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Pellegrini v. Sovereign Hotels

September 15, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Candy Pellegrini commenced this action against defendants Sovereign Hotels, Inc., Mary Koroso, John Laurin, and Matthew Hamzaoui under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964*fn1 and New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL),*fn2 alleging employment-related gender discrimination and unlawful retaliation. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending is defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 26.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. Background

A. Factual History

On March 26, 2007, plaintiff Candy Pellegrini began her employment as a front desk clerk for defendant Sovereign Hotels, Inc., then doing business as the Best Western Hotel in Albany, New York. (See Defs. SMF ¶¶ 2, 10, Dkt. No. 26:20.) Upon her own request, Pellegrini generally worked the "A" shift on weekdays between 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (See id. at ¶¶ 8, 10.) Her duties included checking hotel guests in and out, taking reservations, and answering phones. (See id. at ¶ 9.) Due to her mother's illness, Pellegrini regularly took time off and frequently could not work her schedule, leaving Sovereign to find someone to work in her place. (See id. at ¶¶ 11, 13-15.) While her mother passed away on June 25, 2007, Pellegrini's scheduling irregularity continued. (See id. at ¶ 19.)

In June 2007, Sovereign hired Joshua Parkhurst to work in the food-service department. (See Pl. Resp. SMF ¶ 18, Dkt. No. 30.) Shortly thereafter, on July 16, Parkhurst began working for Sovereign as a front desk clerk on the "B" shift. (See Defs. SMF ¶ 22, Dkt. No. 26:20.) While the "A" shift technically ended where the "B" shift began, (see id. at ¶ 25), in practice, Pellegrini and Parkhurst's shifts would regularly overlap by anywhere from five minutes to an hour. (See Pl. Resp. SMF ¶¶ 53, 112, Dkt. No. 30.)

According to Pellegrini, within days of Parkhurst's start as a front desk clerk, he began a campaign of aggressive sexual harassment and threatening behavior against her. Specifically, during his first week, Parkhurst told Pellegrini she had a "nice ass," groped her rear end, called her a "bitch" when she rebuked him, stated that he wanted to "fuck" her, grabbed her by the arm and forcibly kissed her on the lips, and subjected her to other inappropriate comments. (See id. at ¶¶ 31-33, 36, 113.) In addition, over the same period of time, Parkhurst repeatedly telephoned Pellegrini outside of work, saying similar things. (See id. at ¶¶ 31-33, 114.) In response, Pellegrini complained about Parkhurst's conduct to her managers, including defendants Mary Koroso, Matthew Hamzaoui, and John Laurin. (See id. at ¶¶ 32-33, 113-15; but see Defs. SMF ¶ 36, Dkt. No. 26:20 (stating that Pellegrini did not complain that the conduct was sexual in nature).) While the parties dispute whether Pellegrini was made aware of Sovereign's harassment reporting policy, it seems that Pellegrini acted in compliance with Sovereign's policy. (Compare Defs. SMF ¶¶ 34-37, Dkt. No. 26:20, with Pl. Resp. SMF ¶¶ 34-35, Dkt. No. 30.) According to defendants, Koroso subsequently met with Parkhurst and told him to cease calling Pellegrini, which Parkhurst denied doing. (See Defs. SMF ¶ 38, Dkt. No. 38.) And after Pellegrini complained to Koroso a second time, the calls stopped. (See id. at ¶ 40.)

During a subsequent encounter between Pellegrini and Parkhurst, Parkhurst approached Pellegrini, grabbed her by the arm, and kissed her. (See id. at ¶ 46.) Again, after Pellegrini's rebuke, Parkhurst said "how do you like that bitch." (See id.) While defendants point out that Pellegrini did not report this incident immediately after it occurred, (see id. at ¶ 48), Pellegrini asserts that she spoke to both Koroso and Laurin within days of its occurrence, (see Pl. Resp. SMF ¶¶ 47-48, Dkt. No. 30).

