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Cheryl Martin-Smith v. Wilson Commencement Park

July 29, 2011


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



Plaintiff, Cheryl Martin-Smith ("Plaintiff"), filing pro se, brings this action against her former employer, Defendant Wilson Commencement Park*fn1 ("Defendant"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant wrongfully terminated her employment, resulting in pain, suffering, and economic hardship. (Dkt. No. 1 at 1). Plaintiff now moves the Court for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56"). (Dkt. No. 5 at 3).

Defendant has not opposed the instant motion, and, after Plaintiff filed this motion, submitted an untimely Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint. (Dkt. No. 7). In its Answer, Defendant denies Plaintiff's allegations and states that all actions taken concerning Plaintiff's employment were for "legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons." Id. at 7. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that Plaintiff is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied.


Plaintiff worked as a Staff Accountant for the Defendant in Rochester, New York.*fn2 (Dkt. No. 1 at 1). Plaintiff states that, on August 18, 2009, she was confronted by the following Wilson Commencement Park employees: the company's CEO, a Life Coach, the Director of Programs, and the Director of Finance & Administration (Plaintiff's supervisor). (Dkt. No. 1 at 3). The "confrontation" concerned a conversation Plaintiff had engaged in with another employee, purportedly concerning "confidential or proprietary information." Id. Plaintiff admits that she engaged in the conversation, but states that she never divulged anything that was not "public knowledge." Id.

Following the confrontation, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff complains that she was "fired for a conversation with another employee," and that the action has negatively affected her livelihood, family, and finances. Id. at 4. Plaintiff states that she was officially terminated for: (1) "disclosing or making available to unauthorized persons any confidential or proprietary information" and (2) "negligence or carelessness." Id. at 3. Plaintiff claims that these reasons were "fabricated and a way to fire me for personal reasons not professional or work-related." Id. Plaintiff additionally sets forth her own beliefs concerning her termination. Specifically, she believes that she was dismissed without notice or the knowledge of her supervisor. She believes that she was fired for upsetting the Director of Programs. Id.

Plaintiff's Complaint states that, as a result of this termination, she has been forced to relocate and obtain new employment and she lost custody of her son in the process. Id. at 1. Plaintiff also cites pain, suffering, humiliation, and economic hardship. Id.

Plaintiff filed an action with the New York State Division of Human Rights on August 24, 2009. Plaintiff also filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), which closed its file on Plaintiff's charge on August 3, 2010, citing as reason that it "has adopted the findings of the state or local fair employment practices agency that investigated this charge." Id. at 6-7. Defendant, in its Answer, states that Plaintiff's Plaintiff's "SDHR/EEOC claim was properly dismissed for lack of probable cause as [to] any and all actions taken by Defendant...." (Dkt. No. 7 ¶ 7).

Plaintiff filed this pro se action in forma pauperis on October 27, 2010. Id.; see also Dkt. No. 2. Defendant failed to file a timely answer, and Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on June 2, 2011. See Dkt. No. 5. Defendant did not oppose summary judgment, but filed an untimely Answer to Plaintiff's original Complaint on June 8th, 2011. See Dkt. No. 7.


I. Standard of Review

Pursuant to Rule 56, a court may grant a motion for summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To be entitled to judgment as a matter of law, Plaintiff must "come forward with evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find in [her] favor" on each of the elements of [her] prima facie case. See Lizardo v. Denny's, Inc., 270 F.3d 94, 101 (2d Cir.2001); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325-7 (1986).

In support of her motion, Plaintiff relies solely on the pleadings and her own affidavit, which reiterates certain statements in the pleadings. Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this Court reviews and construes her Complaint liberally, interpreting it to raise the strongest arguments it suggests. Davidson v. City of New York, 10 Civ. 4938, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62483, at *4 ...

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