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Beronne R. Eliacin v. Barbara Fiala

October 17, 2011

BERONNE R. ELIACIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BARBARA FIALA, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Plaintiff commenced the instant action pursuant to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., claiming that she was discriminated against on account of her race and ethnicity. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

I. FACTS

At all times relevant hereto, Plaintiff was a Certified Nursing Assistant at Willow Point Nursing Home, an entity operated by the County of Broome. On January 28, 2008, a member of Broome County Security went to Plaintiff's house and demanded that she return the $5.00 gift certificate that she was alleged to have stolen from a Willow Point resident. Plaintiff signed a statement denying the allegations.

Plaintiff contacted the nursing director at Willow Point to inquire about the investigation. Plaintiff was advised that everyone was investigated and that she should "come do [her] job." Plaintiff also spoke with various other of Defendants' employees all of whom told Plaintiff that "[e]verything is fine. You have your job."

Plaintiff worked for two more days and then discontinued going to work. Plaintiff stopped going to work because she "could not work under [a] . . . cloud of suspicion." Plaintiff contends that "[i]n the past, white co-workers and nurses had discriminated against [her] similarly by making so many false statements that [she] was forced to complain to nursing coordinators, requesting to be reassigned." According to Plaintiff, she asked that Willow Point investigate who made the "anonymous and false allegations against [her]." Thereafter, Plaintiff's employment was terminated, purportedly for violating the "no call, no show" policy.

Plaintiff insists that she repeatedly called to explain her difficulty in working "in what [she] experienced was a psychologically intolerable environment." Plaintiff alleges that "Defendants, County of Broome and Willow Point Nursing Home, conspired against [her] wrongfully terminating [her] employment to avoid confronting its racially and ethnically biased disciplinary practices."

After filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, Plaintiff commenced the instant action against the County of Broome, Willow Point, Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala, and Willow Point Nursing Home Administrator Steven Reagan. By Decision and Order dated December 8, 2009, the Court dismissed all claims with the exception of the retaliation claim against Willow Point Nursing Home. Presently before the Court is Willow Point's motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. It is well settled that on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, see Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 593 (2d Cir. 1999), and may grant summary judgment only where "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). An issue is genuine if the relevant evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to a dispositive issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant is able to establish a prima facie basis for summary judgment, the burden of production shifts to the party opposing summary judgment who must produce evidence establishing the existence of a factual dispute that a reasonable jury could resolve in his favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon "mere allegations or denials" asserted in his pleadings, Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994), or on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation. Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998).

With these standards in mind, the Court will address the pending motion.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant first moves for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that she had a good faith, reasonable belief that she was engaged in protected activity. To prove a charge of retaliation in violation of Title VII, Plaintiff must show that: (1) she was engaged in a protected activity; (2) her employer was aware of that activity; (3) she was subject to an adverse employment action; and (4) there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. See Gordon v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 232 F.3d 111, 116 (2d Cir. 2000).

To satisfy the "protected activity" element of Title VII, Plaintiff must have had a good faith, objectively reasonable belief that she was opposing an employment practice made unlawful by Title VII. Kessler v. Westchester County Dept. of Soc. Servs., 461 F.3d 199, 210 (2d Cir. 2006); see Clark County Sch. Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 271 (2001); Moore v. City of Philadelphia, 461 F.3d 331, 342 (3d Cir. 2006) ("the employee must hold an objectively reasonable ...


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