On July 28, 2007, while Pellegrini and Parkhurst were working a banquet as servers, Parkhurst allegedly groped Pellegrini's breasts and said "nice tits." (See id. at ¶ 116.) The same night, after seeing Pellegrini talking with another male employee, Parkhurst grabbed Pellegrini by the arm, forcibly kissed her on the lips, and said "how do you like that?" (See id.) When Pellegrini demanded to be let go, Parkhurst told her to "watch [her] step" or someone will "get hurt." (Id.) Pellegrini reported this incident to Koroso on her next shift. (See id.) On August 12, after Pellegrini received flowers from a guest at a wedding banquet the previous night, Parkhurst allegedly punched a wall and a chair, grabbed Pellegrini by the back of the neck, kissed her, and told her that she "belongs" to him. (See id. at ¶¶ 108, 117.)

On August 22, 2007, upon Koroso's request, Pellegrini worked the "B" shift with Parkhurst. (See Defs. SMF ¶ 51, Dkt. No. 26:20.) During that shift, Pellegrini's boyfriend called the hotel phone twice, but Parkhurst answered the phone both times. After the two calls, Parkhurst told Pellegrini that he did not want her receiving personal phone calls from men, that she was not supposed to receive personal phone calls from her boyfriend, and that she was "going to pay for that phone call." (See id. at ¶¶ 54-60.) Later in the shift, while in the computer room, Parkhurst allegedly grabbed Pellegrini by the arm, kissed her, and said "how do you like that bitch," to which Pellegrini called him a "pervert" and told him to stay away from her. (See id. at ¶¶ 61-63.) Parkhurst then followed her into the office and kicked the back of the chair Pellegrini was sitting in. (See id. at ¶ 64.) After a third call from Pellegrini's boyfriend, Parkhurst threatened to do physical harm to Pellegrini and her boyfriend. (See id. at ¶ 70.) The same night, Pellegrini went to Hamzaoui, the manager on duty, and told him about the threats she received from Parkhurst. (See id.) After speaking with Parkhurst, who denied everything, Hamzaoui called Koroso. (See id. at ¶ 71.) Koroso told Hamzaoui to get a written statement from Pellegrini, which he did. (See id. at ¶¶ 71-76.) In her statement, Pellegrini detailed these events as well as several other prior incidents, including one in the hotel's pool room where Parkhurst made inappropriate comments, threatened Pellegrini, and told her that he had been to jail before and was not afraid to go back. (See id. at ¶¶ 77-81; see also Pl. Resp. SMF ¶¶ 78- 81, Dkt. No. 30.) After one of these incidents, Pellegrini also allegedly reported Parkhurst's conduct to Laurin. (See Pl. Resp. SMF ¶ 83, Dkt. No. 30.)

The next day, August 23, Pellegrini informed Koroso about the prior day's events, and asked Koroso if she could end her shifts before Parkhurst arrived to work. (See id. at ¶ 85.) While Koroso said she would accommodate Pellegrini's request after she returned from vacation, Koroso's vacation was not set to begin until September 7. (See Defs. SMF ¶ 86, Dkt. No. 26:20.)

Defendants allege that Koroso spoke with Parkhurst about the August 22 events and that Parkhurst denied any wrongdoing and blamed Pellegrini's boyfriend's calls for interfering with work. (See id. at ¶¶ 87-88.) And according to defendants, after this lone conversation, "Koroso assumed the situation between Pellegrini and Parkhurst was resolved." (Id. at ¶ 89; see also Bratten Aff., Pl. Ex. 7, Koroso Dep. at 48-54, Dkt. No 32:7.)

On September 7, 2007, Sovereign terminated Pellegrini's employment allegedly due to her scheduling conflicts and attendance problems. (See Defs. SMF ¶¶ 91-104, Dkt. No. 26:20.) Parkhurst was later fired, reportedly based on a complaint Pellegrini made after her termination to the hotel's General Manager, Suparmanto. (See Pl. Resp. SMF ¶ 123, Dkt. No. 30; see also ...

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