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Chetal v. BLS Funding Corp.

July 18, 2007

ROY CHETAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BLS FUNDING CORP., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Roy Chetal ("Plaintiff") filed the present action against defendant BLS Funding Corp. ("Defendant" or "BLS") claiming that he was discriminated against based on his national origin and in retaliation for his complaints of national origin discrimination. Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The following material facts, drawn from the parties' summary judgment submissions, are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

BLS is a full-service mortgage banker, which began operating in January 1995. It currently has mortgage banker licenses in more than thirty states. Its retail sales force consists primarily of loan processors, team leaders and loan officers. The sales force is broken down into sales teams ranging from 5 to 30 employees. The teams are run by sales managers, who are also referred to as team leaders. Confidential "leads' are generated and distributed to team leaders, who ultimately bring the leads to loan officers. The loan officers then contact potential customers to obtain sensitive personal information, and to determine if the customer is eligible for the loan. The loan officer is the contact person for the borrower and is responsible for collecting documentation and arranging for funding of the loan. Loan processors package the loan documents for presentation to the lender.

Plaintiff is of Indian descent and his religion is Hindu. He began working at BLS on December 10, 2002 and worked as a loan officer on BLS' "fast cash" team during the entire course of his employment. Plaintiff's immediate supervisors were Jay and David Cassuto. Plaintiff was brought to the company by Jay Cassuto, who, together with his brother David, subsequently became the team leaders for the "fast cash" team. David and Jay Cassuto reported to Dan Manci, Vice President of BLS. Sometime in December 2003, BLS learned that Plaintiff had been discussing the possibility of leaving BLS to go to a competitor. In January 2004, Plaintiff was terminated.

What happened between the time Plaintiff was hired and when he was fired is in dispute.

According to Plaintiff, he was subjected to name calling on a nearly daily basis. He claims that his supervisors, Jay and David Cassuto, subjected him to racial comments such as "Dot-Head," "Bin Laden," "Sand Nigger," "Snake Charmer," "Dot-boy," "Punjabi MC," and "Indian," in an insulting tone. His co-employees called him names as well. Despite Plaintiff's complaints to both David and Jay that things were out of control and he wanted the name-calling to stop, the derogatory comments continued. In fact, Dan Manci, a vice president, overheard David calling Plaintiff names and told him that such conduct was inappropriate and should stop. According to Plaintiff, his job performance became affected by the constant barrage of derogatory names and he began to look for a new job. On January 10, 2004, Plaintiff was called in to see Dan Manci and David Cassuto. According to Plaintiff, Manci said, "We understand that you are looking for work elsewhere." Plaintiff replied that he was and that it was "because of the harassment. I want it to stop. I made several complaints. Nobody has done anything about it. That is why I am looking to go elsewhere." Manci replied that they should part ways and that BLS was going to have to let Plaintiff go.

Defendant's version of the relevant events is, of course, different. According to BLS, Plaintiff and the other members of his team engaged in "sophomoric behavior" including "name calling and banter in the context of playful exchanges between and among friends."*fn1

BLS contends that the name calling went both ways -- Chetal admits to having called co-workers "Polack" and "guinea." BLS denies that it made any decisions about the terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment based on his national origin. According to BLS, it learned that Plaintiff had been discussing the possibility of leaving BLS to go to a competitor and it believed he had in fact accepted another job. BLS believed his performance began to decrease at that time and, because he was compensated on the number of loans he submitted, found it curious that he stopped submitted loans. BLS "also learned in early January 2004 that Plaintiff may have been sending upwards of 80 confidential loan 'leads' from his computer to an outside source" and "may have been calling" BLS appraisers to try to get certain loans recertified away from BLS, conduct which Plaintiff denies. According to BLS, vice president Kolman Brown made the decision that Plaintiff "could not be permitted to work at BLS if he had already accepted a job with a competitor and if he was acting in a manner to set himself up for another job elsewhere." Brown asked Manci to confront Plaintiff with what the company had learned. A meeting was held between Manci, Plaintiff and David Cassuto. At the end of that meeting it was determined that Plaintiff should leave the company.

DISCUSSION

I. Applicable Law and Legal Standards

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is only appropriate where admissible evidence in the form of affidavits, deposition transcripts, or other documentation demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and one party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994). The relevant governing law in each case determines which facts are material; "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). No genuine triable factual issue exists when the moving party demonstrates, on the basis of the pleadings and submitted evidence, and after drawing all inferences and ...


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