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Duckett v. Wal-Mart Stores

April 14, 2009

LARA DUCKETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Lara Duckett, ("plaintiff" and/or "Duckett"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.), and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") against her former employer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc, ("defendant" or "Wal-Mart") claiming that she was subject to hostile work environment on the basis of sex and retaliated against for complaining of discrimination. Specifically, plaintiff alleges four causes of action: (1) discrimination in the form of unlawful hostile work environment based on sex in violation of Title VII; (2) discrimination in the form of unlawful hostile work environment based on sex in violation of the NYSHRL;*fn1 (3) retaliatory discharge for having engaged in protected activity in violation of Title VII; and (4) retaliatory discharge in violation of NYSHRL.

Defendant denies plaintiff's allegations, and moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's Complaint on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a prima facie case of retaliation. According to the defendant, Duckett cannot establish that she engaged in any protected activity known to Wal-Mart at the time of her discharge. In addition, defendant argues that plaintiff cannot demonstrate a causal connection between her complaints and her discharge years after her initial complaint and at least six months following her final complaint. Further, defendant contends that even if plaintiff were able to prove a prima facie case of retaliation, Wal-Mart articulated a non-retaliatory reason for its decision to discharge her and plaintiff failed to establish that Wal-Mart's stated reason is pretextual. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Preliminarily, this Court must review the requirements of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Local Rule 56 provides: "In any motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, 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." See W.D.N.Y. Loc. R. Civ. P. 56.1(a). Defendant has complied with this rule. See Docket #16. "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." See id. 56.1(b). "All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party." See id. 56.1(c). In other words, the moving party must set forth the material facts that it contends are not in dispute, whereas the non-moving party must then set forth the material facts that she contends are in dispute (i.e., material facts as to which she contends that there is a genuine issue).

Plaintiff, however, submitted a "Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts" ("Responding Statement") that contained 163 separate paragraphs, many containing multiple statements, which failed to specifically controvert the defendant's Statement Of Material Facts in many respects.*fn2 See Docket #25. Although plaintiff's Responding Statement sets forth some facts that appear to somewhat contradict defendant's Statement Of Material Facts ("DSMF"), it nonetheless includes facts that are contained in DSMF i.e., facts about which there is no disagreement and that create no genuine issue of material fact. Consequently, plaintiff's Responding Statement has the effect of causing confusion and obscuring the record. Further, it fails to specifically set forth which facts create a genuine issue of material fact--as opposed to a recitation of all the alleged facts.

As this Court held in Kuchar v. Kenmore Mercy Hosp., 2000 WL 210199, at *1 (W.D.N.Y.2000) "[w]hile the consequence of this miscue is minimal given the general consensus between the parties [as shown by defendant] as to the constituent facts of this case, where a discrepancy exists this Court is obligated to and will 'deem admitted' the [moving party's] version of the facts... [although] the Court is [also] obligated to and will believe the [non-moving party's] evidence and all justifiable inferences will be drawn in [her] favor."*fn3 The relevant facts that the court deems undisputed, based on the Complaint, the parties' 56.1 Statements (as limited by invocation of the Local Rule), and other materials submitted in connection with defendant's motion for summary judgment, are as follows:

I. Plaintiff's Part-Time Employment At Wal-Mart's Canandaigua Store from April 1994 to November 1998

Plaintiff Lara Duckett began working as a part-time pharmacy associate in the Pharmacy Department of Wal-Mart's Canandaigua store on April 5, 1994. Richard Skrypek ("Skrypek") became the Pharmacy Department Manager of the Canandaigua store in June 1994 and he continues to hold the same position to this day. Plaintiff was employed part-time in the Pharmacy Department at the Canandaigua store from April 1994 until she transferred to a full-time position in the Pharmacy Department of Wal-Mart's Henrietta, New York store in November 1998. From April 1998 through October 1998, plaintiff claims that she notified Skrypek on multiple occasions that she wanted to work full-time. However, plaintiff alleges that whenever she asked Skrypek about a full time position at the Canandaigua store, he allegedly said that he was "too busy to discuss," or had not "had a chance to speak to anybody about it, but...will get to it," or defendant was not hiring anyone full time in the Pharmacy Department of the Canandaigua store at that time. Notwithstanding, plaintiff concedes that after her October 1998 request, "[w]ithin a week," Skrypek asked her if she was interested in a full time pharmacy technician position available at the Henrietta store since the Canandaigua store could not offer her full time work at that time. Plaintiff accepted the full time position at the Henrietta store.

