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Williams v. City of Rochester

March 17, 2010

ALFADELLA WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF ROCHESTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Alfadella Williams ("plaintiff") brought this action alleging racial harassment, retaliation, and a hostile work environment against the City of Rochester ("defendant") for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, and the New York Human Rights ("NYHRL"). Specifically, plaintiff asserts that defendant assigned overtime in a discriminatory fashion, allowed another employee to set her own hours while denying this privilege to her, and required plaintiff to perform more work than other employees. Plaintiff claims these circumstances created a hostile work environment. Plaintiff also alleges retaliatory treatment by defendant after she filed her grievance regarding the alleged discrimination. Defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that there is no evidence of racial animus, hostile work environment, or retaliation. Because there is no genuine issue of material fact, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment it its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff began working for defendant in 1980. For the relevant period, plaintiff worked for defendant in a position entitled "Clerk II" in the Bureau of Accounting ("Accounting") in the Accounts Payable unit within the Department of Finance ("Finance"). Plaintiff's responsibilities included processing claim vouchers along with processing and filing unit contracts. Plaintiff would review an invoice and compare it to the contract in order to make sure vendors and contractors were charging defendant the agreed upon amount. This process required several other persons designated as "Clerk IIs" in Accounting. From 1999 to 2006, plaintiff worked along with Hazel Thompson ("Thompson") and Mabel Thayer ("Thayer") and their immediate supervisor was Randy Webb ("Webb"). Webb's title was that of Senior Accountant and he held a supervisory role over all of the Clerk IIs. While plaintiff acknowledges that she was unsure of Webb's complete duties, during his absence, plaintiff would perform certain duties that normally were performed by Webb such as contracts for construction and personal services. Webb was supervised by Assistant Director of Accounting James Hafner ("Hafner") and Director of Accounting James Barclay ("Barclay"). Vincent Carfagna ("Carfagna") served as the Director of Finance for the relevant periods to this litigation. In late 2006, Raymond Gosswirth ("Gosswirth") replaced Webb as plaintiff's supervisor. Thayer and Thompson eventually left and were replaced by Elizabeth Rivera ("Rivera") and Debbie Brongo ("Brongo") as Clerk IIs. Hafner has since been replaced by Assistant Director Havens.

Plaintiff, a union member, filed a grievance in February 2006 alleging that Webb manipulated responsibilities in Accounting in order to give himself overtime instead of equally distributing it to other Clerk IIs. Plaintiff alleged that Webb would deliberately take clerical work for himself and complete it after 5 p.m. thereby allowing him to collect overtime. Hafner, as Webb's direct supervisor, authorized this overtime by signing Webb's time sheet. At a meeting regarding this grievance, plaintiff admitted that some of the overtime work performed by Webb consisted of duties not assigned to her. Plaintiff's union withdrew the grievance.

In addition, plaintiff who is African-American, maintains that Webb discriminatorily withheld overtime on the basis of plaintiff's race. It should be noted that Thompson, one of the other Clerk IIs, is also African American. Thayer and Brongo, the other Clerk IIs, are Caucasian and Rivera, the remaining Clerk II is Hispanic. Further, none of the other Clerk IIs regularly received or were offered overtime during the relevant period. Plaintiff also maintains that Webb and others singled her out for disparate treatment by requiring her to "cross train" for other duties, including Webb's. This "cross training" was not a formal aspect of plaintiff's job. Rather it appears that in 2005 and 2006 two Clerk IIs (Thompson and Thayer) retired, causing an increased workload for plaintiff. Webb began training the two new hires, Brongo and Rivera to bring them up to speed, while plaintiff had to keep up with increased responsibility since she was the most experienced Clerk II at that time. Plaintiff further alleges that she was required to take the workload of absent employees while her workload accumulated. In addition, plaintiff alleges that Rivera, who is Hispanic, was allowed to work a flexible schedule. Plaintiff also alleges that other non-African-American employees were allowed to use the internet excessively without punishment. All of the above allegedly created a hostile work environment and subjected plaintiff to racial harassment.

After plaintiff filed her first grievance, Webb stopped greeting plaintiff in the morning. He purposely wore headphones at his desk in order to shut out plaintiff. Webb, upon returning from a vacation and at Christmas, gave gifts to all the clerks except plaintiff. Plaintiff filed a second grievance in July 2006 based on Webb's actions. In this grievance, plaintiff asserted that the basis of Webb's actions was racial discrimination. Director of Accounting Barclay responded in a memorandum to Director Carfagna that Webb has no history of racially discriminatory behavior. Further, Barclay explained that plaintiff's workload primarily consists of low-priority work that can accumulate for a few days without causing a problem. Barclay discussed how Webb accommodated Rivera's child-care needs by allowing her a flexible schedule. Barclay noted this practice violated the union contract and Webb was notified to stop. Finally, Director Barclay explained how Webb was training two new clerks.

Plaintiff's first grievance details several meetings and discussions regarding the overtime issue. After her first grievance, Hafner offered to have Louis Cotraccia ("Cotraccia"), a Senior Accountant, help plaintiff with her workload. Cortraccia helped plaintiff several times with her increased workload. Plaintiff discussed with Hafner that her complaint was not that she had too much work, but rather that Webb manipulated the system to enrich himself. Hafner responded that he needed time to address the issue. The next week plaintiff had a meeting with Director Carfagna and he indicated his awareness of plaintiff's complaint. Carfagna informed plaintiff that he believed that overtime should be distributed equally and by seniority, but he also stated that Webb's slower pace of work could not by itself form the basis of a complaint. Further, Carfagna told Hafner to offer plaintiff and other Clerk IIs three hours of overtime for the remainder of the week. Notably, plaintiff rejected this offer, responding that she was "very capable of doing two functions at the same time and there would in all probability be no need for overtime." See Plaintiff's Ex. U, p. 7. Plaintiff alleges that she saw Webb continue to work past 5 p.m., collecting overtime.

Plaintiff currently holds the same position as a Clerk II in Accounting. Significantly, plaintiff has never been denied a salary increase and was never disciplined by Webb or her other supervisors. Plaintiff asserts claims against the defendant pursuant to § 1981, Title VII, and the New York State Human Rights Law for subjecting her to racial harassment, retaliation and creating a hostile work environment. Defendant moves for summary judgment, asserting that there is no genuine issue of material fact. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's summary judgment motion in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

I. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

A party is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Once the movant has " 'show[n]' " or "point[ed] out ... that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-movant['s] case," the burden shifts to the non-movant. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325-27 (1986). To discharge this burden, "a plaintiff must come forward with evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find in his favor" on each of the elements of his prima facie case. See Lizardo v. Denny's, Inc., 270 F.3d 94, 101 (2d Cir.2001).

The court must draw all factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought and view the factual assertions in materials such as affidavits, exhibits, and depositions in the light most favorable to the non-movant. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. However, a non-movant benefits from such factual inferences "only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007). The law is well established that "conclusory statements, conjecture, or speculation" are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Kulak v. City of New York, 88 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir.1996). The non-movant cannot survive summary judgment simply by proffering "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), or presenting evidence that "is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative." See Savino v. City of New York, 331 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir.2003) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, (citation omitted)). Rather, he must "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue ...


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