employees accepted voluntary separation. (T. at 194-196). According to the defendant, 21 employees accepted voluntary separation, 56 were either laid of or offered non-comparable jobs, and 10 employees, including the plaintiff, were offered comparable jobs. Defendant contends that of the ten people who were offered comparable jobs, only the plaintiff declined the offer.

Plaintiff did not accept the position offered, and considered the new position "a demotion", that would have "severely impacted her career" and "part of the game of keeping a woman down" (T. at 190, 191, 204). Instead, she "decided to constructively discharge myself because I was seeing a repeat performance of being sabotaged." (T. at 194). As a result, plaintiff resigned from Kodak on December 14, 2001 and accepted a position as a consultant with Bank of America. Although plaintiff continued on the Kodak payroll from December 14, 2001 through February 11, 2002, she began working for Bank of America effective January ...


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