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Walker v. University of Rochester

August 14, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Plaintiff Earlyn Walker ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, claiming that she was discriminated against by her employer, the University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital ("Defendant"), on the basis of her race. Specifically, Plaintiff, who is African-American, contends that Defendant retaliated against her for complaining of racial discrimination by refusing to place her in temporary secretarial positions.

Defendant denies Plaintiff's allegations and moves for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's complaint on grounds that Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. Defendant further contends that even if Plaintiff has stated a prima facie case of race discrimination, she has failed to rebut the Defendant's legitimate non-discriminatory reason for not placing her in more temporary secretarial positions.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint with prejudice.


Plaintiff was employed by the University of Rochester's Lab for Laser Energetics ("Laser Lab") from 1999 through 2002. In February of 2002, Plaintiff was hired by Strong Staffing, a division of the University of Rochester ("University") which provides an in-house pool of temporary employees who are available to fill temporary vacancies in the University's departments. Plaintiff was hired as a "senior secretary," meaning that she was qualified to take top-level secretary positions, including positions at the Secretary III or Secretary IV levels. During 2002, Strong Staffing was able to place Plaintiff in temporary secretarial assignments for 43 weeks.

Plaintiff filed an administrative Charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in November 2002, in which she alleged she had been subjected to a hostile work environment based on her race while employed at the Laser Lab. On January 13, 2003, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Right to Sue letter. The EEOC found that only one incident of alleged discrimination was timely and further found no evidence to suggest that Plaintiff had been the victim of discrimination based on race. Plaintiff did not commence an action in federal court within 90 days of receiving the Right to Sue letter.*fn1

Throughout 2003, Plaintiff received fewer assignments than she had in the previous year. Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("Division of Human Rights") on June 18, 2003, in which she alleged that Strong Staffing had failed to find her temporary assignments in 2003 in retaliation for her having filed the November 2002 charge of discrimination with the EEOC. On May 20, 2004, the Division of Human Rights dismissed Plaintiff's complaint with a "No Probable Cause" decision, having found that "there is no conclusive evidence to link the complainant's filing of a Notice of Claim against the respondent and her failure to get the temporary work assignments." On July 7, 2004, the EEOC adopted the Division of Human Rights' "No Probable Cause" dismissal and issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue letter. Plaintiff's last work through Strong Staffing was in March of 2004.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, timely filed the instant claim in federal district court on October 5, 2004. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 23, 2004, in which she alleges that the University violated the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it retaliated against Plaintiff for filing a Charge with the EEOC in 2002.


I. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). When considering a motion for summary judgment, all inferences and ambiguities must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. See R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54 (2d Cir. 1997). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. See Annis v. County of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239, 247 (2d Cir. 1998). When the non-moving party is proceeding pro se, then the Court should read the pleadings "liberally and interpret them 'to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" See Dolberry v. Levine, __ F.Supp.2d __, 2008 WL 2894632 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir.1999) and Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir.1994)).

Summary judgment dismissing an employment discrimination case is warranted only where a plaintiff cannot provide evidence to support an essential element of her claim. See Schnabel v. Abramson, 232 F.3d 83 (2d Cir. 2000); Quinn v. ...

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