II. Plaintiff's Full Time Employment at Wal-Mart's Henrietta Store

From November 1998 to August 2000 plaintiff worked full time as a pharmacy technician in the Pharmacy Department at the Henrietta store. Thereafter and effective August 25, 2000, plaintiff transferred to a full time pharmacy technician position in the Pharmacy Department at the Canandaigua store where Skrypek was still the Pharmacy Department Manager.

III. Plaintiff's Full Time Employment At Wal-Mart's Canandaigua Store from August 2000 to December 2004

Plaintiff was employed at the Canandaigua store from August 2000 until her termination in November 2005.*fn4 Plaintiff argues that when she returned to work in the Pharmacy Department of the Canandaigua store in 2000, Skrypek and plaintiff's co-worker, Patty Chesbro ("Chesbro") made remarks about the fact that plaintiff is a blonde, and they "would say 'the reason why Plaintiff ever got hired in the first place was that she was a cute little blonde thing.'" See Deposition Transcript of Lara Duckett ("Duckett Dep.") at 188, 190-193, 260. In addition, plaintiff contends that Skrypek treated her differently when compared to her female co-workers in the Pharmacy. Specifically, plaintiff alleges she was "always blamed for everything" and called a "blonde," always worked every holiday weekend, was "the only one" that was required to find someone to cover for her when she had a death in the family in 2001 and needed to take time off. See Duckett Dep. at 183-185, 188-193. Moreover, plaintiff claims that Skrypek was not "so harsh in tone of voice" when he spoke to plaintiff's co-workers. See id. at 237-238. Further, plaintiff states that Skrypek had "rules for her and rules for everyone else." See id. at 179-180. According to plaintiff, in the winter of 2003, she was only allowed to drink water while her co-workers were allowed to have soda or coffee.

Plaintiff contends that she began complaining to Skrypek regarding his treatment of her in 2003. However, when she complained to Skrypek, he informed her that her concerns were petty and that, when she complained about working on every holiday weekend, he said she should not complain because she had "no obligations, such as children, a husband not even a boyfriend." See id at 189; see also Compl. at ¶17. In October 2003, plaintiff claims that Skrypek changed her weekend schedule without consulting her. When plaintiff expressed her dissatisfaction with the change to the Pharmacy Department staff, Skrypek allegedly grabbed her arm, pulled her out of the pharmacy and told her to stop discussing the matter. See Duckett Dep. at 195-197. Moreover, plaintiff contends that in November 2004, while she was away on vacation, Skrypek and Chesbro "had loud discussions for other people to hear," in the Pharmacy Department in which they said "the only way the guy that [plaintiff] was going to visit was going to marry [her] was if she became pregnant, [and] [t]hat [plaintiff] would be coming back from [vacation] barefoot and pregnant, as that was the only way [she] would gain a husband." See id. at 230-232.*fn5

IV. Events from December 2004 through Plaintiff's Termination

In December 2004 plaintiff spoke to Skrypek's supervisor, Pharmacy District Manager Andrew Olechowski ("Olechowski") regarding the issues she was having with Skrypek. According to plaintiff, she informed Olechowski that she "was having issues in the pharmacy, that [she] had them for a number of years, and that it had finally gotten to the point where [she] could not deal with things anymore[.]" See Duckett Dep. at 239-241. Plaintiff claims she told Olechowski about the difficulties she was having with respect to scheduling vacation time, other scheduling problems as well as comments made while she was on vacation and "about the rules for [her] and the rules for other people," about "being told [her] concerns were petty," and how she "was being treated differently than other girls." See id.*fn6 Plaintiff admits that before speaking to ...


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