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D'Agostino v. LA Fitness Intern., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 28, 2012

Maria D'AGOSTINO, Plaintiff,
v.
LA FITNESS INTERNATIONAL, LLC d/b/a a/k/a LA Fitness, Inc., LA Fitness, LA Fitness Sports Clubs, Michael Sharp, and Pro Results a/k/a Body of Change d/b/a LA Fitness, a wholly owned subsidiary of Defendant, LA Fitness, Inc., Defendants.

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Anthony C. Donofrio, Arnab Bhukta, The Law Offices of Anthony C. Donofrio, PLLC, Massapequa, NY, for Plaintiff.

Andrew Steven Baron, Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch LLP, New York, NY, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

TOWNES, District Judge:

Maria D'Agostino (" Plaintiff" ) brings this action against LA Fitness International, LLC. d/b/a a/k/a LA Fitness, Inc., LA Fitness, LA Fitness Sports Clubs, Michael Sharp, and Pro Results a/k/a Body of Change d/b/a LA Fitness (together " Defendants" ) alleging age and gender discrimination in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law (" NYSHRL" ), N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ) as well as retaliation under the NYSHRL. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, alleging that they acted appropriately in demoting Plaintiff. For the reasons that follow, the court grants Defendants' motion in its entirety.

I. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate only when " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). " [G]enuineness runs to whether disputed factual issues can reasonably be resolved in favor of either party, [while] materiality runs to whether the dispute matters, i.e., whether it concerns facts that can affect the outcome under the applicable substantive law." Mitchell v. Washingtonville Cent. Sch. Dist., 190 F.3d 1, 5 (2d Cir.1999) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of fact exists. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The non-movant cannot avoid summary judgment " through mere speculation or conjecture" or " by vaguely asserting the existence of some

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unspecified disputed material facts." Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir.1990) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Moreover, the disputed facts must be material to the issue in the case, in that they " might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, " [t]he court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment is sought and must draw all reasonable inferences in his favor." L.B. Foster Co. v. Am. Piles, Inc., 138 F.3d 81, 87 (2d Cir.1998). " No genuine issue exists if, on the basis of all the pleadings, affidavits and other papers on file, and after drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in favor of the non-movant, it appears that the evidence supporting the non-movant's case is so scant that a rational jury could not find in its favor." Chertkova v. Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 86 (2d Cir.1996). " If the evidence [presented by the non-moving party] is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir.1998) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original).

II. BACKGROUND

The parties do not dispute the following facts which are construed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, the non-moving party. On January 3, 2007, Plaintiff, forty-seven years old at the time, began her employment as a Training Assistant Manager (" TAM" ) at the Lake Success, New York facility for LA Fitness— a nationwide network of sports clubs. (Defendants' Statement of Facts (" Defs. SOF" ) ¶ 1.) TAMs are responsible for selling personal training sessions and are promoted in large part based on their ability to achieve sales goals. ( Id. ¶ 2.) Michael Sharp, as District Vice President, was responsible for monitoring personal training sales. ( Id. ¶ 3.) On or about August 9, 2007, Sharp promoted Plaintiff to Weekend General Manager (" WGM" ), which was approved by Dorian Gallagher, Regional Vice President.[1] ( Id. ¶¶ 5-6; Plaintiff's Statement of Facts (" Pl. SOF" ) ¶ 5.) Plaintiff was promoted in light of her sales figures and received a transfer to LA Fitness' Staten Island facility because she had requested to be closer to her home. (Defs. SOF ¶ 6.) As WGM of the Staten Island facility, Plaintiff was responsible for running the weekend sales team, supervising trainers, setting schedules, and participating in the interview process for new hires. ( Id. ¶ 8.) In February of 2008, after approximately six months as the WGM at the Staten Island facility, Gallagher again promoted Plaintiff to Training General Manager (" TGM" ) on a probationary basis. ( Id. ¶ 11.) As TGM, Plaintiff was responsible for overall sales at the club, sales training, supervising the sales staff, hiring and firing, training of physical trainers, and training TAMs to be promoted to WGMs. ( Id. ¶ 9.) TGMs receive medical benefits and are placed on a different salary and bonus structure than WGMs and TAMs, who do not receive medical benefits. ( Id. ¶ 10.) As TGM, Plaintiff reported directly to Sharp. (Pl. SOF ¶ 6.)

