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Maney v. Corning

December 11, 2007

CATHY LOUISE MANEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORNING, INC. AND SUPERVISOR PHILLIP HUBER AS AIDER AND ABETTOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action alleging employment discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), Executive Law § 290 et seq. Now before the Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment. (Documents [#23][#27]). For the reasons that follow, the applications are granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted, the following are the facts of this case, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff Cathy Louise Maney ("Plaintiff"). Plaintiff was employed as an "Operations Associate" at defendant Corning's Photonics Plant in Corning, New York, for approximately ten months, between February 2000 and November 2000. In or about March 2000, Plaintiff was assigned to work in Corning's "Measurements Group," which was located in the section of the Corning Plant designated as H 132. Plaintiff's supervisors in the Measurements Group included Ian McLaughlin ("McLaughlin"), Domenic DiNardo ("DiNardo"), and Patricia Cronin ("Cronin").

Defendant Phillip Huber ("Huber") was a Corning employee who also worked in H 132, though he was not a member of the Measurements Group. Plaintiff alleges that in or about April 2000, Huber began to harass her in a variety of ways. Huber asked Plaintiff to unbutton her lab coat, and also told her that he "could not wait for it to be weekends [when he and Plaintiff worked 12-hour shifts] so he could stare at [her] legs for 12 hours." (Plaintiff's 1/25/06 Deposition at 43). Huber made such comments "numerous times." (Id. at 45). Although Plaintiff did not initially report these comments to a supervisor, she discussed them with co-workers, who witnessed the comments, and who told her that the comments were "normal behavior" for Huber.

Subsequently, Huber repeatedly entered Plaintiff's work area to use a telephone located directly behind her chair, even though there were numerous other telephones available in the area, and, while using the telephone, placed his feet against the back of Plaintiff's chair, pinning her against the table at which she was working. Plaintiff asked Huber to stop this behavior each time it occurred, and he responded by laughing. (Id. at 48-49). After being pinned in this manner by Huber on several occasions, Plaintiff reported the incidents to DiNardo. DiNardo spoke to Huber, but Huber continued as before. (Id. at 50). Huber also repeatedly bumped*fn1 into Plaintiff, demanded her to tell him her age, and commented that she "liked working over here with her boys," referring to her male co-workers in the Measurements Group. (Id. at 47-48, 52-55).

On or about June 26, 2007, Huber, who had just been elevated to the position of probationary supervisor, approached Plaintiff during her shift, and told her that he needed her to help him clean the plant floor.*fn2 When Plaintiff refused, Huber responded, "What do you do, have your kids do all your work at home?" Huber then again asked Plaintiff her age. Huber then said, "What do you want to do? What[,] you want to stay over here with your boys? What are you doing anyhow with your boys, playing hoochie mama?" (Plaintiff's 1/25/06 Deposition at 56-58). Plaintiff immediately reported Huber's actions to DiNardo and Cronin. Later during that shift, Plaintiff received a personal phone call from her daughter, and Huber told her that she would have to take the call somewhere else, despite the fact that the phone that Huber told her not to use was generally available to anyone. Still later during that shift, Huber hid around a corner from Plaintiff, observing her returning from a break, and then told her that he could have her fired for wearing her "heel straps"*fn3 during her break. (Id. at 68-73). Plaintiff again reported Huber's actions to DiNardo and Cronin. (Id. at 73, 103). Cronin responded, "This is sexual harassment, and you need to report this to the HR Department immediately." (Id. at 99-100).*fn4

When Plaintiff's shift ended, she and McLaughlin went to Corning's Human Resources Office and reported Huber's actions. (Id. at 90, 104). Plaintiff described all of Huber's harassment during the period leading up to that day. (Id. at 104). Plaintiff stated that she was worried about retaliation, but was told not to worry. (Id. at 105). Corning investigated Plaintiff's complaints and terminated Huber's employment one or two days later.*fn5 According to plaintiff, a Corning Human Resources Staff Member told her, during a meeting with her and various supervisors, that Huber "admitted to the complaint" and that "his job was terminated." (Id. at 119, 121). Subsequently, another supervisor told Plaintiff that Corning was "very well aware" that Huber had harassed other women.*fn6

However, on or about July 26, 2000, Corning informed Plaintiff that it was reinstating Huber. According to Corning, Huber's labor union filed a grievance, and Corning and the union subsequently reached an agreement, under which Huber was reinstated in a non-supervisory position and placed on probation for five years. The agreement specified, inter alia, that Huber would "be a role model in Diversity and Preventing Harassment," but contained no reference to Plaintiff or any requirement that Huber avoid contact with her. Nevertheless, a Corning Human Resources Manager assured Plaintiff that Plaintiff and Huber "would not have interaction with one another." (Plaintiff's 1/25/06 Deposition at 127; 131).

Corning subsequently assigned Huber to work a shift that was opposite Plaintiff's shift. However, Corning permitted Huber to work overtime on Maney's shift. (Metcalf Affidavit ¶ 10). Subsequently, on approximately three or four occasions, between September and November 2000, Huber worked overtime during Plaintiff's shift, and selected a work area a few feet away from Plaintiff's, even though it was not where he was assigned to work.*fn7 (Plaintiff's 1/25/06 Deposition at 171-72). On these occasions Huber stared and leered at Plaintiff. On two or three of these occasions, Huber also bumped into Plaintiff and blocked her path as she was attempting to walk. (Id. at 132-34, 187). Plaintiff indicates that after bumping her, Huber would smirk and/or say, "I didn't see you there." (Plaintiff 3/31/06 Deposition at 5). Huber's actions caused Plaintiff to feel fearful and to experience panic attacks.

Plaintiff told DiNardo, Cronin, and several other supervisors, that Huber was staring and leering at her.*fn8 All of the supervisors told Huber to leave the area. (Plaintiff's 3/31/06 Deposition at 6-16). Huber, though, refused, and indicated that he had spoken with his union and that he had the right to be where he was. Ultimately, Corning permitted Huber to continue working near Plaintiff, and in this lawsuit, Corning contends that Huber's presence near Plaintiff's work area was not improper. (Metcalf Affidavit [#27] ¶ 11) ("[S]ince Huber's return from his suspension, Maney did not complain about any inappropriate conduct by Huber or anyone else. The only complaints I was aware of concerned Mr. Huber's presence which, as I understood it, was not wrongful.") (emphasis in original).*fn9

Huber admits that, after his employment was reinstated, he sought out opportunities for "overtime or work adjacent to Maney, which occurred on several occasions." (Huber Memo at 6). Additionally, Huber admits that on those occasions Plaintiff complained to her supervisors. Id. Huber further admits that Plaintiff's supervisors told him to remove himself from the area near Plaintiff, and that he refused, because he was not "doing anything to harass Maney." Id. Specifically, Huber maintains that he "took no inappropriate action toward Plaintiff Maney and specifically denies that he leered at her, watched her or bumped into her." (Huber Affidavit ¶ 10).

On or about November 21, 2000, Plaintiff injured her shoulder at work (Plaintiff's 3/31/06 Deposition at 49), and was placed on medical leave for five days. Plaintiff returned to work, with the restriction that she not lift more than 12 pounds. (Plaintiff's 1/25/06 Deposition at 136). On November 30, 2000, Corning informed Plaintiff that it was terminating her employment, due ...


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