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Veronica Albert-Roberts v. Ggg Construction

August 16, 2012

VERONICA ALBERT-ROBERTS PLAINTIFF,
v.
GGG CONSTRUCTION, LLC, GORDON DRUCKER, AND EILEEN MCFADDEN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Veronica Albert-Roberts ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq., and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq. ("NYSHRL"), alleging discrimination in the form of a hostile work environment and retaliation on the basis of her race and disability, against her former employer, GGG Construction, LLC ("GGG"), and two individuals, Gordon Drucker ("Drucker") and Eileen McFadden ("McFadden") (collectively, "Defendants"). (Docket No. 1.) Defendants now move for summary judgment, contending that Plaintiff has not established a prima facie case of a hostile work environment or a claim for retaliation and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that there are material issues of fact for trial. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Local Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (a)(1) requires that a party moving for summary judgment include with its motion a "separate, short, and concise statement...of the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried." See Local Rule 56(a)(1). "When a party has moved for summary judgment [] and has, in accordance with local court rules, served a concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends there exist no genuine issues to be tried, those facts will be deemed admitted unless properly controverted by the nonmoving party." Glazer v. Formica Corp., 964 F.2d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 1992). Pursuant to Local Rule 56 (a)(2), the opposing party must submit a separate statement which "shall include a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement...and, if necessary, additional paragraphs containing a short and concise statement of additional material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue to be tried." Plaintiff has not responded to Defendants' Statement of Facts (Docket No. 28-1), but has filed her own affidavit and cites to the exhibits submitted by the Defendants in connection with this motion. In light of Plaintiff's failure to properly controvert Defendant's Statement of Facts according to the Local Rules, this Court will deem those factual assertions admitted to the extent they are supported by the record evidence. Accordingly, the following facts are taken from the Defendants' submission pursuant to Local Rule 56 and the Court's review of the entire record, and are viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the non-moving party.

Plaintiff was employed by GGG as a part-time, nighttime office cleaner in a building owned and operated by GGG, the Executive Office Building, from November 2008 through October 20, 2009. Plaintiff and her husband, Donald Roberts, also leased space in the Executive Office Building for their store, Roberts Home Decor. During the relevant time period, GGG, an LLC, consisted of two members, Gordon Drucker and Gary Marcus, and it employed a full-time maintenance worker, a full-time office manager (Eileen McFadden), and three part-time office cleaners - Plaintiff, Michael McFadden (Eileen McFadden's husband) and Anthony Gibbons. Gibbons and the Plaintiff are black and the McFaddens are white.

Eileen McFadden oversees the cleaning work and does administrative work for GGG. Gibbons was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. Plaintiff did not work at the same time as Eileen McFadden and she rarely saw her at work. During the time that Plaintiff was employed, Eileen McFadden complained to Drucker about the quality of the cleaning, but she did not specifically attribute the problems to the Plaintiff or any other cleaner individually.

Plaintiff alleges that Eileen McFadden criticized her work, but she does not describe any particular situation in which her work was criticized more frequently than any other cleaner.

At some point during Plaintiff's employment, Eileen McFadden had a discussion with Plaintiff's husband regarding the overuse of trash bags. McFadden stated, "either the bags have been stolen or they're using too many bags." Plaintiff and her husband interpreted this statement as an accusation that Plaintiff was stealing trash bags. Plaintiff's husband admits that McFadden did not actually accuse Plaintiff of stealing the bags and that she was speaking of the cleaning crew as a whole when she made this statement. The bags were moved for a period of time to prevent overuse, but they were later returned to their original location. In the narrative attached to her complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights, Plaintiff stated that she confronted Eileen McFadden about the perceived accusation and Eileen stated "I am not saying you are stealing bags; I am saying that there are too many bags being used." One of Eileen McFadden's duties is to control cleaning inventory.

In early September 2009, Eileen McFadden confronted Plaintiff's husband at the Executive Office Building when Plaintiff was not at work regarding Plaintiff's statement to her co-worker that she would not be coming to work on labor day. Plaintiff's husband confirmed that she would not be coming in on labor day.

McFadden stated that Plaintiff needed to "follow the chain of command" and ask Drucker for the time off. The altercation escalated when McFadden learned that a garbage dumpster was left open the previous night. McFadden was angry, believing that Plaintiff and her husband left the dumpster open, and she stormed off and said something like "You fucking niggers...you all just have to do the job you've been fucking paid for."

McFadden denied using the word "nigger." According to the record, McFadden had not used racial epithets at the workplace prior to this occasion towards the Plaintiff, her husband, or other employees or tenants; and she did not use any racial epithet after this occasion.

Plaintiff and her husband complained to Drucker and Gary Marcus regarding this incident. Plaintiff contends that Drucker took a long time to respond to their complaint, but, at some point, he held a meeting at which he warned McFadden that she would be fired if she ever used language like this again. Plaintiff could not recall whether Drucker specifically threatened to fire McFadden, but both Drucker and McFadden testified to what took place at the meeting.

Drucker testified that during the summer prior to this incident he had been seeking quotes to outsource the cleaning services to a private company. Plaintiff, in the narrative attached to her complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights, stated that she knew that Drucker was planning to outsource the cleaning and that potential bidders had visited the Executive Office Building. On October 20, 2009, Plaintiff informed Drucker that she had been in a car accident and could not work that day. Drucker then decided that the cleaning should be outsourced immediately because they were shorthanded. Accordingly, the next day, Drucker engaged AG Cleaners to clean the Executive Office Building. Plaintiff and Michael McFadden (Eileen McFadden's husband and a white employee) were fired as cleaners. Anthony Gibbons, the ...


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