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Juan Castillo and Ratakit Boonnak v. Time Warner Cable of New York City

August 9, 2011

JUAN CASTILLO AND RATAKIT BOONNAK, PLAINTIFFS
v.
TIME WARNER CABLE OF NEW YORK CITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge:

USDC SDNY DOCUMENT

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiffs Juan Castillo ("Castillo") and Ratakit Boonnak ("Boonnak") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring this action under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), New York State Human Rights Law, Executive Law §§ 290, et seq. ("NYHRL"), and New York City Human Rights Law, Administrative Code §§ 8-101, et seq. ("NYCHRL") against their employer Defendant Time Warner Cable of New York City ("TWC"), a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P. Plaintiffs allege discrimination based on race and national origin, in the form of hostile work environment and disparate treatment, as well as retaliation for engaging in protected activity. (Mem. in Opp. 1.) Castillo brings an additional disparate treatment claim based on two transfers and two promotion denials.

TWC moves for summary judgment on each claim. While TWC has submitted weighty proof, and may well be correct in its position, there is no doubt that there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude granting TWC's summary judgment motion. Accordingly, the motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Castillo, a Hispanic male born in the Dominican Republic, began working for TWC in 1989. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.) He has worked in installation, the warehouse, service, construction, and as a technician. (Id. ¶¶ 12-18.) Boonnak, an Asian male born in Thailand, began working for TWC in 1990. He has worked as an installation technician, and in the warehouse, laboratory department, and service department. (Id. ¶¶ 30-33.)

Castillo alleges that TWC treats nonwhite employees, including himself, differently than white employees. (Id. ¶ 19.) White employees are disciplined less harshly and given easier jobs in safer neighborhoods and in buildings with working elevators, as well as timely access to NCTI books (which are required to successfully complete courses that impact pay rate and advancement). (Id. ¶¶ 20-20(a).) In addition, he claims that he was subjected to a hostile work environment, which worsened after he complained about the unequal treatment of nonwhite employees. (Id. ¶ 22.) He also contends that the supervisors twice failed to promote him to a position for which he was qualified, and twice reassigned him to a less desirable position, both because of his race and national origin, and in retaliation for filing a formal complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 27-28.) Castillo maintains that his work performance and punctuality have always been satisfactory. (Id. ¶ 17.)

Boonnak makes the same allegations of discriminatory job assignments and discipline, hostile work environment, and retaliation. (Id. ¶¶ 35, 37-39.) As with Castillo, Boonnak claims that the harassing treatment continued after he formally complained to TWC's human resources regarding the disparate treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42.) Boonnak also maintains that his work performance and punctuality have always been satisfactory. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Both Plaintiffs allege that TWC's actions are part of a plan, practice, or pattern of discrimination against nonwhite employees and retaliation, which has affected them and others who are similarly situated. (Id. ¶ 26, 42.)

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of producing evidence on each material element of its claim demonstrating that it is entitled to relief. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The Court resolves all ambiguities and draws all factual inferences in favor of the non-movant, but "only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (internal quotations omitted).

I.Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment claim requires the following elements: (1) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment; and (2) there is a specific basis for imputing the hostile conduct to the employer. See Duch v. Jakubek, 588 F.3d 757, 762 (2d Cir. 2009). Plaintiffs must, therefore, demonstrate that a single incident was extraordinarily severe, or that a series of incidents was sufficiently continuous and concerted to have altered the conditions of their working environment. Cruz v. Coach Stores, Inc., 202 F.3d 560, 570 (2d Cir. 2000). "While a mild, isolated incident does not make a work environment hostile, the test is whether the harassment is of such quality or quantity that a reasonable employee would find the conditions of her employment altered for the worse." Whidbee v. Garzarelli Food Specialties, Inc., 223 F.3d 62, 70 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). "[I]n the case of a hostile work environment claim, the statute of limitations requires that only one . . . harassing act demonstrating the challenged work environment occur within [the period of limitations]; once that is shown, a court and jury may consider 'the entire time period of the hostile environment' in determining liability. Petrosino v. Bell Atlantic, 385 F.3d 210, 220 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 117 (2002)).

There is no single incident which is extraordinarily severe; instead, Plaintiffs allege that various acts by individuals employed at TWC created a hostile work environment. (Mem. in Opp. 7-8). For example, Castillo alleges that he and other Hispanic workers were called "Dumb Spics," "Dumb Dominicans," and "Rice and Bean Eaters"; this allegation is corroborated by an affidavit from co-worker Edwin Maisonet, who heard these comments. Castillo also alleges that, while Italian workers were permitted to speak Italian, when he and other Hispanic workers communicated in Spanish, they were asked "What Banana Boat did ...


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