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Dorcely v. Wyandanch Union Free School District

September 30, 2009

JACQUES DORCELY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, BOARD OF EDUCATION WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, DR. SHERMAN ROBERTS, IN HIS CAPACITY AS INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND INDIVIDUALLY, DR. FRANK SATCHEL, IN HIS CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS AND INDIVIDUALLY, SAMUEL BURNETT, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, JAMES CRAWFORD, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, REV. HENRY BACON, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, DENISE BAINES, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, SHIRLEY BAKER, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, SISTER SAKINAH KAREEEM, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, BARRY WHITE, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, REV. MICHAEL TALBERT, AS TRUSTEE AND INDIVIDUALLY, NORINA GETER, AS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT FOR HUMAN RESOURCES, WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND INDIVIDUALLY, DARLENE WHITE, AS PRINCIPAL FOR DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT AND INDIVIDUALLY, GINA TALBERT, AS PRINCIPAL FOR MILTON L. OLIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL, WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND INDIVIDUALLY, LARRY J. MCCORD, AS ATTORNEY FOR THE WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff Jacques Dorcely filed the present action against defendants Wyandanch Union Free School District, Board of Education Wyandanch Union Free School District (the "Board of Education"), Dr. Sherman Roberts, in his capacity as Interim Superintendent of Schools, Wyandanch Union Free School District and Individually, Dr. Frank Satchel, in his capacity as Superintendent of Schools and Individually, Samuel Burnett, as Trustee and Individually, James Crawford, as Trustee and Individually, Rev. Henry Bacon, as Trustee and Individually, Denise Baines, as Trustee and Individually, Shirley Baker, as Trustee and Individually, Sister Sakinah Kareem, as Trustee and Individually, Barry White, as Trustee and Individually, Rev. Michael Talbert, as Trustee and Individually, Norina Geter, as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Wyandanch Union Free School District, and Individually, Darlene White, as Principal for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School and Individually, Gina Talbert, as Principal for Milton L. Olive Middle School, Wyandanch Union Free School District and Individually, (collectively the "District Defendants"), and Larry J. McCord, as attorney for the Wyandanch Union Free School District and Individually ("Defendant McCord"), alleging violations of the equal protection and due process clauses pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"); violations of the First Amendment pursuant to Section 1983; and violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d) ("Title VI"), and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 on the basis of his national origin and gender, and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. The District Defendants and Defendant McCord (hereinafter "Defendants") have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The material facts, drawn from the Complaint and the parties' Local 56.1 Statements, are either undisputed or are taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, unless otherwise noted.

The Wyandanch Union Free School District (the "District") is located in Suffolk County and administers, inter alia, the Milton L. Olive Middle School (the "Middle School") and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School (the "Elementary School"). Jacques Dorcely ("Plaintiff" or "Dorcely") is a male of Haitian national origin and holds Master's Degrees in education and in school psychology from Adelphi University. He was employed by the District as a full-time, probationary school psychologist from September 2, 2003 until September 18, 2004, the date of his termination.

A. Plaintiff's Employment in the Middle School

Defendant Gina Talbert ("Talbert"), principal of the Middle School, interviewed Dorcely for the position of school psychologist, and in a memorandum dated August 19, 2003, recommended Plaintiff for that position to defendant Norina Geter ("Geter"), Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for the District.*fn1 At a Board of Education meeting on September 2, 2003, Plaintiff was appointed to the position of school psychologist in the Middle School, effective September 2, 2003. Dorcely's appointment had a three year probationary period.

On September 18, 2003, Talbert assigned Dorcely to act as a scribe to provide testing modifications for a special education student in a sixth grade classroom. During that class, a female student had an emotional outburst and the classroom teacher, Ms. Popco, went to Talbert's office to discuss the incident. Plaintiff was accused of unprofessionalism by Talbert for his response to the incident. Contrary to Talbert's accusations, Plaintiff maintained that his response to that situation was appropriate.

