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Patrick Flint v. Tucker Printers

January 7, 2011

PATRICK FLINT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TUCKER PRINTERS, INC., A DIVISIONS OF CONSOLIDATED GRAPHICS, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Patrick Flint ("Flint" or "Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000 et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., alleging retaliation for engaging in a protected activity and employment discrimination on the basis of his age by his former employer, Tucker Printers, Inc. ("Tucker" or "Defendant"). See Compl. at 1. Specifically, Flint alleges that he was terminated from his position as a production manager at Tucker following a complaint he made to management and that his duties as production manager were subsequently assumed by younger individuals. See Compl. at 3-6.

Defendant denies Plaintiff's allegations and moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56") on the grounds that Plaintiff has not stated a prima facie case for retaliation or age discrimination. See Def. Mem. of Law at 7, 18. Tucker contends that Plaintiff did not engage in a protected activity under Title VII, there is no causal relationship between Plaintiff's complaint to management and his subsequent termination, and that Tucker had a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for terminating his employment. Further, Tucker contends that Flint's position as production manager was assumed by an individual three years older than Flint. Flint opposes Defendant's motion for summary judgment, arguing that there are genuine issues of material fact. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Flint was born on January 1, 1962 and began working for Tucker, a commercial printing business located in Henrietta, New York, in 1985 as a feeder/tender. See Pl. Resp. to Def. Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter "Responding Statement") at 1. Flint became lead pressman in 1987 and continued in that position until September 2007, when he was promoted to production manager. Id. at 2-3. Flint was promoted because of his tenure with the company and his skill and knowledge of the press machines. See Reynolds Aff. at 2. As production manager, Flint was responsible for the production of print jobs and overseeing the bindery, shipping and receiving departments and he reported directly to Craig Reynolds, President of Tucker ("Reynolds"). See Responding Statement at 2-3. It is uncontested that Flint's duties included "ensuring the most efficient utilization of equipment, managing delivery priorities, quality control, inventory control, keeping relevant personnel informed of the status and progress of print jobs, directing plant personnel in their assigned roles to ensure the accomplishment of production objectives, and assuring the proper maintenance of manufacturing machinery." Id. at 3; See also Reynolds Aff. at 2.

Following his promotion to production manager, Reynolds testified that he began to notice deficiencies in the areas for which Plaintiff was responsible. See Reynolds Aff. at 2. For example, Reynolds stated in his affidavit that he held a managers meeting on December 18, 2007, at which he noted quality control issues, inventory problems, shipping errors, inefficient work flow, poor production performance and high temporary labor costs. Id. at 2-3. Additionally, Reynolds stated that Plaintiff used profanity during an earlier meeting held by the Plaintiff with the employees under his supervision. Id. at 3; See also Responding Statement at 5-6. Reynolds testified that he advised Plaintiff to refrain from speaking to his subordinates in such a manner. See Reynold's Aff. at 3. According to Reynolds, Plaintiff's performance did not improve and on February 13, 2008 he met with Plaintiff to discuss several areas of concern, including, inter alia, the tardiness of Plaintiff's employees, temporary labor costs and press production problems. Id. at 3-4.

Later, in March 2003, another employee reported to Reynolds that Plaintiff yelled at the him and used profanity. Id. at 4. On this occasion, the employee complained that Plaintiff had cursed at him and, when he requested time off to determine whether he wanted to continue working "in such an abusive environment," Plaintiff responded, "You want to go? Go fucking now!" See Responding Statement at 10; See also Pl. Dep. at 71. Thereafter, on March 11, 2008, Plaintiff was terminated by Reynolds.

Plaintiff concedes that he used profanity, but he contends that his performance was exemplary throughout his tenure at Tucker. See Responding Statement at 6-8. He further claims that Reynolds did not inform him that his job performance or his use of profanity in the workplace were unacceptable. Id. Plaintiff offers the affidavit of a fellow employee, James Backus, who states that he believed Plaintiff was doing a good job, and that he does not remember Reynolds blaming Plaintiff personally for the issues presented in the December 2007 meeting, which Backus attended. See Backus Aff. at 1-2. Further, Backus states that the use of profanity was commonplace at Tucker. Id.

Prior to Plaintiff's termination, Plaintiff had dispute with Don Moroni, Tucker's customer service manager ("Moroni"). To document this dispute, Plaintiff sent an internal memorandum to Reynolds, Steve Wallenbach (Group Vice President for Tucker's parent company, Consolidated Graphics, Inc.,) and Kathleen Anglin (Vice President of Compensation and Benefits at Consolidated Graphics). See Reynolds Aff. at 5; Pl. Dep. at 102-4. The memorandum states, "[t]his is to serve as documentation to a formal complaint that I am now filing for deformation [sic] of character and harassment against Don Moroni." Pl. Dep. at 104. Plaintiff testified that the complaint related to an incident whereby Don Moroni asked a female employee, Jennifer Bodine, whether she felt Plaintiff was harassing her, after Moroni witnessed Plaintiff touching Ms. Bodine's hair at work. Id. at 106-9. Ms. Bodine denied that Plaintiff harassed her at work. Id. Plaintiff states in the memorandum, "Don Moroni has made false accusations towards me and has put my reputation at risk." Id. at 110.

Plaintiff testified that he had been "harassed" by Moroni, but that he was not discriminated against because of his gender and he was not the subject of sexual harassment at work. Id. at 114-115. Plaintiff admits in his Responding Statement that this internal memorandum "does not allege that Moroni took any action against the Plaintiff because of his sex, nor does it allege any facts that can be construed as a complaint opposing alleged unlawful discrimination under Title VII or the NYSHRL." See Responding Statement at 18.

Tucker determined that Plaintiff did not violate the internal sexual harassment policy, and Reynolds suggested to Moroni that he apologize to Plaintiff. See Reynolds Aff. at 5. Moroni later apologized, but Plaintiff demanded a written apology and sent a follow up letter to Michael Barton (Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Consolidated Graphics, Inc.) demanding the same. Id. Tucker and its parent company determined that a written apology was not necessary, and the investigation into the complaint was closed in late February 2008. Id.

Following Plaintiff's termination, Craig Brothers assumed Plaintiff's position as production manager. Id. at 6. Craig Brothers is approximately three years older than Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff contends that some of his former duties were assigned to a younger individual, Tina Hui, however Ms. Hui was a management trainee who merely rotated through Tucker's shipping and press departments. See Hui Aff. at 2-3. Ms. Hui did not assume Plaintiff's responsibilities. Id.

Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against Tucker with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on March 24, 2008. The EEOC issued Plaintiff a ...


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