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Dennis J. Dupree v. Uhab-Sterling Street Housing Development Fund

August 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge:



In this action, Plaintiff Dennis J. Dupree asserts claims for employment discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and for conversion. Defendants Urban Homesteading Assistance (U-HAB), Inc., UHAB Housing Development Fund Corporation, UHAB-Sterling Street Housing Development Fund Corporation (collectively, "UHAB") and Del-Mar Management Services, Inc. ("Del-Mar") have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motions for summary judgment are denied.


A. Factual Background*fn1

1. The Parties' Roles at 320 Sterling Street

Dupree was hired as the superintendent of an apartment building located at 320

Sterling Street in Brooklyn, New York, in 2001. Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1, ECF No. 149. In addition to Dupree, the building's maintenance staff initially included two porters, Roger Tribble and Ronald Maxwell. UHAB Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7, ECF No. 138. Maxwell died in 2007 and was not replaced. Id. ¶ 19. Both Dupree (who was known at 320 Sterling Street as "Larry") and Tribble are African-American. Id. ¶ 7.

At the time Dupree was hired, the building was owned by the New York State Department of Housing Preservation and Development ("HPD"). Id. ¶ 3. In 2006, UHAB entered into a net lease of the building from HPD. Id. ¶ 4. UHAB intended to eventually purchase the building in order to convert it into an affordable cooperative. See id.

UHAB retained Del-Mar as the property manager of the building. Id. ¶ 9. Del-Mar was responsible for supervising the building's staff as well as ensuring that the property was maintained and tenant complaints were addressed. See id. It had an office at the building and one of its representatives was at the building approximately one to three times per week. Id.

¶ 10. Cassandra DelValle, an assistant property manager for Del-Mar and the daughter of a Del-Mar owner, was the direct supervisor of the staff at 320 Sterling Street. Id. ¶ 12; see also DelValle Dep. 12--13, ECF. No. 150-4. Del-Mar hired Romulo Samaniego as a Vice President in 2007 and he became DelValle's supervisor. UHAB Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 11--12. Both Samaniego and DelValle are Hispanic. Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 32.

2. Dupree Is Told the Defendants Will Not Retain Him Because of His Race According to Dupree, DelValle told him in 2007 that the Defendants would not

retain him as superintendent after the building was sold to UHAB because "they are not hiring black Americans." Dupree Dep. 136, ECF No. 150-1. Dupree also claims that DelValle told him she herself had experienced racial discrimination at Del-Mar because she has dark skin. See Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 25. The Defendants deny that DelValle made these statements and also deny that they engaged in any racially discriminatory employment practices.

3. Issues With Dupree's Job Performance

Some tenants complained to the Defendants that Dupree was doing an inadequate

job as superintendent and was failing to make requested repairs. See UHAB Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 23--24. They also complained that he was not doing his fair share of the work, and as a result that Tribble was over-worked. Id. ¶ 22; see also id. ¶¶ 21, 23--24.

Dupree received written warnings from Del-Mar in March and April 2008 in connection with three incidents. See id. ¶ 25; see also Benforado Decl., Exs. 10--12, ECF No. 150-6. First, he had an unexcused absence one day after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge (which he claims was fabricated and later dismissed). See UHAB Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt.

¶ 25; see also Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18. Second, he failed to open the building's front gate for a person delivering fuel to the building. See UHAB Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 25. Third, he failed to escort a technician who came to inspect the apartments for lead. See id. In another incident, DelValle orally criticized Dupree for being away from the building on a Friday afternoon when he went to pick up his paycheck. See Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.

4. Dupree's Employment Is Terminated

In June 2008, Dupree received a letter notifying him that his employment would be terminated after the building was sold to UHAB at the end of the month. See id. ¶ 29; see also Benforado Decl., Ex. 14, ECF No. 150-6. The letter invited him to reapply for a position at the building. See id. In July 2008, Del-Mar sent Dupree a similar letter notifying him that his employment would be terminated in August 2008. Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 29; Benforado Decl., Ex. 15, ECF No. 150-6. This letter again told Dupree that he was invited to reapply. See id.

Both Dupree and Tribble were fired from 320 Sterling Street in August 2008. UHAB Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 29--30. Both reapplied for positions but neither was rehired.

See Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 31; Dupree Dep. 67; Samaniego Dep. 156--57, ECF No. 150-5. They were replaced by Hispanic employees. Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 33.

5. Disposal of Dupree's Personal Property

While he was superintendent, Dupree stored tools, supplies and other personal

belongings in the building's basement. See id. ¶¶ 42--44. In August and again in October 2008, after he was fired, the Defendants removed these belongings and put them in storage. See id.

¶¶ 45--46.

According to Dupree, no one informed him this removal would occur and when he confronted Samaniego about it, Samaniego told him that his belongings had been auctioned off. See id. ¶ 48. According to the Defendants, Samaniego told Dupree that his belongings were in storage and that Del-Mar would pay for the first month of storage, after which Dupree should retrieve them or pay for additional storage. UHAB Defs.' Response to Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt.

¶ 48, ECF No. 155.

Eventually, the belongings were disposed of. See Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ΒΆ 49. In January 2011, Dupree's attorney sent a letter to UHAB demanding the return of his ...

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