The following day, Talbert spoke with Plaintiff about a student who needed dyslexia testing and advised Dorcely to consult with Ms. Romagnano regarding a concern she had with the student. According to Plaintiff, Talbert had interrupted Dorcely's testing of a different student and had raised her voice at him. Plaintiff asked Talbert if they could discuss the matter privately, and Talbert used Mrs. Batchelor's office to continue their discussion. During the meeting, Talbert telephoned Vonnye Singleton ("Singleton"), the director of special education, and scheduled a meeting for the three of them for the following Monday. Following the telephone call, the meeting between Plaintiff and Talbert continued to digress. Dorcely raised issues with Talbert about the ineffective intervention measures that were in place in the building. Talbert allegedly told Dorcely that he did not know his job, that he did not fit into the culture of the school, that she did not want to see his face in the building and that he was being insubordinate.

Talbert immediately telephoned the interim superintendent, defendant Sherman Roberts ("Roberts"), informed him of the September 18th and September 19th incidents, memorialized the two events in writing, and recommended that Plaintiff be terminated. The following day, in a letter dated September 19, 2003 that was hand delivered to Plaintiff, Roberts advised him that, effective immediately, he was reassigned to administrative leave at home which would remain in effect until further instruction. In addition, the letter directed that Dorcely was not permitted to be on any school property of the District and was prohibited from making contact with the administration or staff from the Middle School or the District in general. Further, the letter advised Plaintiff not to contact him, but to await his contact as to the date and time that he would meet with all parties concerned with the matter. Roberts made arrangements to send Dorcely's personal belongings to his home by courier.

While he was on administrative leave at home, Dorcely was replaced by an African-American female school psychologist.

In a certified letter dated September 24, 2003, Geter informed Plaintiff that a recommendation for his termination would be presented to the Superintendent and the Board of Education, to be effective October 30, 2003, and that his reassignment to administrative leave at home would be continued. Plaintiff responded by requesting a statement of reasons for the proposed termination and a hearing before the Board of Education. Talbert prepared a memorandum outlining the reasons for her recommendation of Plaintiff's termination.

By letter dated October 9, 2003, Roberts set forth the reasons for Dorcely's termination, which included Plaintiff's failure to follow appropriate directions from the building principal; his failure to involve himself professionally in a classroom incident that he had witnessed; Plaintiff's intimidating, threatening, and inappropriate conduct towards school personnel; and Plaintiff's failure to maintain effective, professional communication with the building principal. Dorcely denied the allegations and responded that the statement of reasons were totally subjective, vague, and amounted to malicious actions by Talbert to have him removed from the Middle School. On December 9, 2003, Plaintiff was afforded a hearing before the Board of Education and testified on his own behalf.

At a Board of Education meeting held on January 21, 2004, the Board voted not to terminate Plaintiff's employment with the District. Roberts confirmed the vote to Plaintiff in a letter dated January 29, 2004, and notified Dorcely that he was reassigned to the Elementary School as a school psychologist, effective February 2, 2004 and would be under the direct supervision of the building principal defendant Darlene White ("White").

B. Plaintiff's Employment in the Elementary School

At the end of January 2004, Geter advised White that Plaintiff would be coming to the Elementary School as a school psychologist to help Dr. Ifalase ("Ifalase") with his cases. White had not known Dorcely prior to his reassignment and was unaware that he had been the subject of a disciplinary action.*fn2 White and Singleton had a discussion about Plaintiff's assignment to assist Ifalase with his caseload at the Elementary School.

Dorcely was assigned an office in the "decontamination room" in the nurse's office. He made requests for supplies and resource materials and when he was not satisfied with White's responses, he tried to obtain equipment and other materials by asking other District employees for help. White spoke to one of the Board members about procuring a computer for Plaintiff, and the Board member told her that Dorcely had already made such a request and that he would give Plaintiff one of the computers that had been donated to the District.

