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Focarazzo v. University of Rochester

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 20, 2013

MARJORIE A. FOCARAZZO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER, Defendant

For Marjorie A. Focarazzo, Plaintiff: Christina A. Agola, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brighton, NY.

For University of Rochester, Defendant: Sarah Snyder Merkel, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Wolford Law Firm LLP, Rochester, NY.

OPINION

Page 336

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Marjorie Focarazzo (" plaintiff" ) brings this action against her former employer, the University of Rochester (the " University" ), alleging age-based discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (" ADEA" ) and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq. (" NYHRL" ). Discovery is now completed, and the University moves for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's claims (Dkt. #15). For the reasons that follow, the University's motion for summary judgment is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was initially hired by the University in 1998, and worked in several secretarial positions before being hired in May 2001 as the Administrative Assistant to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the University's School of Nursing, Dr. Judith Baggs.

Plaintiff's performance in this position under Dr. Baggs was generally well-rated, with the exception of a June 8, 2005 letter to plaintiff memorializing an inappropriate comment she had allegedly made about a coworker, in which she expressed a wish to " take a contract out on [the coworker's] life." (Dkt. #15-21).

In October 2005, Dr. Kathy Rideout was appointed to the position of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and became plaintiff's supervisor. Dr. Rideout evaluated plaintiff's job performance positively through May of 2007. However, thereafter, several performance issues began to emerge. On April 9, 2008, plaintiff abruptly left a meeting with Rideout in which Rideout had made criticisms of her job performance. Two days later, plaintiff wrote to Rideout to apologize, explaining that she had needed time to gather her thoughts, and attributing the recent deficiencies in her job performance to personal problems, which were interfering with her work. (Dkt. #15-7).

On April 28 and April 29, 2008, Rideout wrote letters to plaintiff documenting conversations

Page 337

between them about plaintiff's job performance, and listing several recent issues, including plaintiff's failure to complete certain advanced preparations for an on-site evaluation visit by an accreditation agency, failure to attend planning meetings, and frequent, unexplained absences fro her office. (Dkt. #15-8, #15-9). Both letters identified specific actions plaintiff could take to improve performance in the designated areas (e.g., resume attending meetings, leave an explanation and anticipated return time when absent from the office, etc.). Id.

On May 28, 2008, Rideout completed a performance evaluation for plaintiff, identifying plaintiff as " meeting expectations" in all areas of performance except for " Resourcefulness/Results", which was rated as " needs improvement." In written comments, Rideout expressed concern about plaintiff's frequent absence from the office, stating that faculty members had complained about plaintiff's inaccessibility, plaintiff's failure to ask for assistance at times when she was unsure what to do, and referenced ...


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