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Guarino v. St. John Fisher College

March 28, 2008

LUCIA GUARINO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. JOHN FISHER COLLEGE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Siragusa, J.

DECISION & ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This Title VII and New York employment discrimination case is before the Court on Defendant's motion (Docket No. 18) for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following factual background is taken from the parties' statements of fact required to be filed in a summary judgment motion is pursuant to the local rule:

RULE 56.1

STATEMENTS OF FACTS ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

(a) Upon any motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, there shall be annexed to the notice of motion a separate, short, and concise statement of the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried. Failure to submit such a statement may constitute grounds for denial of the motion.

(b) The papers opposing a motion for summary judgment shall include a separate, short, and concise statement of the material facts as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried.

(c) All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party.

(d) Each statement of material fact by a movant or opponent must be followed by citation to evidence which would be admissible, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)..

W.D.N.Y. Local Rule of Civil Procedure 56.1(b) (2003) (emphasis added). The purpose of subdivision (d) is to comply with the basic rule of summary judgment, that factual assertions be supported by evidentiary proof in admissible form. See Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., Inc., 258 F.3d 62, 74 (2d Cir. 2001) ("a Local Rule 56.1 statement is not itself a vehicle for making factual assertions that are otherwise unsupported in the record."). Defendant, in support of its motion for summary judgment, and in accordance with Local Rule 56.1(b), submitted a short and concise statement of the material facts, consisting of 12 pages, supported by citations to admissible evidence. For reasons inexplicable to the Court, Plaintiff, in response to Defendant's statement of facts, submitted two documents. First, although the "opposing party," in contravention of Local Rule 56.1(b), she submitted her own statement of facts consisting of 151 pages, not limited to "material facts as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried." Second, she submitted what she captioned "Response to Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement," which, at 187 pages, is anything but short and concise. Moreover, with respect to this second document, while Plaintiff controverts certain of Defendant's factual averments, she fails to cite "evidence which would be admissible" in support of her position, as required by Local Rule 56.1(d). Rather, by way of opposition, she often repeats wholesale, and sometimes verbatim, the arguments made in her memorandum of law.*fn1 Where this has occurred, the Court, in accordance with Local Rule 56.1(c), has deemed Defendant's factual assertion admitted. However, the Court is mindful of its duty to view the evidentiary proof in admissible form in the light most favorable to Plaintiff as the non-moving party, and accord Plaintiff all reasonable inferences to be drawn from such proof.

Plaintiff Lucia Guarino is a tenured faculty member at St. John Fisher College ("Fisher") in Pittsford, New York. She has held a faculty position in Fisher's School of Education since July 2004. Plaintiff first began working for Fisher as a part-time adjunct professor in 1998. She was hired as a full-time faculty member effective August 2000.

Dr. Carol Freeman is a tenured faculty member at Fisher and began working for the college in 1997. Since 2001, she has been the Chair of the Department of Mathematical and Computing Sciences ("MCS Department"). As such, Dr. Freeman was responsible for designing, developing, and directing the graduate program within the MCS Department known as the Graduate Mathematics, Science, Technology education program ("GMST"). GMST focuses on preparing graduate students to teach and to obtain their teacher certification in math, science and technology subjects at the kindergarten through grade 12 level. GMST was approved by New York State and opened in 1998. Dr. Freeman remained the GMST Director until August 2005.

In 1998, Dr. Freeman invited Plaintiff to apply for an adjunct teaching position in GMST, and in 2000, she recommended Plaintiff be hired for a full-time, temporary faculty position. Subsequently, in 2003, upon Dr. Freeman's recommendation, Plaintiff received a regular position, which placed her on track for tenure. Up until the time she left GMST in July 2004, Plaintiff was the only faculty member devoted full-time to the program. During the period in which Plaintiff worked in the GMST Program, Dr. Freeman was her supervisor.

Although Plaintiff's field of expertise was science education, she also had a background in other education areas, such as instruction and inquiry. Dr. Freeman relied heavily on Plaintiff to assist her with developing and administering the GMST program and hoped that Plaintiff would ultimately take over her position as GMST Director. On May 8, 2004, Dr. Freeman in fact offered Plaintiff the position of GMST Director.