On March 19, 2004, White's secretary asked Plaintiff to cover a class for Ms. Roth.*fn3 Because he was testing a student, Plaintiff completed administering the test and then proceeded to the office to inquire about the assignment. It took Plaintiff approximately thirty minutes to meet with White, make copies of instructional materials for the students, and report to the classroom. Until Dorcely arrived to Ms. Roth's classroom, it was covered by Mr. Valentine. White issued a written reprimand dated March 26, 2004 accusing Plaintiff of failing to cooperate to cover another teacher's class which was placed in his personnel file and to which he responded with a written rebuttal dated March 29, 2004.

On March 31, 2004, White directed Plaintiff to document his daily activities in fifteen minute intervals.

On April 29, 2004, an emergency evacuation drill was conducted at the Elementary School. In preparation for the drill, White had held a meeting on the prior day with all of the staff to go over the procedure. Dorcely was absent from school on the day of the meeting. During the emergency evacuation drill, all of the students and staff, except Plaintiff, evacuated the building. Dorcely was in his office with the door closed and stated that he did not hear the drill. In a letter dated April 29, 2004, White issued a written reprimand accusing Plaintiff of failing to adhere to the policy she had gone over with staff the previous day regarding the evacuation drill. White stated in her letter that when she realized that everyone was accounted for except Plaintiff, she had sent Mr. Berger into the building to look for Dorcely and to ask him to evacuate the building. She reported that Plaintiff refused to evacuate and told Mr. Berger that he had thought it was just a drill. In her letter, White explained that the school and the District could have been issued a citation because she gave the "all clear" signal that the building was evacuated when it was not. Plaintiff issued a written rebuttal reminding White that he was absent the previous day and therefore was not present at the staff meeting or aware of any drill.

At some point, Dorcely raised concerns to White about the lack of educational resources for the students and certain teachers' treatment of students. By letter dated April 29, 2004, White stated that she had already addressed his complaints that certain teachers did not have appropriate materials to teach their students with the teachers in question, and she was assured by those teachers that they had adequate materials to provide quality instruction for their students. Additionally, White reported that she had received complaints from staff members that Dorcely was questioning teachers about students that were not part of his caseload. Finally, White reprimanded Dorcely for telling her that he expected her to address his complaints and for interrupting her when she was with co-workers or parents and directed him to refrain from that type of behavior. White stated that in the future she expected Plaintiff to give her the proper respect and adhere to the procedures she had established.

After receiving the two April 29th letters, Plaintiff went to White's office. Although White was in a meeting with one of her secretaries, Dorcely walked into her office and handed White a memo. Plaintiff maintains that he never met with White concerning her April 29, 2004 reprimands. White, however, asserts that she memorialized this incident in a letter to Plaintiff dated April 30, 2004, stating that Dorcely had insisted that she meet with him, that she had agreed to speak with him after her meeting with her secretary, that during the meeting Plaintiff had raised his voice and yelled at her, and that she would not tolerate this behavior and deemed his acts to be blatant insubordination. In her letter, White instructed Plaintiff to adhere to the Elementary School policies. White also memorialized this incident in an April 30, 2004 memorandum to Roberts and reported that Plaintiff had inquired of her why she was writing him up every chance she could.*fn4

A few days later, in a May 3, 2004 memo to Roberts, White recommended that Dorcely be dismissed. In her memo, she made the following representations:

* the Plaintiff kept making a number of unreasonable requests and insisted that White honor them, such as a flat-screen computer when no one in the elementary school had one;

* the Plaintiff wanted a new desk when there were no desks available, and the desk he had belonged to a prior psychologist -- and he even asked for the desk in the main office;

* the Plaintiff had difficulty implementing any tasks that White assigned to him;

* the Plaintiff did not adhere to school procedures and policies that White put in place, such as that all staff members were to see one of White's secretaries to schedule appointments and meetings with her; instead he would walk past the secretaries and into White's office, insisting that she meet with him;

* White had been in meetings when the Plaintiff would interrupt her to say he needed her; and after White would tell him she was in a meeting, the Plaintiff would lurk around the door and constantly peek in;

* the Plaintiff would tell White how to do her job in an inappropriate manner; he also did this with some of the teaching staff;

