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Ifill v. United Parcel Service

July 17, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Laura Taylor Swain, United States District Judge


Plaintiff Penelope Ifill ("Plaintiff" or "Ifill"), a black West Indian-American woman, brings this action against United Parcel Service ("UPS"), William Seward ("Seward"), Bernard Collins ("Collins"), and Michael Imondi ("Imondi") (collectively "Defendants"). She alleges that Defendants have engaged in discriminatory employment practices by reducing her stock award in 2002, demoting her without cause, subjecting her to harassing work conditions at both her former and current position and suspending her salary. Plaintiff brings claims of race, sex, and disability discrimination and retaliation, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.,*fn1 Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296, and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y. Charter & Admin. Code § 8-107.

The Court has jurisdiction of Plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343 and supplemental jurisdiction of Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Defendants move for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. The Court has considered thoroughly all of the parties' submissions and arguments in connection with the motion. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The following material facts are undisputed unless otherwise stated.*fn2 In 1989, Penelope Ifill began working at UPS as a part-time package handler in the midtown Manhattan office. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) After several promotions, she became a National Accounts Manager ("NAM") in 2000. (Id. ¶¶ 2-10; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24.) NAMs were responsible for managing large national accounts and handling business development of these accounts. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7; Pl. Tr. 41:7-9.) Defendant William Seward became Ifill's direct supervisor in August 2001. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26.)

Between September 2001 and August 2002, some clients who worked directly with Ifill or her support team expressed complaints to Seward about Ifill's quality of service. (Decl. of Seward Dated May 11, 2006 ("Seward Decl. I") Ex. A-G.) Defendants proffer e-mails sent to Plaintiff from Seward referencing these complaints and an e-mail complaint sent directly from one client to Plaintiff. (See id.). Plaintiff does not dispute the authenticity of these e-mails, but nonetheless avers she was unaware of any customer complaints. (Ifill Decl. ¶ 20.) Sometime in February 2002, there was a conversation between Seward and Ifill concerning reports that Ifill was allegedly conducting personal real estate business on company time. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 12-13; Def's Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 46-47.) Two days later, Seward asked her to write a statement memorializing their conversation. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13; Def's Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 50-51; Seward Decl. I ¶ 12 and Ex. I.) Ifill wrote that she was "unable to recollect or reconstruct our exchanges in their entirety." (Seward Decl. I Ex. H.) Ifill alleges that Seward "became enraged" with this statement and demanded that she write a new one. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 14-15.) That night, Ifill called the UPS employee hotline ("UPS Hotline") to lodge a race and sex discrimination complaint against Seward. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54; Pl.'s Mem. at 5.) In the same month, UPS' Business Conduct and Compliance Program investigated the matter and determined Seward had the right to ask Ifill for a report memorializing their conversation. (Seward Decl. I Ex. I.) The Compliance Department closed the matter but directed Seward to "be more sensitive towards [Ifill] in the future." (Id.)

In or around April 2002, Plaintiff was injured in an auto accident and was placed on medical leave until October 14, 2002. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 56.) Before Ifill returned to work, UPS' occupational health nurse informed Seward of Ifill's new physical restrictions and what work she could or could not do. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 57-58.) The occupational health nurse's report recommended that Ifill be confined to desk duty and noted that she could not perform a number of physical activities, including lifting objects, crouching or kneeling. (Seward Decl. I Ex. J.) The report did not say explicitly how many hours a day Ifill could work, and Seward assigned Ifill to a full day of desk duty upon her return. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 58.) After working two full days, Ifill went to her doctor and received a note recommending that her work hours be restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62; Frelix Decl. Ex. 2.) Seward complied with this instruction. (Id.; Deposition of Ifill, annexed to Decl. of Aaron J. Schindel, dated May 15, 2006, as Ex. A ("Ifill Dep.") 115:19-116:3.)

On November 27, 2002, in response to a company survey given to employees who had called the UPS Hotline, Ifill wrote a three-page memorandum ("Concern Memo") to UPS' Human Resources Department located at corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 16; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 63.) In the Concern Memo, Ifill wrote, in sum and substance, that she was still being discriminated against and harassed because she was a black, female employee. (Id.; Frelix Decl. Ex. 1; Schindel Decl. Ex. D.) She also requested a transfer to another position, but she was told there were no other lateral positions available at the time. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 63; Ifill Dep. 152:22-153:6.)

Certain UPS employees, including NAMs, are awarded units of stock under UPS' Management Incentive Plan. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 66.) On December 10, 2002, less than three weeks after writing the Concern Memo, Ifill was informed that she would be receiving only half of her year-end stock award under UPS' Management Incentive Plan, as determined by the management committee at UPS. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 66; Seward Dep. 168:10-12.) In or about December 2002, Seward told her that the reduction was due to customer complaints and poor performance. (Ifill Dep. 120:19-121:6; Seward Decl. I ¶ 16.) Plaintiff avers that it was well-established UPS policy to give notice of a stock award reduction by September of the year in which the stock award is granted, and Defendants do not proffer any evidence to the contrary. (Decl. of Ifill ¶ 22.) Plaintiff also testified that she received her stock award several weeks after other unspecified white, male NAM's received theirs, and in the course of that testimony appeared to indicate that these NAM's did not receive a reduced stock award. (Ifill Dep. 117:5-118:15.)

