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Sandra Rojas v. the Roman C Atholic Diocese of Rochester

October 4, 2011

SANDRA ROJAS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE ROMAN C ATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER, THE PASTORAL CENTER OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER, & P ASTOR PETER ENYAN-BOADU, INDIVIDUALLY DEFENDANT-APPELLEES.



Per curiam.

10-4132-cv

Rojas v. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester

(Argued: August 23, 2011

Before: MINER, CABRANES, and HALL, Circuit Judges.

Plaintiff-appellant Sandra Rojas appeals from a judgment entered October 6, 2010, in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Charles J. Siragusa, Judge), granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees on her claims of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (2006), and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301. (McKinney 2010 & Supp. 2011). The District Court granted summary judgment after determining that Rojas had offered "sham evidence" in opposition to the defendants' motions for summary judgment. We hold that the District Court did not err in concluding that, in light of Rojas's inconsistent and contradictory testimony, there was no genuine issue of fact to be decided by a jury.

Affirmed.

Plaintiff-appellant Sandra Rojas ("Rojas") appeals from a judgment entered October 6, 2010, granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester ("the Diocese"), the Pastoral Center of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, and Pastor Peter Enyan-Boadu ("Enyan-Boadu" or "Father Peter") (jointly, "defendants") on her claims of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (2006), and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301. (McKinney 2010 & Supp. 2011). The primary issue before us on appeal is whether the District Court properly disregarded certain purported issues of fact in holding that no reasonable jury could find in favor of Rojas. Because the record shows that this was one of the "rare circumstance[s] where the plaintiff relies almost entirely on [her] own testimony, much of which is contradictory and incomplete," and where "the facts alleged are so contradictory that doubt is cast upon their plausibility," Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 554, 555 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted), we hold that the District Court properly made a limited assessment of the evidence Rojas offered in opposition to summary judgment and concluded that no reasonable jury could believe it. Accordingly, we affirm the District Court's judgment dismissing Rojas's claims under Title VII and the NYSHRL.*fn1

BACKGROUND

An exhaustive description of the facts of this case, including an analysis of various inconsistencies and contradictions within Rojas's account, is contained in the District Court's Decision and Order of October 6, 2010, granting the defendants' motions for summary judgment. See Rojas v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester ("Rojas II"), __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2010 WL 3945000, at *1-18, *21-22 (W.D.N.Y. Oct. 6, 2010). For purposes of resolving this appeal, the following overview suffices.

Rojas was employed by the Diocese as its Coordinator for Hispanic Migrant Ministry for the Brockport Area from May 2, 2004, through November 9, 2006. Her immediate supervisor was Bernard Grizard ("Grizard"), the Diocese's Director for Parish Support Ministries. Rojas's office was located on the campus of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary ("Church of the Nativity" or "the parish"), in Brockport, New York. The Church of the Nativity is a separate corporate entity from the Diocese, though it had an arrangement with the Diocese allowing the Hispanic Migrant Ministry to operate out of offices in its Parish Center. During the time that Rojas was employed by the Diocese, Enyan-Boadu was the pastor of the Church of the Nativity. Enyan- Boadu was not an employee of the Diocese, but rather of the Church of the Nativity. In her complaint, Rojas alleged that she was the victim of sexual harassment by Enyan-Boadu, which created a hostile work environment, and that the Diocese fired her in retaliation for her complaining about Enyan-Boadu's sexual harassment.

At the summary judgment stage, the critical issue was whether liability for Enyan-Boadu's alleged harassment could be imputed to the Diocese. This depended on (1) whether Enyan-Boadu was a "supervisor" of Rojas and (2) whether she had made any complaints to the Diocese such that the Diocese knew or should have known of the alleged sexual harassment. As explained at length in the District Court's opinion, see Rojas II, 2010 WL 3945000, at *1-18, *21-22, 24, the only evidence suggesting that Enyan-Boadu was Rojas's supervisor or that the Diocese knew or should have known of the alleged harassment was Rojas's own testimony, in the form of an affidavit submitted in opposition to summary judgment, and excerpts from her depositions. This evidence, the District Court found, contradicted the allegations in Rojas's complaints as well as other sworn statements that Rojas had made during the course of discovery and in a separate criminal trial of Enyan-Boadu, which had ended in his acquittal.*fn2 Id. at *19-22.

Rojas's Conflicting Statements Regarding Enyan-Boadu's Supervisory Status

In her original complaint, Rojas alleged that Enyan-Boadu was her "co-worker" and referred to Grizard as her "supervisor." The District Court subsequently granted in part a defense motion to dismiss with leave to replead. Rojas v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester ("Rojas I"), 557 F. Supp. 2d 387, 400 (W.D.N.Y. 2008). In its opinion, the District Court noted that, at oral argument on the motion to dismiss, "the Court sua sponte raised the issue of whether [the Diocese] could be held vicariously liable for the alleged hostile environment created by Enyan-Boadu, where, according to the Complaint, Enyan-Boadu was Plaintiff's co-worker." Id. at 394 n.4. Despite the District Court's identification of the issue, in her amended complaint, Rojas again alleged that Enyan-Boadu was her co-worker and that Grizard was her supervisor, and she persisted in characterizing Enyan-Boadu and Grizard in this manner in her sworn responses to defendants' interrogatories. This characterization of Enyan-Boadu's and Grizard's respective roles was consistent with Rojas's earlier testimony at Enyan-Boadu's criminal trial.

In her papers opposing defendants' motion for summary judgment, however, Rojas contended that Enyan-Boadu was, in fact, her supervisor, or at least one of her supervisors. To support this assertion, Rojas relied on her own affidavit and certain portions of her deposition testimony. In her affidavit, Rojas stated that "I was never clear on who her [sic] boss was, as no one ever clarified it to me," and that "I asked who my boss is and Grizard said, 'Grizard, Jesus [Flores, another priest in the Diocese], and Father Peter [Enyan-Boadu].'" Similarly, during her April 10, 2009, deposition, Rojas stated that she had asked Grizard to "clarify who is my boss" and "[h]e said that my boss is Bernard [Grizard], Jesus [Flores,] and ...


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