* if White denied one of Plaintiff's requests he immediately called Singleton to undermine White's authority, when White was ultimately responsible for the day-to-day operations of the elementary school;

* because Plaintiff was not able to take directions from White, in her professional opinion the Plaintiff should be terminated;

* the Plaintiff did not possess the qualities White looked for in a psychologist;

* the Plaintiff was not a "team player" and had shown difficulty communicating with teachers;

* the Plaintiff displayed more concern over material things than the needs of the students;

* the students in the District had numerous challenges, and they needed supportive and reliable individuals helping them, and must feel comfortable in trusting the psychologist; however White did not feel comfortable working with the Plaintiff and in having the Plaintiff work with her students;

* as a result of their April 29, 2004 confrontation, White, as an adult, felt "scared" by the Plaintiff;

* White said "she could only imagine how one of her precious little children would feel if this incident had occurred with one of them as opposed to her";

* the District should be proactive and prevent any future harm from occurring by terminating Plaintiff;

* the long-term effects of the Plaintiff's behavior and actions on children could be detrimental and could cause "severe damage" to the children that he was hired to help.

On May 3, 2004, Plaintiff also sent a memo to Roberts regarding his complaints of harassment by White, including that he was being harassed by having to document his time in fifteen minute intervals; that he was being undermined by other teachers monitoring him at the direction of White; that he was being punished for having complained about the fact that children in the building could not read, that they did not have adequate instructional materials and resources to help them, and that some students were being subjected to inappropriate disciplinary actions; and that White has commenced a practice and pattern of issuing written and verbal reprimands on almost a daily basis which were replete with mischaracterizations of his conduct.

White prepared end-of-the-year performance evaluation for Plaintiff, which was signed by both White and Dorcely on June 7, 2004. Because Plaintiff requested that White not evaluate him when he was formally interacting with students due to confidentiality concerns, White based her evaluation on his informal work with students, what he did with his time, her correspondence with him, her conversations with him, and her overall assessment of his job performance in the Elementary School. White noted in Plaintiff's performance evaluation that he "meets criteria" in such areas as effective planning skills; uses appropriate techniques to motivate the students; communicates effectively with students; provides students with specific evaluative feedback; displays a thorough knowledge of the subject matter; provides opportunities for individual differences; ensures students' time on tasks; sets high expectations for student achievement; demonstrates evidence of personal organization; demonstrates effective interpersonal relationships with others; demonstrates awareness of the needs of students; provides positive self-concept; and promotes self-discipline and responsibility. White also noted that Plaintiff "needed improvement" in such areas as planning for and making effective use of time, materials and resources; in setting high standards for student behavior; demonstrating sensitivity in relating to students; demonstrating employee responsibility; supporting school regulations and policies; and in assuming responsibilities outside the classroom as they relate to school. Plaintiff submitted a rebuttal to the performance evaluation and addressed each of the areas in which he was assessed by White as "needed improvement."

In a letter dated June 15, 2004, Geter advised Plaintiff that a recommendation for his termination would be presented to the Superintendent and then to the Board of Education. On June 21, 2004, Dorcely telephoned Geter to request an opportunity to review and copy material in his personnel file. Plaintiff followed up this request in a June 22, 2004 memo to Geter, and also requested that Geter send all copies of correspondence to his attorney, whom he had hired to represent him in connection with the proposed termination. By letter dated June 25, 2004, Geter informed Plaintiff that the District was in receipt of his June 22, 2004 request, but that because he retained counsel, he needed to have his attorney make such requests to the District's counsel.

When he received no response from his request, counsel for Plaintiff intervened by contacting McCord, the attorney for the District, to request that arrangements be made for Dorcely to review his personnel file. In addition, Plaintiff requested from Roberts a statement of reasons for the recommendation for his termination and further requested a hearing before the Board of Education. Plaintiff's counsel also contacted McCord requesting the statement of reasons for the termination. According to Plaintiff, McCord responded that Plaintiff need not be provided a statement of reasons or access to his personnel file because the issue involved Plaintiff's inability to get along with his boss and that issue could form the basis for the termination.

