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Goldman v. Administration for Children's Services

May 29, 2007

LISA GOLDMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN'S SERVICES AND KELLIAN GOULD, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerard E. Lynch, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Lisa Goldman brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq. ("SHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq. ("CHRL"), alleging discriminatory demotion by her employer, the Administration for Children's Services ("ACS"), on the basis of her race, religion, and national origin. Plaintiff also alleges that defendants took adverse action against her in retaliation for engaging in protected activity under Title VII, and that defendants maintained a hostile work environment. Defendants move for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims in their entirety. Defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed or established by undisputed documentary evidence. Additional factual contentions will be addressed in later portions of this opinion.*fn1

Goldman, a white, Jewish woman, is currently employed by ACS as a Child Welfare Specialist, Level 2. (Pl. Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 5-6 ("Pl. 56.1").)*fn2 Goldman was hired by ACS as a provisional Caseworker on March 10, 1997. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 7.) As a Caseworker, Goldman was rated overall as "good" to "very good" for evaluation periods extending until at least March 2000. (Def. Exs. D, E.)

In May 2002, Goldman was promoted to a position as Child Welfare Specialist Supervisor, Level I ("SUP I"), in the Office of Direct Congregate Care Services, located at 171 Market Street, Staten Island, New York ("Market Street"). (Def. Ex. F.) Until it was closed in 2003 (see Pl. Ex. M), Market Street was a group home for female minors. (Pl. Dep. 35; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 13.) In August 2002, Goldman received a written memorandum outlining the responsibilities of a SUP I at Market Street and was informed that her work hours would be Sunday thru Thursday, from 3:00p.m. to 11:00p.m. (Def. Exs. G, H; Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 14, 15.) Goldman's direct supervisor at Market Street was Kellian Gould. (Compl. ¶ 12.)

Goldman began experiencing problems at Market Street almost immediately after her promotion. On August 29, 2002, Goldman received a memo from Gould, admonishing her for using a Market Street employee to drive her to lunch. (Def. Ex. I.) In September 2002, Gould instructed Goldman that one of her recently completed Uniform Case Records ("UCRs"), biannual updates which provide information on a specific minor's care and progress at Market Street, was incomplete and erroneous. (Def. Ex. K.) In October and December 2002, Goldman was informed several times that she had failed to reconcile $300 in petty cash funds that she had earlier obtained. (Def. Exs. O-P, R-S.)

Goldman also experienced problems with a co-worker at Market Street soon after her promotion. On September 29, 2002, Goldman sent a memo to Gould, informing her of a "serious incident" that had occurred on September 18 involving Dorothy Walker, a Child Welfare Specialist at Market Street. (Def. Ex. T.) Goldman claimed that, during a meeting between herself and Walker, an argument ensued and Walker called Goldman a "fucking white trash piece of shit." (Id.) Goldman claimed that Walker had repeatedly exhibited a "disrespectful and antagonistic attitude" towards her. (Id.) Walker denied making any racist comments towards Goldman, and claimed that Goldman called her a "dumb bitch." (Def. Ex. U.)

In response to this hostility, on October 1, 2002, Gould met with both Goldman and Walker to discuss the allegations. (Def. Ex. V; Pl. Dep. 74.) During the conference, both parties were counseled about misconduct in the work place, and told that such statements were inappropriate. (Def. Ex. V; Pl. Dep. 83.) At the end of the conference, the parties agreed to try to work together. (Def. Ex. V.)

At around the same time as that meeting, Goldman contacted ACS's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity ("OEEO") to discuss her hostile work environment allegations. (Pl. Dep. 73; Salley Dep. 45.) On November 22, 2002, a mediation was held at the OEEO in response to Goldman's complaint, which was attended by Goldman, Gould, Walker, Mary Ann Salley, Director of the OEEO, and perhaps an additional OEEO employee. (Salley Dep. 48-49; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 45.) At the mediation, both Goldman and Walker admitted that there were no witnesses to their argument. (Salley Dep. 49.) Goldman and Walker were given a memo entitled "Respectful Behavior in the Workplace." (Id. 51, 61; Def. Ex. X.)

Goldman's employee file indicates that her difficulties at Market Street only became worse as time went on. In November and December, 2002, Gould sent Goldman several memoranda, criticizing her alleged inability to manage her staff, complete accurate UCRs, and solve problems on her own. (Def. Exs. FF, GG, II, KK, LL.) Also in December 2002, Goldman was designated AWOL from work when she was accused of failing to come to work without providing prior notice. (Def. Ex. NN.)*fn3 In February 2003, Goldman came to work on an unscheduled day, which Gould classified as "insubordination." (Def. Ex. TT.) In addition, in February 2003, Goldman was on duty during an incident in which another ACS employee, Monique Miller, was injured by a resident of the group home. (Def. Exs. VV, YY; Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 89-94.) Gould criticized Goldman's handling of the matter, accusing Goldman of failing to intervene and allowing her employee to be injured, and recommending disciplinary action for her alleged inability to "mak[e] sound judgment[s] during a crisis." (Def. Ex. YY.)

The alleged problems with Goldman's job performance continued through February and March 2003, including accusations that Goldman: brought an unauthorized visitor into the facility (Def. Exs. AAA, BBB); called the police to the facility without following protocol (Def. Ex. CCC); failed to timely evaluate her subordinates (Def. Ex. DDD); failed to attend scheduled supervisory conferences (Def. Ex. EEE); and risked the safety of the facility by not providing adequate supervision (Def. Ex. FFF).

On March 15, 2003, Gould gave Goldman an "unsatisfactory" rating for the evaluation period of August 14, 2002, to November 13, 2002. (Def. Ex. Y.) The rating was based on several criteria, including but not limited to the following criticisms of Goldman's job performance: (1) inability to intervene in crises (Gould Dep. 77-83; Def. Exh. Z)*fn4 ; (2) inability to properly communicate with her subordinates (Def. Ex. AA); and (3) general failure to delegate responsibility, maintain control, or run the facility in an efficient manner. (Def. Ex. Y.) As a result of her allegedly unsatisfactory performance, on March 20, 2003, Gould recommended that Goldman be demoted. (Def. Ex. GGG.) On April 29, 2003, Goldman was demoted back to her former position as Child Welfare Specialist, Level 2. (Def. Ex. HHH.)*fn5

On October 1, 2004, plaintiff filed the complaint that initiated the present action. On July 28, 2006, defendants moved for summary judgment. After many requests for extensions of time to respond, plaintiff submitted her response on March 21, 2007; the motion was fully briefed on April 11, 2007.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court's responsibility is to determine if there is a genuine issue to be tried, and not to resolve disputed issues of fact. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all ambiguities in the nonmoving party's favor, and construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 254-55. However, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of showing that no genuine factual dispute exists. See Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 46 F.3d 196, 202 (2d Cir. 1995). Once the moving party has made a showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to raise triable issues of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. A genuine issue for trial exists if, based on the record as a whole, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. at 248.

Rule 56 also provides that an affidavit submitted in opposition to summary judgment "shall be made on personal knowledge, shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and shall show affirmatively that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). "[P]ersonal knowledge" does not include hearsay: "[H]earsay testimony . . . that would not be admissible if testified to at the trial may not properly be set forth in [the Rule 56(e) affidavit]." Beyah v. Coughlin, 789 F.2d 986, 989 (2d Cir. 1986) (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In addition, "conclusory statements or mere allegations [are] . . . not sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Davis v. New York, 316 F.3d 93, 100 (2d Cir. 2002); see also id. ("The nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and by [his or] her own ...


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