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Caronia v. Chevrolet

December 29, 2009

JOSEPHINE CARONIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT CHEVROLET WEST, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET WEST INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND CHARLES CHALOM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITIES AS OWNER AND/OR AGENT OF HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT CHEVROLET WEST, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET WEST, INC.,HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, AND HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., THOMAS JONES, JONES & LITTLE, CPA'S, P.C. AND JOHN DOES 1-20 DEFENDANTS.
KEVIN PRATT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND CHARLES CHALOM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITIES AS OWNER AND/OR AGENT OF HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, AND HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND JOHN DOES 1-20 DEFENDANTS.
FRANK VENTIMIGLIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND CHARLES CHALOM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITIES AS OWNER AND/OR AGENT OF HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, AND HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND JOHN DOES 1-20 DEFENDANTS.
PAUL WEISS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND CHARLES CHALOM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITIES AS OWNER AND/OR AGENT OF HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, HUSTEDT CHEVROLET, INC., HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, AND HUSTEDT HYUNDAI, INC., AND JOHN DOES 1-20 DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

In each of the above-captioned actions, a former employee of Defendants Hustedt Chevrolet, Hustedt Chevrolet Inc. ("Chevrolet Inc."), Hustedt Chevrolet West Inc. ("West Inc.") and/or Hustedt Hyundai, Inc. ("Hyundai Inc.") (collectively "Dealership Defendants") is seeking redress for the alleged discriminatory and retaliatory practices of Defendant Charles Chalom ("Chalom"),*fn1 owner of Dealership Defendants, and hostile work environment created by him. Presently before the Court are motions by each of the plaintiffs, Josephine Caronia ("Caronia"), Kevin Pratt ("Pratt"), Frank Ventimiglia ("Ventimiglia") and Paul Weiss ("Weiss") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), to consolidate these actions for purposes of trial. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are granted.

Background

In order to place the current motion to consolidate in context, a brief description of the four actions and their factual underpinnings is in order. These descriptions are taken from the Court's Memoranda and Orders on the motions for summary judgment made in each of the respective actions.*fn2

Dealership Defendants are engaged in the sale and lease of cars and trucks. Chalom owns 100% of the stock of Chevrolet Inc. and Hyundai Inc. He has the final decision-making authority for the Dealership Defendants and supervised their employees, including Caronia, Pratt, Ventimiglia, and Weiss.

I. Caronia

Caronia worked at Dealership Defendants at least since 1995 and remained employed until February 8, 2005. She held the position of office manager/controller.

Caronia and Chalom had a personal relationship that ended in or about the year 2000. Chalom paid her home mortgage and apartment rental fee from 1995 through January 2005. According to Caronia, from the day she told Chalom that their relationship was over until the day she left her job, Chalom sexually harassed her. She claims that the course of conduct includes the following: "Chalom would call [Caronia] into his office and would say that she was ruining his sex life. Chalom would say she was holding his dick hostage. Chalom would call Caronia cold and a bitch. If Caronia walked out of the office he would say get out and stay out to her. If she was standing at one of the desks, he would rub up against her. Chalom would say to Caronia in front of the office staff that she was provoking him with her tits and her ass and that his anger was her fault. This continued almost every day for five years." (Caronia's Resp. to Def.s' 56.1 Statement at ¶ 61 (citing Caronia Dep. at 70-71.) Caronia also asserts that there were constant incidents of Chalom rubbing her and touching her, and the more she objected the more he kept doing these things.

In her complaint, Caronia asserted claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the New York Executive Law § 296 for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, disability discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation. She also asserted common law causes of action. As a result of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, what remains for trial are her federal and state law claims for sexual harassment and hostile work environment and her claims for assault and battery occurring on or after July 27, 2004.

II. Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia was employed by Chevrolet Inc. as the general sales manager from approximately May 2004 to October 4, 2004. In his complaint, Ventimiglia asserted the following claims under Title VII and the New York Executive Law § 296: (1) hostile work environment based on his national origin, Italian; (2) hostile work environment based sex; (3) hostile work environment based on race; and (4) retaliation for opposing Chalom's sexual harassment of Caronia. In addition, Ventimiglia asserts common law tort claims, including one for defamation. As a result of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the claims for defamation claim and hostile work environment claim based on race were dismissed. What remain are the claims for hostile work environment based on national origin and sex and the retaliation claim.

Ventimiglia's claim for hostile work environment based on sex may be summarized as follows. Chalom was obsessed with Caronia and continually demanded she engage in a relationship with him. Caronia refused these requests and when she did so, Chalom did not react well. For example, he accused her of having sex with other men at the dealership including Ventimiglia. He would accuse and interrogate Ventimiglia about having a sexual relationship with Caronia. Despite Ventimiglia's denials, Chalom's accusations did not stop. Rather, Ventimiglia was placed in the middle of Chalom's harassment of Caronia by Chalom's constantly accusing Ventimiglia of having an affair with her and forcing him to defend himself against these accusations. Ventimiglia also witnessed Chalom calling Caronia offensive names like whore, making lecherous remarks about her body, and actually grabbing her and touching various areas of her body while she struggled to get free. According to Ventimiglia, Chalom's remarks were not limited to Caronia; he made lecherous and inappropriate remarks about other female employees, as well as Plaintiff's wife and women who came into the dealership.

In support of his retaliation claim, Ventimiglia avers that he told Chalom that his remarks, accusations and behaviors were offensive. He maintains that in 2004 he spoke to Chalom about his treatment of Caronia more than a dozen times and that his position was taken away as ...


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