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Rodas v. Town of Farmington

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 16, 2013

Stephen C. RODAS, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF FARMINGTON, Defendant.

Page 184

Christina A. Agola, Ryan Charles Woodworth, Christina Agola PLLC, Brighton, NY, for Plaintiff.

Kyle William Sturgess, Scott D. Piper, Harris Beach PLLC, Pittsford, NY, for Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Stephen Rodas, (" Rodas" ), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.), the New York State Human Rights Law, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] against his employer Town of Farmington, (" Farmington" or " the Town" ) claiming that he was retaliated against for complaining of discrimination based upon sex. Specifically, Rodas claims that after he complained to his supervisor

Page 185

of discriminatory treatment, he was subjected to retaliatory behavior.

Defendant denies plaintiff's allegations and moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's Complaint on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a prima facie case of retaliation. Defendant claims that Rodas cannot establish that he engaged in any protected activity prior to filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that he suffered any retaliatory conduct whatsoever, or that any alleged retaliatory conduct by the Town was causally connected to Rodas's protected activity. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismiss plaintiff's complaint in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Stephen Rodas is a full-time employee of the Town of Farmington as a Maintenance Assistant for the Town's Water and Sewer Department. Plaintiff claims that because he complained to the Town and filed a charge of harassment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he was retaliated against, inter alia, by having Town-owned work tools removed from the Town-owned truck which he used, by being assigned a labor intensive job, and by having his firearm confiscated by Ontario County Sheriff's deputies.

Rodas has been employed by the Town since 1996 and has worked as a Water and Sewer Maintenance Assistant since 1998. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 11, 12. [2] In the performance of this job, Rodas was supervised by Jim Crane, the Superintendent of the District. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 12; see also Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 27. As a Water and Sewer Maintenance Assistant, Rodas's job description included, among other things: installation, maintenance and repair of water mains, gates, hydrants and associated infrastructure; the investigation of complaints concerning water and sewer operation or use; and the maintenance of records and reporting of water and sewer infrastructure concerns to his supervisor. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 11; see also Exhibit G (Job description for a Water and Wastewater Maintenance Assistant) attached to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Rodas's assignments were determined by Superintendent Crane, who retained the discretion to allocate the District's resources and labor to various functions and projects. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 5-6. His assignments would periodically vary based upon the needs of the District and factors such as the weather, season, and budget. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 5-6. Some assignments required Rodas to operate heavy machinery and vehicles belonging to the Town. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 11. Additionally, if tools were needed in the maintenance of his job assignments, Rodas simply had to request that Superintendent Crane provide them. Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 125.

In the instant case, Rodas has asserted that he made complaints about a number of incidents that he characterized as sexual harassment. Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 34-42, 65-70. Among

Page 186

these incidents, Rodas cited a cartoon that briefly hung in a common area of the Sewer Plant depicting two men, one of whom was characterized as the Plaintiff, with the words, " you want to make out." Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 36-40. Rodas admitted that in the absence of the words, " you want to make out," the cartoon would not be considered offensive. Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 39. Rodas also claimed that the appearance of the words " Steve's gay" written in the dirt on a Town fuel tank was an act of sexual harassment. Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 43-44.

Rodas alleges that he verbally complained to Superintendent Crane about the existence of the cartoon and the writing on the fuel tank in September 2009 and January 2010, respectively. Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 38-40, 42-45. Rodas also mailed a letter dated February 9, 2010 to Town Supervisor Ted Fafinski and members of the Town Board, stating that he had complained to Superintendent Crane in September 2009 and January 2010, about the aforementioned cartoon and writing in the dirt on the fuel tank. Exhibit Q (Written complaint by Plaintiff to Ted Fafinski) to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The letter also raised a number of issues unrelated to sexual harassment including that Rodas was not issued a Town cell phone, that Rodas had not been invited to the " water department clam bake," and that Rodas had been subjected to slander. See Exhibit Q to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Rodas also submitted written complaints to the Town in the form of two charges of retaliation filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 23, 2010 and in June 2010. See Exhibit R (Plaintiff's charge of retaliation filed with the EEOC) to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment; see also Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 54.

Rodas alleges a series of retaliatory actions by the Town based upon his purported verbal complaints to Superintendent Crane in September 2009 and January 2010. See Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas; Exhibit V (Plaintiff's Complaint) to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment at ¶ 16; Exhibit W (Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant's First Set of Interrogatories) to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment at 7-11.

Rodas alleges that in March 2010, the Town retaliated against him for his complaints by removing some tools from the truck that he typically used in the performance of one of his assignments. Deposition Transcript of Stephen Rodas at p. 120-21. The tools in question were typically stored in a different truck other than the one that Rodas was using. Affidavit of Jim Crane at ¶ 39-41. Rodas had " accumulated [them] through time" in the truck he typically used, ...


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