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Mazzone-Trani v. Donohue Cecere Funeral Home

August 13, 2010


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


Plaintiff Dawn Mazzone-Trani*fn1 filed suit against Defendants, asserting gender discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law. Ms. Trani also asserted a New York Labor Law claim for failure to pay proper compensation. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the foregoing reasons, that motion is GRANTED.


Ms. Trani is a thirty eight year old female. Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 60. She holds an Associate's Degree in applied science from Nassau Community College, and is one semester shy of obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1; Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 61.

In 1996, while still in school, Ms. Trani began working in the funeral services industry. Def. 56.1 Stmt ¶ 2. Beginning in 1997, and continuing through February 2006, she worked as a Funeral Director at Defendant Donohue Cecere Funeral Home ("Cecere Home"), which Defendant Carriage Services, Inc. ("Carriage") has owned since 1998. Id. ¶ 5.

Toward the end of 2005, Ms. Trani discovered that the Cecere Home's incumbent manager had misappropriated funds. Pl. Dep. Tr. at 232. She reported this misconduct, along with other irregularities, to Mel Payne, Carriage's Chief Executive Officer. Id. Ms. Trani's information led to Carriage investigating the incumbent manager and, in February 2006, discharging him. See Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17. Carriage then asked Ms. Trani to manage the Cecere Home's day-to-day operations until they hired a permanent manager. Id. ¶ 18. But, although offering Ms. Trani these responsibilities, Carriage Regional Manager Larry Corey initially refused to give her the title of interim manager. Instead, Mr. Corey wanted to name Michael Cecere, Jr. as interim manager in "name only," while giving her all the managerial responsibilities. Pl. Dep. Tr. at 370. Mr. Corey claimed that this would save paperwork, because Mr. Cecere was already registered with New York State. Id. at 371. Ms. Trani then called Mr. Payne and demanded to be named interim manager. Id. at 413-414. Later that day, Dan Stevens, a Carriage "corporate project consultant," contacted her, apologized for the situation not being "handled properly," and told her that, since she is "doing the work, that they are going to submit [her] name to the state," and appointed her interim manager. Id. at 414-415; Def. Stmt. ¶ 21.

Ms. Trani accepted the assignment and served as Cecere Home's interim manager from February 2006 until June 22, 2006. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6. In this capacity, she managed the Cecere Home's day-to-day operations, including supervising employees and staff. Id. ¶ 20. In appreciation of her efforts as interim manager, Carriage paid her a $2,000 bonus in April 2006. Id. ¶ 22.

Sometime in March, Carriage informed Ms. Trani that she would have to apply and interview for the permanent position, just like any other candidate. Pl. Dep. Tr. at 428. Ms. Trani had a "feeling" this would be the case, and was not surprised. Id. In the Spring of 2006, Carriage posted a job opening for a permanent manager, which carried the title "Managing Partner." Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 23. Mr. Stevens told Ms. Trani to apply for this position, and she did so. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Robert Sommese, the Operations Manager at another funeral home, also applied. Id. ¶¶ 15, 26. Carriage interviewed both of them, and another candidate named Ginny Sanzo. Id. ¶¶ 27, 28; Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 27.

As part of the application process, Ms. Trani took two tests, including a Caliper Profile test. Pl. Dep. Tr. at 559-561. Ms. Trani also interviewed with Mr. Stevens, and with Mr. Corey. Id. 565. Her interview with Mr. Stevens lasted about ten or fifteen minutes. Id. at 567. Her interview with Mr. Corey lasted about a half hour. Id. Mr. Corey asked roughly half personal questions, and half business questions. Id. at 569. Among other things, he asked Ms. Trani questions about her parents, her daughter, and her husband. Id.

Mr. Sommese apparently received greater consideration during the application process. He met with Mr. Stevens, Mr. Corey, another Carriage official named Catherine Kelly. Mr. Stevens, Mr. Corey and Ms. Kelly documented their interviews with Mr. Sommese as memoranda. There is no evidence, however, indicating that Mr. Stevens or Mr. Corey similarly documented their interviews with Ms. Trani. Finally, Ms. Trani also claims that Mr. Sommese and his wife were taken out to dinner.

Carriage ultimately selected Mr. Sommese for the Managing Partner position. Mr. Stevens told her that she did not get the position because she lacked "natural leadership abilities," and needed more training "to run the funeral home." Pl. Dep. Tr. at 577.

Though not promoting her to Managing Partner, Carriage did offer Ms. Trani a raise and the Assistant Manager position. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30. Due to the promotion, Ms. Trani's base pay increased from $59,000 to $75,000. Pl. Dep. Tr. at 590. In addition, Carriage told her that, as Assistant Manager, she would have managerial responsibilities, including with respect to scheduling, community relations, and business goals. Id. ¶ 31. Ms. Trani accepted, and served as Assistant Manager from June 23, 2006 until August 18, 2006. Id. ¶ 7; Bates No. 000370.

Ms. Trani did not have a good working experience as Assistant Manager. Although she did not have "arguments" with Mr. Sommese, she did have differences of opinion with him. Pl. Dep. Tr. at 592. Mr. Sommese criticized certain aspects of her job performance, including the time she took to embalm bodies. Id. at 594-95. Specifically, Mr. Sommese thought Ms. Trani paid too much attention to detail, and told her that "the appearance of the bodies [was] not that important." Id. at 595. Mr. Sommese also criticized Ms. Trani for her choice of clothing. Id. at 593. Mr. Sommese told her to wear skirts and heels, and thought she wore inappropriate colors. Id. at 596. Mr. Sommese instructed her to dress only in black, gray, or charcoal, instead of the white or light gray she sometimes favored. Id. at 596-97. On one occasion, for instance, Ms. Trani wore a white shirt with a "sandy beige jacket." Id. at 606. Mr. Sommese criticized her for this outfit. Id. at 606-607; DOO68.

In addition, Mr. Sommese criticized her diet. Id. at 597. He "referred to a study that women weren't taken seriously if they were over a certain size," recommended several diets, and told her to start exercising more. Id. at 597. During her deposition, Ms. Trani said that her weight was a "hard topic to discuss," and that Mr. Sommese's frequent comments weren't "necessary." Id. ...

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