Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Christopher Russomanno v. Elizabeth Murphy

February 16, 2011

CHRISTOPHER RUSSOMANNO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, DEFENDANT. CHRISTOPHER RUSSOMANNO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CLAUDE STEPHAN, AND ORDER DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff pro se Christopher Russomanno ("Russomanno") commenced the above-captioned actions in New York Supreme Court, County of New York on September 2, 2009, alleging discrimination based on his national origin*fn1 and retaliation against him by his supervisor at his former workplace, Natixis Capital Markets, Inc. ("Natixis"). On April 30, 2010, defendants filed motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, to consolidate the above-captioned Murphy and Stephan actions. Out of an abundance of caution, the Court converted the motions to motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether Russomanno's claims were barred by a letter agreement and general release he signed. For the reasons that follow, the converted motions are GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of these motions, the following facts are taken as true.

Plaintiff began his employment at Natixis on November 13, 2006. ("Events Timeline" attached to Stephan Complaint ("Timeline") at 1.) The complaint alleges that over the next two years, defendant Claude Stephan ("Stephan"), Russomanno's supervisor, engaged in various acts of harassment against Russomanno. For example, it alleges that Stephan used a "threatening and intimidating tone" in asking Russomanno why he left work at 5 p.m., publicly berated him for failing to access inaccessible information, made "inappropriate comments" about the way Russomanno sat during meetings, "scream[ed] and yell[ed] and move[d] toward [plaintiff] in a physically threatening manner" for his failure to have a written agenda for a meeting, and "[i]n a threatening manner" told Russommanno to resign when he complained about unreasonable workload expectations. (Timeline at 1-2.) The complaint also alleges that Stephan, a French citizen, made several comments biased against Americans, remarking that Russomanno "and Americans in general are financially illiterate for leasing cars" and making jokes about "the weight, appearance and intelligence of American managers." (See Timeline at 2, 4; Murphy Compl. ¶ 3.)

Beginning in 2008, Russomanno sought to transfer to another department, but was denied on the grounds that no internal transfers within Natixis were allowed. (See Timeline at 2.) In July 2008, Russomanno complained to Natixis's Human Resources department about Stephan's "harassing and discriminatory behavior." (Id. at 2.) On August 4, 2008, Stephan sent Russomanno a letter advising him that if his work performance did not improve, his job would be in jeopardy and also sent an e-mail to Human Resources requiring Russomanno to provide a doctor's note for any sick days he took in the future, allegedly in retaliation for Russomanno's complaint to Human Resources. (See id. at 2-3.)

Russomanno met with the head of the Human Resources department, defendant Elizabeth Murphy ("Murphy") in December 2008, and complained about Stephan's discriminatory comments. (Murphy Compl. ¶ 3.) Murphy informed him that he would be allowed to transfer to a new department if Natixis and Russomanno could reach a mutual agreement. (Timeline at 4.) Russomanno indicated he would not accept a transfer to the Surveillance or Operations departments, but nevertheless was given opportunities to interview in only those departments. (Id.) Eventually, Russomanno was terminated from the company, but managed to negotiate Natixis's original offer of four months' severance pay up to six months' worth. (Id. at 5-6.) Russomanno accepted the company's offer and his employment was terminated, effective February 27, 2009. (Id. at 6.)

The conditions of Russomanno's departure from the company were memorialized in a March 10, 2009 letter agreement and general release (the "Agreement") that Russomanno executed on March 13, 2009. (See Friedfel Decl. Ex. 2.)*fn2 Among other things, the Agreement contained language indicating that Russomanno was releasing any claims he had against Natixis, and provided:

In consideration of the payments and benefits provided under this Agreement, you forever waive and release the Company [Natixis] (and any of its or their parent corporations, successors, subsidiaries, divisions, affiliates directors, officers, agents, and employees), from any and all claims, demands, causes of action, fees and liabilities of any kind whatsoever, whether known or unknown, by reason of any actual or alleged act, omission, transaction, practice, conduct, statement, occurrence, or other matter up to and including the date you sign this Agreement.

This includes, but is not limited to: (i) any claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, all as amended; (ii) any claim under the New York State Human Rights Law or the New York City Administrative Code; (iii) any other claim (whether based on federal, state or local law, statutory or decisional) relating to or arising out of your employment or the terms and conditions of such employment, including but not limited to breach of contract (express or implied), fraud, wrongful or constructive discharge, retaliatory discharge, emotional distress or compensatory or punitive damages; and (iv) any claim for attorneys' fees, costs, disbursements and/or the like. (Friedfel Decl. Ex. 2 ¶ 4(a).) By signing the Agreement, Russomanno acknowledged that he had been advised to consult independent legal counsel before signing the Agreement, that he had a reasonable opportunity to consider the terms and conditions of the Agreement, that he carefully read the Agreement in its entirety, that he fully understood the Agreement, and that he was signing the Agreement voluntarily and of his own free will. (Id. ¶ 12.) The Agreement gave Russomanno seven days to accept it. (See id. ¶ 13.) Russomanno signed the Agreement on March 13, 2009, three days after he received it. (Id. at 4; see Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 2 (noting that plaintiff received the Agreement on March 10, 2009).)

In two complaints dated September 2, 2009, Russomanno commenced actions against Murphy and Stephan in New York Supreme Court. On October 16, 2009, both cases were removed to this Court. Both defendants filed the motions to dismiss addressed in this opinion on April 30, 2010. On December 2, 2010, the Court, out of an abundance of caution, converted the motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment on the limited issue of whether Russomanno's claims were barred by the Agreement so that it could consider the Agreement without cavil. (See Murphy, ECF No. 16; Stephan, ECF No. 20.) The Court gave plaintiff until January 14, 2011 to submit any additional materials responsive to the conversion to summary judgment. He chose not to do so. Defendants also submitted no additional materials.

DISCUSSION

I.Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. In re DDAVP Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, 585 F.3d 677, 692 (2d Cir. 2009). The complaint's allegations, however, "must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Only a "plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." LaFaro v. New York Cardiothoracic Group, PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 476 (2d Cir. 2009). Thus courts are "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," and "[t]hreadbare ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.