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Patricia Milne v. Navigant Consulting

August 13, 2012

PATRICIA MILNE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NAVIGANT CONSULTING, INC.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul A. Engelmayer, District Judge:

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Patricia Milne, proceeding pro se, and defendant Navigant Consulting, Inc. ("Navigant") cross-move for summary judgment on Milne's claim for retaliatory termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 290 et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), N.Y. CITY ADMIN. CODE § 8-101 et seq. For the following reasons, Milne's motion is denied and Navigant's motion is granted.

I. Background*fn1

A. Milne's Employment with Navigant

On September 5, 2006, Milne was hired by Navigant, a consulting firm, as an administrative specialist. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 2; Pl.'s Counter. ¶ 4. Milne's last day with Navigant was June 30, 2008. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 2; Pl.'s Counter. ¶ 4. The parties dispute whether Milne left Navigant willingly, or was forced to resign. Milne claims that Jessica Le, a Navigant employee, told her that Mary Stafford, then-Senior Manager of Operations for Navigant's New York office and Milne's supervisor, was planning to force her to resign. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ nnn. Navigant denies this, and, in an affidavit, Le attests that no such conversation took place, and that she was out of the office on vacation during the time Milne claims the conversation occurred. Def.'s Counter ¶ nnn; Affidavit of Jessica Le in Support of Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Le Aff.") (Dkt. 80) ¶ 9. The parties do agree that, on May 29, 2008, Milne sent an email to Debra Ombrello, then-Director of Office Operations, with copies sent to four other Navigant employees, which stated, in relevant part:

I am writing to let you know that I am planning to move back to Toronto at the end of June. If you are able to facilitate a transfer to our Toronto office, it would be greatly appreciated.

Affidavit of Mary Stafford in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Stafford Aff.") (Dkt. 67) Ex. A; see also Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 7; Pl.'s Counter. ¶ 42.

On or about May 29, 2008, Stafford met with Milne about the email, which Stafford understood to be Milne's voluntary resignation. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 11-12; Pl.'s Counter. ¶ 44. Milne, on the other hand, attests that she believed she was going to be forced to resign, and decided to seek what she characterizes as a preemptive transfer to Navigant's Toronto office.

Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ ooo; Pl.'s Counter ¶ 41. At the meeting, Milne told Stafford that she intended to move to Toronto even if Navigant did not have an open position for her there, and did not clarify that she had no intention to voluntarily resign her position. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 13-14, 18; see also Affidavit of Garry L. Wills in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment Ex. C (Deposition of Patricia Milne) ("Milne Dep.") (Dkt. 68) 115-16. When Stafford asked Milne when her last day at Navigant would be, Milne refused to provide that information. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 16; Pl.'s Counter ¶¶ 45-46.

On June 2, 2008, Milne stopped coming to work. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 20; Pl.'s Counter ¶ 52. Because Milne failed to inform Navigant when her last day of work would be, Navigant determined that her last day would be June 12, 2008, two weeks after she had sent the email about moving to Toronto. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 21, 23. On June 11, 2008, a Navigant human resources employee drafted a letter to Milne-which was never sent-informing her that her voluntary resignation would be effective the following day, June 12. Id. ¶ 24. On June 11, 2008, before that letter was sent, Milne emailed a different human resources employee at Navigant, requesting time off pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Id. ¶ 25; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ bbbbcccc. On June 12, Navigant sent a letter to Milne (1) enclosing FMLA forms for her to complete and return and (2) informing her that her voluntary resignation would be effective June 30, 2008. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 27; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ dddd. On June 16, 2008, Milne sent an email to Navigant, stating that there had been a "miscommunication," and that she had never provided Stafford or anyone else at Navigant with any "time and date" on which Milne would leave her position. Stafford Aff. Ex. C; see also Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 30; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ eeee. Milne neither completed the FMLA forms nor returned to work at Navigant during the month of June, or thereafter. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 20, 28; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ dddd.

B. Internal and EEOC Harassment Complaints

Milne alleges that, in 2007, Paul Braithwaite, a Managing Director at Navigant, made harassing and discriminatory remarks to her. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ f-h. However, it is undisputed that Milne did not make any internal complaint about these harassing remarks, nor did she file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Milne Dep. 160; Def.'s Counter. ¶ k. Milne also claims that, on November 16, 2007, Mark Springer, an Associate Director at Navigant, sexually harassed her: She alleges that he said to her, "I would like to see you drunk and do you," and, "Because of the way you are, no man wants you." Milne also alleges that, when she attempted to leave Springer's office after he made these comments, he grabbed her arm in an attempt to physically restrain her. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ p-r; Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 31-32. Milne told Braithwaite, Brett Goldman (an analyst), Tracy Stewart (Stafford's assistant), and Stafford about the November 16, 2007 incident with Springer; Stafford informed Joe Blalock, Springer's supervisor; and the incident was reported to Navigant's human resources department. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ v-x; Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 33-35; Milne Dep. 94-95, 160-61. In late November 2007 (the parties dispute the precise date), Julie Baker, a Navigant human resources employee, interviewed Milne about the November 16, 2007 incident. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ gg; Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 36. Based on its investigation of the incident, Navigant decided to terminate Springer; on November 30, 2007, Springer resigned in anticipation of his termination. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 37-38.

In or about April 2008, Milne told Karen Zerbo, an administrative assistant at Navigant, that she intended to file an EEOC charge relating to the November 16, 2007 incident with Springer. Id. ¶ 39; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ lll-mmm. Milne told only Zerbo that she planned to file an EEOC charge; Zerbo did not tell anyone else at Navigant because she did not believe that Milne was truly going to file any such charge. Pl.'s Counter. ¶ 47; Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 39-42; Milne Dep. 66. On June 12, 2008, the EEOC received Milne's complaint. Stafford Aff. Ex. D; Pl.'s Counter. ¶ 55; Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 44. It is undisputed that Milne never told Stafford, or anyone else at Navigant other than Zerbo, about her intention to file an EEOC complaint. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 46-49; Milne Dep. 63. On July 3, 2008, Navigant received a copy of Milne's EEOC charge in its New York office; upon viewing it, Stafford forwarded it to Navigant's human resources department. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 50-51.

Separate from the filing of the EEOC charge, Milne claims Navigant terminated her in retaliation for internal complaints she made (1) to Braithwaite, Goldman, Stewart, and Stafford stemming from the November 16, 2007 incident with Springer and (2) to Braithwaite about Stafford's treatment of her. Milne Dep. 94-95. Milne alleges that, after reporting the Springer incident to Stafford, Stafford treated Milne in a biased manner, scrutinized her work more ...


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