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Brown v. 820 River Street

August 10, 2009

WALLACE BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
820 RIVER STREET, INC., ALTAMONT HOUSE, INC., AND MARCIA POOL, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Wallace Brown ("Plaintiff" or "Brown") commenced this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000et seq., the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"), N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 290 et seq.,*fn1 and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA")*fn2, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., claiming that Defendants 820 River Street, Inc., Altamont House, Inc., and Marcia Pool (collectively, "Defendants"), discriminated against him because of his race, sex, and HIV positive status, and this discrimination resulted in unfair treatment and eventually termination. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at 6 (a), (c), (f). Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for summary judgment. Motion (Dkt. No. 18). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is granted and the above-captioned case is dismissed in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

The Altamont Program, Inc., doing business as Defendants Altamont House and 820 River Street, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation that provides drug and rehabilitation services. See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 18, Attach. 2) ¶ 2; Young Aff. (Dkt. No. 18, Attach. No. 2) ¶ 1.*fn3 Plaintiff is an African-American male, who has been diagnosed as HIV positive. Dkt. No. 1. In June of 2005, Plaintiff applied for employment at the Altamont House. Compl. at 6. He was subsequently hired as a "Chemical Dependency Counselor" on a per diem, part-time basis. Id. On or about January 24, 2006, Plaintiff applied for a promotion to full-time employee status. Compl. at 6; Statement of Material Facts ¶ 12.

Plaintiff met with Defendant Marcia Pool ("Pool"), the clinical and administrative director of Altamont House, to discuss his employment status. Compl. ¶ 1. During this discussion, Pool informed Plaintiff that he was not eligible to become a full-time staff member. Id. It is undisputed that at the time Plaintiff was hired there was never any discussion of promotions nor was he ever promised any advancement in the organization. See Pl's. Dep. (Dkt. No. 18, Ex. H) 20:2-10; Statement of Material Facts ¶ 4 ("At the time of Plaintiff's hire, he was not promised any further advancement within the organization without attaining a drug and alcoholism counselor license under the laws of the State of New York"). Further, Plaintiff was an at-will employee. Following the conversation, Pool wrote Plaintiff a letter stating the reasons for the denial for a full-time position. Mem. to Def. Ex. B (Dkt. No. 18) ¶¶ 3, 7. In that letter, Pool stated that Plaintiff was unable to work well with his peers and continually disregarded the policies and procedures of the agency and, therefore, based her decision not to promote him on his "performance and lack of team effort." Id. She also wrote that Plaintiff was quick to point out what he believed to be flaws in the performance of his peers and had "shown poor judgment on several occasions." Id. No mention was made of his race, gender or HIV positive status. On February 15, 2006, Defendants informed Plaintiff that they were terminating his employment. Dkt. No. 1.

Plaintiff now claims that during his time at Altamont House he was subjected to continual discrimination and that Pool gave preferential treatment to Caucasian female employees. Id. Plaintiff concedes that Pool never made any direct statements or verbally expressed that he was not getting promoted because of his gender, race and/or HIV status. See Pl's. Dep. 41:2-8. Instead, he bases his race and gender discrimination claims on the way Pool "presented herself and the manner of her statements." Pl's. Dep. 42:14-17. In respect to the allegation of discrimination based on HIV positive status, Plaintiff is not certain Pool was even aware of his condition but contends that everyone at Altamont House knew. See Pl's Dep. 46:15.

On February 4, 2008, Defendants filed the Motion for summary judgment that is currently before this Court. Dkt. No. 18. Plaintiff subsequently filed his Memorandum of law in opposition to Defendants' Motion on March 2, 2008. Dkt. No. 20.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is proper when "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 a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Summary judgment is appropriate where no reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-moving party." Mount Vernon Fire Ins. Co. v. Belize New York, Inc., 277 F.3d 232, 236 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Taggart v. Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991)).

Once the moving party meets its initial burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact, it is then up to the non-moving party to do "more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-moving party "may not rely on mere conclusory allegations or speculation, but instead must offer some hard evidence" supporting its version of events. Flaherty v. Caughlin, 713 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 1983).

III. DISCUSSION

In order for a plaintiff to sustain a prima facie case for discrimination, he must "adduce some evidence that would permit a fact finder to infer, inter alia, that the termination occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination."*fn4 Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 221 (2d Cir. 2004); see also McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). If the plaintiff can meet this burden then "the burden of production shifts to the employer to 'articulate some legitimate, non-discriminatory reason' for the termination." McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802 (internal quotation and citation omitted); Feingold v. New York, 366 F.3d 138, 152 (2d Cir. 2004). If the defendant can make this showing, the burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to show that "the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its true reasons, but were pretext for discrimination." McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802. "The ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff." Texas Dep't. of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981). Here, Plaintiff has not only failed to sustain his burden of establishing a prima facie case, he has also failed to adequately rebut Defendants' legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for his termination.

To establish a prima facie case for discrimination pursuant to the ADA or Title VII, the plaintiff must establish: (1) that the plaintiff is a member of a protected class; (2) his or her job performance was satisfactory; (3) he or she suffered from an adverse employment action; and (4) the action occurred under circumstances that would give rise to the inference of discriminatory intent. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802; Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 138 (2d Cir. 2003). Although Plaintiff was a member of a protected class and suffered an adverse employment action, i.e. termination,*fn5 there is no indication that this adverse employment action was predicated on circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.

Nowhere in the record does Plaintiff present any evidence of direct or indirect discrimination. Plaintiff does not allege that any similarly situated non African-American, female or HIV negative employee has been treated differently. Young Aff. ¶¶ 26, 27. Further, Plaintiff makes no allegation that Defendants ever even alluded to his race, gender or HIV positive status. Instead, Plaintiff bases his causes of action on conclusory allegations and speculation; this is not enough to survive a motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff states that he felt he was being denied the promotion because of the way Pool "looked at him, her presentation, the way she presented herself, the manner of her statements... led [Plaintiff] to believe that... [he] had walked in the wrong low income trailer park." Pl's Dep. 41:14-17. He further asserts that it was Pool's "complete dismissal of [plaintiff's] person" that led him to believe it was because of his HIV positive status. Pl's Dep. 52:6-22. Plaintiff has no other information, facts or statements that would support his allegations of discrimination based on race, gender or HIV positive status. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not provided the Court with any evidence that would lead a fact finder ...


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