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Over the course of her tenure as TGM, Plaintiff alleges that Sharp made several comments disparaging her in particular and women in general. (Defs. SOF ¶ 49); (Pl. SOF ¶¶ 7, 8, 9-10.) In addition to these remarks, Plaintiff alleges that her younger male counterparts received preferential treatment. (Defs. SOF ¶ 50; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 11-13.) On November 11, 2008, Plaintiff sent an email to Linda Bessant, Employee Relations Manager in LA Fitness' Human Resources department. (Defs. SOF ¶ 14; Ex. G Attached to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (" Defs. MSJ" ).) In that email, Plaintiff complained about a recent conference call that she had been on with Sharp and other TGMs. Plaintiff referred to Sharp's tone as " loud," and characterized his statements as " demoralizing, insulting, degrading, and threatening." (Defs. SOF ¶ 14; Ex. G Attached to Defs. MSJ.) Plaintiff also referred to Sharp's " verbal abuse and profanity," although there is no indication that Plaintiff believed she was the victim of discrimination. (Defs. SOF ¶ 14.) In any event, in that email, Plaintiff indicated that the episode was " not the first time," and that she had " had enough," and was " so weary" that she " [could] not accept this treatment any longer." (Ex. G Attached to Defs. MSJ.) That same day, Plaintiff appears to have filed a formal complaint against Sharp with Human Resources complaining about his abusive conduct. (Ex. M Attached to Defs. MSJ) (November 30, 2008 email from Plaintiff referring to her November 11, 2008 complaint against Sharp for treating her in a " demoralizing, threatening, insulting, and belittling way." ).

On Tuesday, November 18, 2008, Plaintiff received an email from Sharp seeking to discuss " the direction we are currently heading in Staten Island, and what gameplan [Plaintiff] had in mind to implement to turn it around." (Ex. I Attached to Defs. MSJ at 2.) Sharp included in the email sales data comparing LA Fitness' Staten Island facility to the national average for all its clubs. ( Id. ) Sharp admonished Plaintiff that he " need[ed] to see improvement ... Not only improvement in numbers, but improvement in manpower and staff quality." ( Id. ) In this regard, Sharp noted that he was currently interviewing TAMs to fill the WGM position to help alleviate some of Plaintiff's staffing concerns, but asked Plaintiff to send him " an email of your gameplan for turning [the facility's sale numbers] around and let [him] know what interviews [Plaintiff had] scheduled for the near future." ( Id. at 3; Defs. SOF ¶ 33.) Plaintiff responded to Sharp's email, advising him that she was aware of her responsibilities and was " performing at 100% of [her] potential." (Ex. I Attached to Defs. MSJ at 2.) Plaintiff also indicated that she was " well aware of where [the Staten Island facility's] numbers are and where they need to be." ( Id. ) She did not send him a game plan. Following her response to Sharp's email, Plaintiff forwarded the conversation to Bessant for her " file with H[uman] R[esources]." ( Id. at 1) Plaintiff indicated to Bessant that she found it " out of character" for Sharp to communicate via email, as in the past he would simply relentlessly call managers' cell phones. ( Id. ) Plaintiff made it clear that she was forwarding the email because she felt she had to protect herself. ( Id. )

On Thursday, November 20, 2008, Sharp emailed Bessant regarding " a complaint that was made against [him] by [Plaintiff]." (Defs. SOF ¶ 31.) Sharp indicated that Gallagher and Mark Gralnick, LA Fitness' Executive Vice President, brought the complaint to his attention and that they both " instructed [him] what to do moving ...


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