On or about March 2003, Seward and Ifill had a dispute over the appropriate size of Ifill's cubicle. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 68.) Ifill had UPS facilities workers increase her cubicle's size by six inches, shrinking fellow NAM Tonya Watts's cubicle, without giving notice to either Seward or Watts beforehand. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 69-70.) Ifill alleges that her cubicle had been reduced in size while she was away on maternity leave,*fn3 and that she had only returned it to its original size. (Ifill Dep. 99:22-25.) Seward called Ifill into his office and characterized her behavior as "borderline insubordination." (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 72; Seward Decl. I Ex. K.)

In late March 2003, a client who worked directly with Ifill called Seward and Ifill to voice complaints about Ifill's responsiveness to his business's needs. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 79-80; Seward Decl. I Ex. L.)

In April 2003, Seward informed Ifill that she was to be demoted because of unsatisfactory work performance and insubordination. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 26; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 81.) Ifill went to Defendant Bernie Collins, her HR representative, to discuss the demotion. Collins gave her four options: 1) accept the demotion voluntarily, 2) separate from the company completely, 3) transfer to another group manager position with the same title and salary, or 4) remain in her current position on a probationary basis. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 83.) Ifill agreed to none of these options and, on April 11, 2003, she was demoted to Retail Channel Supervisor. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 27; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 84.) The new position had a lower salary, provided no opportunity to earn a commission, and had less demanding responsibilities. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 34-37.) Susan Bauerfind, a white female, took Ifill's former NAM position and reported to Seward. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 28.) The record is not clear as to the precise role that Seward or Collins played with respect to the decision-making aspects of the demotion.

In her new position, Ifill reported to Defendant Michael Imondi. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 85.) Ifill alleges that Imondi singled her out and micromanaged her by forcing her to report her whereabouts at every second of the day, including when she used the bathroom or went to lunch. (Ifill Dep. 204:15-205:10.) Ifill also asserts, based solely on conversations with other employees, that no one else who reported to Imondi was micromanaged in this way. (Ifill Dep. 195:25-196:21; 205:6-21.) Of the four other employees who reported to Imondi, four were female, and three of the four were racial minorities. (Ifill Dep. 215:11-216:15.)

A "year-end effectiveness report" shows that Ifill received a 91.6% year-end effectiveness rating for 2002 and ranked ninth out of the eleven NAMs who were then reporting to Seward. (Decl. of Seward Dated July 28, 2006 ("Seward Decl. II") Ex. A; Aff. of Frelix Ex. 4.) Jay Cotta ("Cotta"), a white male NAM who reported to Seward, had an 87.9% year-end effectiveness rating for 2002 and ranked eleventh out of eleven among NAMs. (Id.) In the first quarter of 2003, just prior to Ifill's demotion, Ifill improved her performance rating by one percentage point, but ranked eleventh out of eleven, while Cotta improved his performance rating by ten percentage points in the first quarter of 2003. (Seward Decl. II Ex. B.)*fn4 According to Plaintiff's opposition brief, Cotta was not demoted. (Opp'n at 18.) No evidence is proffered in support of Plaintiff's assertion, though Defendants do not dispute this assertion in their Reply.

On February 5, 2004, Seward sent an interoffice memo to Lori Hart ("Hart"), a white female NAM who reported to Seward. (Frelix Decl. Ex. 5; Seward Decl. I Ex. N.) The memo noted Hart's performance problems, but she was not demoted. (Id.) Rather, she was placed on a "30/60/90 day" performance improvement plan in order to improve and meet UPS expectations.*fn5 This plan is characterized by Seward as a probationary plan, and Plaintiff does not refute this characterization. (Seward Decl. I ¶¶ 24-25.) The record is not clear as to the difference between the 30/60/90 day plan and the probationary plan offered to Ifill, but it is undisputed that Ifill was not placed on a formal 30/60/90 review plan before she was demoted. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 43.)

Defendants proffer an interoffice memo from Steve Baxter ("Baxter"), who had reported to Seward. (Seward Decl. I Ex. M.) Baxter, a white male NAM, was demoted on or around January 8, 2002, and also had his stock award reduced (Dep. of Seward dated Jan. 26, 2006, annexed to Schindel Decl. as Ex. B ("Seward Dep.") 220:9-25), because his performance "did not meet acceptable levels, equal to the position of National Accounts Manager," (id.; Seward Decl. I Ex. M), and because a customer also lodged complaints against Baxter. (Seward Dep. 158:16-18.) Defendants also proffer that Janice Anderson ("Anderson"), a white female NAM reporting to Seward, who also had performance problems, was transferred to another department in 2004, though the record is not clear as to whether the transfer resulted in lower pay or status for Anderson. (Id. 95:6-9.)

On May 27, 2003, Ifill filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 29.) On or about February 2, 2004, Ifill went on disability leave, claiming a work-related stress disorder injury. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 97.) On February 16, 2004, her salary was suspended. (Ifill Decl. ¶ 32.) She has not returned to work. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ ...

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