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Adam v. Glen Cove School

February 21, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge


Pro Se plaintiff, Tareke Adam (hereinafter, "Adam" or "plaintiff"), brought the instant case, alleging employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Glen Cove School District (hereinafter, "Glen Cove" or "defendant") discriminated against him based on his race in its decision to terminate his employment as a "Cleaner" at the Glen Cove High School. Plaintiff was employed as a full-time cleaner from May 2002 until his termination in December 2004.

Defendant moves for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, there is insufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that defendant's termination was the result of his race, rather than the articulated reason of insubordination. Accordingly, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment in its entirety.


A. The Facts

The facts described below are taken from the parties' depositions, affidavits, exhibits and defendant's Local Rule 56.1 statement of facts.*fn1 Upon consideration of a motion for summary judgment, the Court shall construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 2001). Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed or plaintiff has offered no evidence to controvert such fact.

Plaintiff, an African-American male, was hired as a part-time cleaner by Glen Cove in April of 2002. (Tareke Deposition, February 21, 2007 (hereinafter, "Tareke Dep.") at 35-36.) Plaintiff became a full-time cleaner in May of 2002. (Id. at 36.) In his role as a cleaner, plaintiff was responsible for cleaning the main office, the guidance office, two classrooms, the auditorium, and faculty bathrooms. (Id. at 39.) In addition, plaintiff was occasionally asked to shovel snow and unload supplies. (Id. at 39-40.) By December 2002, plaintiff's direct supervisor was Roy Bencio, who is of Filipino descent.*fn2 (Id. at 43-44.) Plaintiff never filed any complaint with any supervisor or administrator in the Glen Cove School District. (Exh. D, ¶ 11.)*fn3

On December 20, 2004, the Board of Education voted to terminate plaintiff effective December 9, 2004 on the ground of insubordination. (Exh. L.) According to defendant, plaintiff's termination was the result of several incidents of insubordination involving plaintiff.

The evidence related to those incidents of insubordination, some of which is undisputed, is summarized below. Plaintiff also recounted an incident in which a racial epithet was used by a co-worker in a dispute with plaintiff, which is also summarized below.

(1) Evidence of Insubordination in

December 2002 In December 2002, plaintiff had a verbal altercation with Bencio. (Tareke Dep. at 51-52.) In particular, Bencio approached plaintiff to advise him that there was some graffiti on the walls in his section of the school. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that this conversation occurred before he (plaintiff) was to be on duty, while he was reading the newspaper in the cafeteria. (Id.) Plaintiff responded to Bencio by telling him to "get out of [his] f***ing face" and to "stop nagging [him]." (Id.)

Also, according to Bencio, on December 19, 2002, Bencio told plaintiff that he had forgotten to turn off the lights in the Guidance area and that they were left on overnight. (Ex. F.) Plaintiff told Bencio to leave him alone, called him "stupid" and used the "F word." (Id.)

(2) The Incident Involving "Jimmy"

In June 2003, plaintiff was involved in a dispute with another employee named Jimmy. (Tareke Dep. at 59-68.) Plaintiff alleges that, during a dispute over moving boxes delivered to a computer classroom, Jimmy referred to the plaintiff using the "N word." (Id. at 59.) Plaintiff reported this incident to Bencio. (Id. at 61-62.) Bencio then reported it to the Grounds and Building Supervisor, Frank Bouza. (Id.) The following day, Bouza called a meeting with all of the cleaning staff. (Id. at 62-64.) In addition, Joseph Solomito, the union representative, was present at the meeting. (Id. at 63-64.) The staff was warned that any similar incidents would lead to the employee's termination. (Id. at 64.) Plaintiff stated that he was satisfied with the resolution of the matter and did not wish to pursue additional recourse.*fn4 (Id. at 65.) Plaintiff testified in his deposition that he was not subjected to such slurs before or after this incident.*fn5 (Id. at 68.)

(3) Evidence of Plaintiff's Insubordination in September and November 2003

According to Bencio, in September 2003, Bencio asked plaintiff to assist him and plaintiff refused. (Exh. F.) Similarly, according to Bencio, on November 25, 2003, three cleaners were absent from work. (Id.) Bencio asked plaintiff to assist with cleaning in certain classrooms and plaintiff refused. (Id.) Bencio reported that another such incident occurred on November 26, 2003, when two cleaners were absent from work, and plaintiff refused to assist. (Id.) Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that on one day he refused to assist when a co-worker was out sick. (Tareke Dep. at 72.)

(4) Evidence of Plaintiff's Insubordination Following the December 8, 2004 Basketball Game

On December 8, 2004, there were two basketball games in the school gymnasium. (Tareke Dep. at 112.) It was standard practice, at the conclusion of each game, for the cleaners to assemble in the gymnasium to close the bleachers and clean the facility. (Id. at 113.) Plaintiff did not report to the gymnasium after the game. (Id. at 113.) Bencio searched the school for plaintiff and located him in a school hallway. (Id. at 114.) When Bencio asked plaintiff why he was not in the gym when he was supposed to be, plaintiff responded that he was cleaning his section of the school at that time and did not want to wait in the gym for the game to end. (Id.) According to Bencio, plaintiff told Bencio, his supervisor, that he was "acting like a boss" and told Bencio that he (plaintiff) could do anything because Bencio's "daddy is gone," which was an apparent reference to the fact that Bencio's supervisor, Frank Bouza, was not present at the time. (Exh. F.) In his deposition, plaintiff stated that Bencio was yelling at him and that he told Bencio, among other things: (1) "We're both employees, do not talk to me like this" (Tareke Dep. at 116); (2) "Respect me like an employee and I will respect you like a supervisor" (Id. at 117); and (3) "Don't treat me like a little baby" (Id. at 119). They then proceeded to the gymnasium and, when they arrived, the other five cleaners were already in the gymnasium and waiting for plaintiff. (Id. at 117-18.) Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that the work could not start without him: "The bleachers were too heavy. We needed more power to push it." (Id. at 118.)

At the end of the night, plaintiff asked Bencio for cleaning supplies for the following day. (Id. at 121-122.) Bencio told plaintiff that he would give him the supplies the next day. (Id.) Plaintiff then told Bencio that he would file a complaint ...

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