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Christopher Spiess v. Xerox Corporation

July 21, 2011

CHRISTOPHER SPIESS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Christopher Spiess ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et. seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e); and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), Executive Law § 296, et seq., against Defendant Xerox Corporation ("Defendant" or "Xerox"), alleging discrimination based upon his age and sex. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 1; see also ¶¶ 32-55). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Xerox terminated his employment with the company for discriminatory reasons related to his age and sex. See id.

Defendant Xerox Corporation moves for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56") on the grounds that it terminated Plaintiff's employment for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons unrelated to his age or sex. (Dkt. No. 20-2 at 1). Xerox argues that Plaintiff violated Xerox's policies prohibiting the use of Xerox information systems for the storing or sending of any inappropriate e-mail messages, including pornography and graphic violence. Id. Further, Xerox argues that Plaintiff has provided no evidence that supports his claim that his termination was pretextual, or that its facially-neutral policy had a disparate impact on older employees or males. Id.

Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion and argues that there are disputed issues of material fact which preclude granting summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 24-4 at 16). For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that Plaintiff has not established a prima facie case of discrimination. Accordingly, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff began working for Xerox as an engineering technician in 2000. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 8, see also Dkt. No. 24-5 at 3). In April 2007, Xerox terminated Plaintiff from his employment. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 9). During those seven years, Plaintiff received regular promotions, concomitant increases in pay, and generally had a positive performance record. See id. at 9.

Plaintiff was terminated from Xerox after an investigation revealed he had engaged in inappropriate e-mail usage that violated Xerox's Code of Ethics. (Dkt. No. 24-3 at 9). Xerox maintained a well established Code of Conduct for its employees. (Dkt. No. 20-3; see generally Dkt. No. 20-5, Exh. A). Xerox's Code of Conduct set forth its expectations regarding its employees' behavior and ethics and specifically stated that employees who violated these ethical standards would be subject to disciplinary actions, up to and including termination. (Dkt. No. 20-5, Exh. A at 3).

Xerox's Code of Conduct also contained specific provisions regarding the use of its Information Technology ("IT") Systems, including the use of its computers. (Dkt. No. 24-3 at 3; Dkt. No. 20-5, Exh. A at 6-7). These provisions, in relevant part, prohibited, inter alia, excessive personal use and the accessing of "any form of pornography." See id. Xerox had a number of professional reasons for having such policies, including to ensure that its computers and other IT systems were used to conduct Xerox business and not for any illegal or unethical activities that could subject the Company to embarrassment or legal consequences. (Dkt. No. 20-5, Exh. A at 7).

Xerox provided mandatory periodic training concerning its Code of Conduct to all employees, including Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 20-4 ¶ 9; see also Dkt. No. 24-5 at 17). Further, employees had no expectation of privacy with regard to their use of Xerox's computer equipment or its information systems. Indeed, the Code expressly denied privacy protection for any personal information stored on Xerox equipment, and provided that Xerox would have unlimited access to any information stored on its computers or servers. (Dkt. No. 20-4, Exh. A at 12).

In February 2007, Xerox launched an investigation after offensive material was found on Xerox Capital Services, LLC employees' computers in the Lewisville, Texas facility.*fn1 The investigation involved five Xerox employees, including Plaintiff.

The type of inappropriate e-mails found included pornographic photographs, sexually suggestive online videos, and movies depicting graphic, war-related violence. (See generally Dkt. No. 24-7, Exh. E-I). Plaintiff and the four other Xerox employees were investigated for sending and storing this inappropriate content via e-mail. (Dkt. No. 20-4 ¶ 12).

Xerox's Corporate Security department led the investigation, which included collaboration with Xerox's Human Resource's department in conducting individual interviews with each of the five employees under investigation. Id. at 13. As a result, all five employees were found to have violated Xerox's e-mail usage policies. Xerox terminated four of the employees, including Plaintiff. One of the employees, a female over the age of forty, received a final warning. The other employees were terminated because they sent or stored a greater number of inappropriate e-mails that were especially offensive or pornographic. (Dkt. No. 20-4 ¶ 17). The terminated employees were also found to have sent the inappropriate e-mails to numerous Xerox employees, as well to employees of Xerox vendors or others outside Xerox. Id.

At the time of his termination, Plaintiff was a male over the age of forty.*fn2 (Dkt. No. 1 ΒΆ 4). On May 13, 2008, Plaintiff filed the instant action ...


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