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Falso v. Sutherland Global Services

January 9, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge



Plaintiff Anthony Falso ("Falso"), proceeding pro se, brings this action alleging that defendant Sutherland Global Services, Inc. and several of its employees (collectively "Sutherland"), discriminated against him with respect to his employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq.*fn1

Falso worked for Sutherland, a business process outsourcing company, as a sales representative from December 5, 2005 until January 19, 2006. Specifically, Falso was assigned to handle telephone calls to and from customers regarding the Intuit Turbo Tax Program. On January 19, 2006, Sutherland terminated Falso's employment, citing unacceptable conduct in the workplace, including Falso's alleged failure to keep his pants zipped and belt buckled, and handling his groin area in the presence of a female co-worker.

On or about February 13, 2006, Falso filed a discrimination complaint against Sutherland with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR"), alleging that he had been discriminated against on the basis of a disability. After investigating Falso's claims, on August 18, 2006, the NYSDHR issued a "no cause" finding and dismissed Falso's complaint, noting that there was no evidence to substantiate any of his allegations. Those findings were adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on September 26, 2006.

Falso thereafter initiated the instant action, alleging that he suffers from a learning disability and obsessive compulsive disorder, and that Sutherland harassed him and terminated his employment in violation of the ADA. Discovery is complete, and Sutherland moves for summary judgment dismissing the amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56. For the reasons set forth below, Sutherland's motion to dismiss (Dkt. #30) is granted, and the amended complaint is dismissed.


I. Summary Judgment in Discrimination Cases

Summary judgment is appropriate where the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Although courts should be cautious about granting summary judgment in cases where motive, intent or state of mind are at issue, a common component of discrimination actions, see Dister v. Cont'l Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir.1988); Montana v. First Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n of Rochester, 869 F.2d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1989), "the salutary purposes of summary judgment -- avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials -- apply no less to discrimination cases than to... other areas of litigation." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.1985). See also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 148 (2000), quoting St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 524 (1993).

Falso's claims of employment discrimination are subject to the burden-shifting analysis first articulated in McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). First, Falso must establish a prima facie case of discrimination by demonstrating: (1) membership in a protected class; (2) satisfactory job performance, with or without reasonable accommodations in the case of an ADA-qualifying disability; and (3) an adverse employment action, occurring under (4) circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. See Collins v. New York City Transit Authority,305 F.3d 113, 118 (2d Cir. 2002); Ryan v. Grae & Rybicki, P.C., 135 F.3d 867, 870 (2d Cir. 1998). Once Falso has established a prima facie case, the burden shifts to Sutherland to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. See James v. New York Racing Ass'n, 233 F.3d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 2000). The burden then returns to Falso, to supply evidence that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason offered by the defendant is a pretext. See St. Mary's Honor Center, 509 U.S. 502 at 508.

Where, as here, the party opposing summary judgment is proceeding pro se, the Court must "read the pleadings ... liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Corcoran v. New York Power Auth., 202 F.3d 530, 536 (2d Cir.1999). Nevertheless, "proceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve [the opposing party] from the usual requirements of summary judgment." Fitzpatrick v. N.Y. Cornell Hosp., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25166 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. 2003).

While granting Falso the liberal interpretation and favorable inferences due to him as a pro se plaintiff and as a non-movant, I find that Falso cannot make out a prima facie case of discrimination, and/or rebut Sutherland's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating his employment, and thus, his claims must be dismissed.

II. Falso's Discrimination Claims Pursuant to the ADA

Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating again any "qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to" any aspect of employment. 42 U.S.C. ยง12112(a). A ...

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