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Diaz v. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

November 19, 2009

SANDRA DIAZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert L. Carter, District Judge

OPINION

Sandra Diaz commenced this action against Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center ("Center") on September 26, 2006, alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the New York Executive Law § 296, and the Administrative Code of the City of New York § 8-101 et. seq. The Center now moves for summary judgment on all of Diaz's claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Center's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

On April 19, 2004, the Center hired Diaz as Regional Administrative Manager at its Westchester regional care facility in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Diaz was responsible for overseeing and facilitating the administrative operations of the entire facility. She also had certain responsibilities with respect to the facility's chemotherapy practice. Specifically, she was responsible for, among other things, managing the chemotherapy patient schedule, a task that required her constant attention to ensure that appointments were properly managed, and to avoid cancellations and long wait times.

Diaz worked under the supervision of Joe Loiacono from April until December 2004. Prior to his resignation Loiacono completed Diaz's only performance evaluation, giving her an overall rating of "Meets Expections," which corresponded to a numerical rating of 3 on a scale of 5.

When Loiacono resigned Diaz fell under the supervision of Abraham Lopman, the Executive Director of the Regional Care Network. Lopman found that Diaz had difficulty managing the chemotherapy schedule. Specifically, he found that she had problems correctly entering physician schedules, which resulted in having to cancel or reschedule appointments; problems managing appointment slots, which forced patients to delay their chemotherapy treatments; and problems ensuring that patients were scheduled to see their regular physician. Lopman also observed a lack of communication between Diaz, the physicians and the nurses, as well as an overall lack of leadership on the part of Diaz.

Lopman asked Thomas Palatucci, an Administrator at the Center, to offer Diaz on site support a few days every week. Lopman asked him to help Diaz learn to better manage the chemotherapy patient schedule and the telephone system. Palatucci worked with Diaz from March 2005 until September 2005. Nonetheless, Lopman found that Diaz failed to demonstrate that she could consistently perform her responsibilities at an acceptable level. He terminated her on September 27, 2005.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the parties' submissions demonstrate "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to 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). In evaluating a summary judgment motion, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 255. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once such a showing is made, the opposing party must present "specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). However, the nonmoving party "may not rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation." Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998).

It is often difficult to apply summary judgment analysis in employment discrimination cases because they necessarily turn on the intent of the alleged discriminator, and plaintiffs will rarely uncover direct evidence of discriminatory intent. Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F.2d 460, 464-65 (2d Cir. 1989). Nonetheless, a plaintiff must produce some evidence from which a reasonable inference of discrimination can be drawn. McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 1997). For a plaintiff to survive a motion for summary judgment in a discrimination case, "she must offer 'concrete particulars' to substantiate her claim." Duprey v. Prudential Insur, Co. of America, 910 F.Supp. 879, 883 (N.D.N.Y. 1996) (citing Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir. 1985)).

II. Discrimination Claims

Title VII prohibits an employer from discharging any individual "with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-2 (a)(1). In McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), the Supreme Court set forth the burden shifting framework under which Title VII and section 1981 discrimination claims are analyzed. Plaintiff has the initial burden of proving a prima facie case of discrimination. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. To do so, Plaintiff must demonstrate that she is a member of a protected class; she satisfactorily performed the duties of her position; she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and the adverse action occurred in circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. Id. If Plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to Defendant to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for her termination. Id. at 802. If Defendant succeeds on its burden, the presumption of ...


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