On July 7, 2004, defendant Dr. Frank Satchel ("Satchel") replaced Roberts as Superintendent of Schools for the District.

In a July 27, 2004 letter, Plaintiff's counsel requested a statement of reasons for the recommendation of termination. In a letter dated July 28, 2004, which Plaintiff received on August 5, 2004, Satchel set forth a statement of reasons, including that there was:

[a] continued lack of due diligence in the performance of his jobrelated duties as exemplified by the following:

a) Plaintiff's failure to follow up appropriate direction from the building principal;

b) Plaintiff's failure to maintain appropriate discipline in a professional manner in a classroom incident;

c) Plaintiff's inappropriate and unprofessional conduct toward school personnel and the building principal;

d) Plaintiff's failure to maintain appropriate, effective and professional communications with the building principal;

e) Plaintiff' failure to maintain appropriate, professional and required records in a timely manner, as directed by the building principal;

f) Plaintiff's failure to plan for and make effective use of time;

g) Plaintiff's failure to set high standards for student behavior;

h) Plaintiff's failure to demonstrate sensitivity in relating to students.

Plaintiff and his counsel renewed their requests to review his personnel file. Geter contacted Plaintiff on August 16, 2004 to inform him that he could review his file the following day. Upon review, Plaintiff discovered, inter alia, (i) a notation to White to come up with reasons for his termination, (ii) a May 3, 2004 memo from White to Roberts calling for his termination that Plaintiff was not copied on, (iii) the absence of certain rebuttals he had made to White's reprimands, and (iv) documents in his personnel file that should not have been there, to wit, McCord's billing statements in connection with Plaintiff and McCord's notes in his file regarding the investigation of charges against him.

In mid-August 2004, Satchel contacted White to inquire about Plaintiff's job performance. This was the first time White became aware that Dorcely was being considered for termination. In response to Satchel's call, White sent him a copy of her May 3, 2004 letter to Roberts.

On August 18, 2005, the Board of Education afforded Plaintiff a hearing. Following the hearing, all of the Board members voted to terminate Plaintiff's employment.

C. Plaintiff's Complaint

On March 20, 2006, Plaintiff commenced the instant action. Plaintiff's Complaint asserts fourteen remaining*fn5 causes of action: (1) violation of equal protection pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Gina Talbert; (2) violation of the First Amendment pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Gina Talbert; (3) violation of the First Amendment pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Roberts; (4) discrimination on the basis of national origin and in retaliation for having engaged in protected activity in violation of Section 1983 as to Defendant Roberts; (5) violation of equal protection pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Darlene White; (6) violation of the First Amendment pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Darlene White; (7) violation of due process pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Geter; (8) violation of due process pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant McCord; (9) violation of equal protection pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Satchel; (10) discrimination on the basis of national origin and in retaliation for having engaged in protected activity in violation of Title VII as against Defendant Board of Education; (11) violation of equal protection pursuant to Section 1983 as to Defendant Board of Education; (12) discrimination on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI as against Defendant District, Defendant Gina Talbert, Defendant Sherman Roberts, Defendant Darlene White, Defendant Frank Satchel, and Defendant Michael Talbert; (13) retaliation for engaging in protected speech in violation of the First Amendment as against Defendant Board of Education; and (14) violation of equal protection, due process and freedom of expression pursuant to Title VI and Section 1983 as against Defendant Burnett, Defendant Crawford, Defendant Bacon, Defendant Baines, Defendant Baker, Defendant Kareem and Defendant Barry White.

Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

DISCUSSION

I. Applicable Law and Legal Standards

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is only appropriate where admissible evidence in the form of affidavits, deposition transcripts, or other documentation demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and one party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Major League Baseball Props., Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 309 (2d Cir. 2008); Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994). The relevant governing law in each case determines which facts are material; "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); see SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009); Coppola v. Bear Stearns & Co., 499 F.3d 144, 148 (2d Cir. 2007). No genuinely triable factual issue exists when the moving party demonstrates, on the basis of the pleadings and submitted evidence, and after drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in favor of the non-movant, that no rational jury could find in the non-movant's favor. See SCR Joint Venture, 559 F.3d at 137; Chertkova v. Conn. Gen'l Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 86 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

To defeat a summary judgment motion properly supported by affidavits, depositions, or other documentation, the non-movant must offer similar materials setting forth specific facts that show that there is a genuine issue of material fact to be tried. Rule v. Brine, Inc., 85 F.3d 1002, 1011 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-movant must present more than a "scintilla of evidence," Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), or "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Aslanidis v. U.S. Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), and cannot rely on the allegations in his or her pleadings, conclusory statements, or on "mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are not credible." Gottlieb v. County of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted). Affidavits submitted in opposition to summary judgment must be based on personal knowledge, must "set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence," and must show "'that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein'." Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 219 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "Rule 56(e)'s requirement that the affiant have personal knowledge and be competent to testify to the matters asserted in the affidavit also means that an affidavit's hearsay assertions that would not be admissible at trial if testified to by the affiant is insufficient to create a genuine issue for trial." Patterson, 375 F.3d at 219 (citing Sarno v. Douglas Elliman-Gibbons & Ives, Inc.,183 F.3d 155, 160 (2d Cir. 1999)).

The district court, in considering a summary judgment motion, must also be "mindful . . . of the underlying standards and burdens of proof," Pickett v. RTS Helicopter, 128 F.3d 925, 928 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), because the evidentiary burdens that the respective parties will bear at trial guide district courts in their determination of summary judgment motions. Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 211 (2d Cir. 1988). Where the non-moving party will bear the ultimate burden of proof on an issue at trial, the moving party's burden under Rule 56 will be satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-movant's claim. Id. at 210-11. Where a movant without the underlying burden of proof offers evidence that the non-movant has failed to establish her claim, the burden shifts to the non-movant to offer "persuasive evidence that [her] claim is not 'implausible.' " Brady, 863 F.2d at 211 (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587). In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must resolve all factual ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987).

Summary judgment is generally inappropriate where questions of the defendant's state of mind are at issue, Gelb v. Board of Elections of the City of New York, 224 F.3d 149, 157 (2d. Cir. 2000), and should thus be granted with caution in employment discrimination cases. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994); see Carlton v. Mystic Transp., Inc., 202 F.3d 129, 134 (2d Cir. 2000). Nonetheless,"summary judgment remains available to reject discrimination claims in cases lacking genuine issues of material fact." Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 40 (2d Cir. 1994). "The summary judgment rule would be rendered sterile . . . if the mere incantation of intent or state of mind would operate as a talisman to defeat an otherwise valid motion." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 1985). "[T]he salutary purposes of summary judgment - avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials - apply no less to discrimination cases than to commercial or other areas of litigation." Id. "When no rational jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, there is no genuine issue of material fact and a grant of summary judgment is proper." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224.

B. McDonnell-Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework

In an employment discrimination case such as this, where there is no direct evidence of discriminatory conduct, Plaintiff's discrimination claims brought under Section 1983, Title VII, Title VI and the New York State Executive Law are analyzed under the now familiar burden-shifting analysis set forth in McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04 (1973). See Demoret v. Zegarelli, 451 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2006) (Section 1983 claims), overruled on other grounds, Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 548 U.S. 53 (2006); Ragusa v. Malverne Union Free Sch. Dist., 582 F. Supp. 2d 326, 339 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (Title VII and Section 1983 claims); Solomon v. Uniondale Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 03-CV-2415 (SJF) (ETB), 2007 WL 608137, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2007) (Title VII, Title VI, Section 1983 and New York Executive Law). Under McDonnell-Douglas and its innumerable progeny, (1) a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination; (2) the burden then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions; if the employer does so, the McDonnell-Douglas framework and its presumptions and burdens disappear, leaving the sole remaining issue of "discrimination vel non;" and, thus, (3) the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove that the employer's stated reason is merely pretextual and that race discrimination was an actual reason for ...


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