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Tamara Ciulla-Noto v. Xerox Corporation

December 4, 2012

TAMARA CIULLA-NOTO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Tamara Ciulla-Noto, ("Ciulla-Noto") brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.), and the New York State Human Rights Law against her employer Xerox Corporation, ("Xerox") claiming that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race*fn1 ; subjected to a hostile work environment, was retaliated against for complaining of sexual harassment. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to hostile and inappropriate sexual behavior from a male co-employee, and that she was retaliated against for complaining of the alleged harassment. According to the plaintiff, Xerox failed to adequately investigate her claims of harassment, failed to end or prevent the harassment, and retaliated against her by, inter alia, changing her shift, transferring her to less desirable positions, and preventing her from transferring into more desirable positions.

Xerox denies the plaintiff's claims, and contends that it throughly investigated plaintiff's claims, but found them to be unsubstantiated. Xerox further alleges that despite being unable to corroborate the plaintiff's charges, it nevertheless took several steps to prevent the alleged harassment, and accommodated plaintiff's desire not to work in the same area with the alleged harasser. Xerox alleges that any changes to plaintiff's employment resulted from its accommodation of plaintiff's medical restrictions.

Defendant now moves for summary judgment claiming that plaintiff has failed to establish that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, gender discrimination, or retaliation. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tamara Ciulla-Noto is a current employee of defendant Xerox Corporation. She began her employment with Xerox in 1988, and has been continuously employed by the company since that time. During the periods relevant to this action, plaintiff was employed as an "LC1 Operator," and in this capacity, plaintiff, inter alia, refurbished parts from salvaged Xerox equipment to make them suitable for resale. As an LC1 Operator, plaintiff was a member of an employee union.

Although employees at Xerox generally worked one of three eight-hour shifts, Ciulla-Noto worked independently, and therefore was allowed to work flexible hours, provided she worked eight hours per day. Plaintiff preferred to work alone, and indeed placed large pieces of cardboard around her workstation so that she could not be seen by other employees.

In 2002, plaintiff filed a claim of sexual harassment against co-worker Tony Morabito. Xeorox investigated the claim, but could not substantiate plaintiff's claims.

On or about July 1, 2008, plaintiff reported an incident of alleged sexual harassment to her Operations Manager Joy Longhenry ("Longhenry"). According to the plaintiff, co-worker Robert Cook ("Cook"), came into her work area and sat down while wearing jeans with a large hole in the crotch area. Plaintiff claims that Cook was not wearing underwear at the time, and therefore, when he sat down, he exposed his penis to her. Plaintiff also reported to Longhenry that Cook, sometime during the previous year, had shown her pornographic images on a work computer.

Within hours of receiving the report of sexual harassment, Longhenry reported the matter to plaintiff's supervisor Donald Miller ("Miller"). Miller and Longhenry then both met with CiullaNoto, and advised her that they would be referring the matter to the Human Resources Department for a full investigation. Thereafter, on July 9, 2008, Kimberly Braithwaite ("Braithwaite") of the Human Resources Department, and Xerox Corporate Security Manager Darrell Franklin ("Franklin") met with the plaintiff to take her complaint. During their discussion, plaintiff made an additional allegation against Cook, claiming that in July, 2007, Cook masturbated in her vicinity. Plaintiff also stated that Cook often attempted to rub her shoulders or "rub up" against her.

Following their conversation with Ciulla-Noto, Braithwaite and Franklin conducted an investigation of her complaints. Braithwaite and Franklin interviewed all of the employees who worked in the plaintiff's area, as well as two employees identified by the plaintiff as having information that would be relevant to the investigation. Braithwaite and Franklin also interviewed Cook as part of their investigation. None of the employees interviewed by Braithwaite and Franklin witnessed any inappropriate conduct between Cook and Ciulla-Noto. One of the witnesses identified by plaintiff as having relevant information told Braithwaite and Franklin that in 2006, plaintiff complained to him that she had been bothered by an un-named male co-worker. Cook told Braithwaite and Franklin that while he did wear jeans with holes in them, he always wore underwear, and never exposed himself to Ciulla-Noto or any other employee. Cook denied ever masturbating at work, or displaying pornography to any co-worker. A search of the computers used by Cook revealed no evidence of pornography. Plaintiff also alleged during the course of the investigation that Cook had stolen her cellular telephone, but she recanted this claim after she found it in her car.

In August, 2008, plaintiff met with Braithwaite and Franklin to express additional concerns regarding her work environment. She claimed that items in her work area had been tampered with in retaliation for her complaint against Cook. It is undisputed, however, that plaintiff had previously alleged tampering with her work area prior to making her complaint about Cook, including allegations that her locker had been broken into, tape on the floor had been removed, and the handle of her microwave had been broken.

To address plaintiff's concerns regarding alleged tampering, plaintiff was assigned to work the "A" shift, at which time supervisors would be present to monitor her work area and respond to any concerns she might have. A secret video camera was also installed to monitor plaintiff's work area to detect any tampering. Although ...


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