Dr. Freeman involved Plaintiff in all aspects of GMST, including academic, administrative, and personnel issues. Plaintiff attended meetings with Dr. Freeman concerning GMST and other Fisher matters, and they communicated in-person, by telephone and e-mail concerning work-related issues. Dr. Freeman believed that the meetings and discussions were useful or necessary for Plaintiff, as well as for the resolution of Fisher business. Other MCS Department faculty, male and female, did not have the same responsibilities for GMST as did Plaintiff.

Plaintiff at times worked from her home and on such occasions, Dr. Freeman telephoned or e-mailed her to discuss work-related matters. Dr. Freeman did not call her at home to discuss personal matters.

Dr. Freeman told MCS Department members, both male and female, including Plaintiff, that they meant a lot to her and were very important to her. Defendant contends that Dr. Freeman made such statements to individuals, including Plaintiff, whom she valued highly for their hard work and contributions to the MCS Department. Further, Defendant contends that because of her regard for their work, Dr. Freeman told both male and female MCS Department members that she did not want them to leave her, meaning her department. Dr. Freeman intended the statements as complements. While Plaintiff, maintains that when Dr. Freeman made such statements to her, they were personal in nature, she testified at her deposition as follows:

A: It was completely irrational. So my understanding was I was dealing with some kind of upset crazy person who wanted me to be part of her work life for eternity or something and couldn't do without me. That was my understanding. And it was nuts.

Q: So she was referring to your leaving the job?

A: Yes, leaving her.

Q: Leaving her department?

A: Yes, leaving-going somewhere else, leaving her. (Guarino Dep. 161.)

Dr. Freeman is a married, heterosexual female. She has never made any explicitly sexual remarks or romantic statements to Plaintiff, nor has she ever touched her in any fashion, or indicated that she wanted to touch her.

In May 2004, Plaintiff informed Dr. Freeman that she intended to resign from GMST and apply for a position in Fisher's School of Education, where all of Fisher's teacher certification programs, other than GMST, are located. No other faculty member, male or female, had ever resigned from the MCS Department to switch to another Fisher school as Plaintiff did. Dr. Freeman was unhappy about Plaintiff's transfer for the following reasons: losing the faculty member that she had hoped would relieve her of the GMST program responsibilities; the time and effort she had put into integrating Plaintiff into the many aspects of GMST; concern over whether her MCS Department would be allowed to keep the full-time, tenure track budget line that Plaintiff was going to vacate; and concern about covering Plaintiff's teaching load if she left immediately.

In August of 2004, Plaintiff was in fact hired by the School of Education at which time she became the Chair of the Department of Adolescent Education. She officially resigned from the MCS Department in July 2004 and thereafter Dr. Freeman was no longer Plaintiff's supervisor.

Shortly after her resignation from the MCS Department, Plaintiff submitted a proposal to Dr. Freeman which purported to set out ways in which Plaintiff could still collaborate with GMST. In that regard, Plaintiff proposed to mentor the MCS Department's new GMST faculty member, Dr. Diane Barrett. Plaintiff also proposed that she be allowed to teach a specific GMST course in fall of 2004. However, the course she suggested was not one that she had been scheduled to teach before she left the MCS Department. Nonetheless, Dr. Freeman agreed Plaintiff could teach GMST-502 in the fall of 2004. In response, Plaintiff informed Dr. Freeman that she would not teach any GMST courses, but then decided to co-teach a research course in the GMST program with Dr. Barrett in the fall of 2004. Thereafter, in the spring of 2006, Plaintiff taught a cross-listed MCS Depart-ment/Education course.

Plaintiff has not met with Dr. Freeman since July 2004, and has not spoken or received communications from her in any form since August 15, 2005.*fn2 Moreover, between August 2004 and March 2005, Plaintiff rarely saw Dr. Freeman. In regard to any contact with Dr. Freeman after she left GMST, Plaintiff testified at her deposition as follows:

Q: After you moved to the School of Education in July 2004, how often did you see Carol [Freeman]?

A: Very infrequently. Maybe once a-in the beginning, a couple of times a month and as time went on, I refused to meet with her any longer. I wasn't going to do that to myself any longer.

Q: When you met with Carol [Freeman] about two times a month, were any of these meetings ...


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