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Pierre v. Summit Security Services

August 18, 2009



Pro se plaintiff Apollos Pierre filed this employment discrimination action against his former employer, Summit Security Services, after he was fired in May 2006. Summit has moved for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Summit's motion for summary judgment will be granted.


The Court reviews the record in the light most favorable to Mr. Pierre. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

Mr. Pierre immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 1987 (Pierre Dep. 35, Herndon Decl. Ex. K, Feb. 19, 2009.) In 2002, he became a practicing Seventh Day Adventist. (Id. at 28.) As such, Mr. Pierre strongly prefers not to work on the Sabbath, which runs from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. (Id.) Mr. Pierre observes the Sabbath by praying, preaching, and visiting the sick and elderly. (Id. at 28-29.)

From December 2001 to May 2006, Mr. Pierre was employed by Summit as a security guard. (Id. at 37, 44.) Aside from a few days at the beginning of his employment, Mr. Pierre worked exclusively at 390 Fort Washington Avenue, a dormitory in Washington Heights that is owned by Columbia University. (Id. at 38, 43.) Mr. Pierre's job was to monitor the building's entrance and lobby. (Id. at 38.)

Not long after he was hired, Mr. Pierre told a scheduler at Summit that he could not work on the Sabbath. (Id. at 48.) The scheduler promised to do what he could to give Mr. Pierre Fridays and Saturdays off. (Id.) Although Mr. Pierre and Summit had a difficult relationship, the company appears to have kept this promise. With the exception of one schedule proposed immediately before Mr. Pierre was fired, Summit never required Mr. Pierre to work on Friday or Saturday. (Id. at 102-03 ("I have never worked Fridays and Saturdays. The problem I have is that they always wanted to change my schedule and that schedule, that would include Friday and Saturdays, and I always said no.").)

As already noted, Summit terminated Mr. Pierre's employment in May 2006. Mr. Pierre contends that the company's actions on four principal occasions demonstrate that Summit unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his religion and his race. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 7; Pierre Dep. 153.)

1. In June or July 2002, a security guard identified at Mr. Pierre's deposition as "Ms. Strough" reported to Summit's management that Mr. Pierre had signed for packages for a tenant, used profanity, left a communal bathroom dirty, and given a tenant the original keys to her apartment in violation of Summit policy. (Pierre Dep. 74-76, 83.) Mr. Pierre maintains that the allegations were baseless. Nonetheless, he was suspended without pay. (Id. at 85-86.) Summit maintains it has no records of this suspension. (Rossello Aff. ¶ 12, Feb. 19, 2009.)

After Mr. Pierre returned to work on August 25, 2002, Summit deducted union dues from his paycheck. (Pierre Dep. 92.) Mr. Pierre found this "bizarre" and told his union about it. (Id. at 93.) Summit maintains, and Mr. Pierre does not contest, that it has no control over the union dues taken out of Mr. Pierre's paycheck. (Rossello Aff. ¶ 22.)

Mr. Pierre testified that around the time he was first suspended, Jim Nicchio, Summit's Regional Manager, asked him if he had been a member of the Haitian army. (Pierre Dep. 87.) Mr. Pierre found the question offensive. Because of the army's role in the Duvalier dictatorship, being accused of belonging to the army is a grave insult in Haitian society. (See id. at 89.) Mr. Nicchio categorically denies asking Mr. Pierre whether he belonged to the army. (Nicchio Aff. ¶¶ 4-5, Feb. 19, 2009.)

2. In September 2005, another security guard, Madeline Barbarosa, complained to Summit's management that Mr. Pierre was arriving late for work. (Pierre Dep. 95-96.) Mr. Pierre denied the allegation. He claimed that according to his paychecks, which were generated from Summit's records, he was always on time. (Id. at 96.) Nevertheless, Mr. Pierre was once again suspended without pay. (Id. at 99.)

Mr. Pierre testified that during this incident, no one ever said anything to him about his race or religion. (Id. at 101-02.) Ms. Barbarosa, however, told Mr. Pierre that "they"-presumably a reference to Summit's management-hated him. (Id. at 101.) And Summit "on many occasions" called Mr. Pierre to see if he could work Saturdays. (Id. at 102.) Mr. Pierre always told Summit that he could not work on Friday or Saturday. (Id. at 102-03.) However, he feels that Summit was wrong to ask and believes that asking him to work on Friday and Saturday was a form of discrimination prohibited by law. (Id.; see Pierre Aff. 18, May 5, 2009.)

When Mr. Pierre returned from the suspension, Summit once again deducted union dues from his paycheck. (Pierre Dep. 99-100.) In addition, his uniform, shoes, and identification were missing. (Id. at 120.) Summit never reimbursed Mr. Pierre for these items. In Mr. Pierre's view, this shows that the company was trying to keep him from working; because state identification is necessary to secure employment, "what that meant is that they sent me to a shelter." (Id. at 153.) Summit notes that under its "Security Officer Manual," which was incorporated by reference into Mr. Pierre's employment contract, it assumed no liability for Mr. Pierre's personal property. (Herndon Decl. Ex. N, at 36; see also Herndon Decl. Ex. M ¶ 13.) Indeed, the manual expressly cautions security guards not to leave personal property at work. (Herndon Decl. Ex. N, at 36-37.)

3. Sometime in March 2006, another security guard, who appears to have been Mr. Pierre's supervisor, told a tenant at 390 Fort Washington Avenue that Mr. Pierre had called her a whore. (Pierre Dep. 126.) An unidentified Columbia employee confronted Mr. Pierre and asked him if there was someone in the building that he did not like. (Id. at 127.) Mr. Pierre denied having ...

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