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Heinrich v. Xerox Corporation

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 5, 2013

WILLIAM J. HEINRICH, Plaintiff,
v.
XEROX CORPORATION, Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff William J. Heinrich ("Plaintiff" or "Heinrich") brings this action pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA")(codified at 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ) and the New York State Human Rights Law ("Human Rights Law")(codified at Executive Law § 290, et seq. ), claiming that Defendant, Xerox Corporation ("Defendant" or "Xerox"), discriminated against him because of his age. (Dkt. No. 5 at ¶ 1). Specifically, Heinrich alleges that age discriminatory employment practices were the proximate and actual cause for his termination because Xerox failed to terminate younger, similarly situated employees. See id. at ¶¶ 16, 18, 23.

Defendant denies Plaintiff's allegations and moves for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's claims on grounds that he has failed to state a prima facie case of discrimination, and that even if he has stated a prima facie case, he has failed to rebut the defendant's legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating his employment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff William Heinrich began working for the defendant, Xerox, in March, 1988. (Dkt. No. 5 at 2). At the time of his termination in September, 2008, he was 40 years-old and working as a Coater-Operator in the Color Flow II work group in the Supplies Division at Xerox's Webster Fuser Business Center ("WFBC") manufacturing plant located in Webster, New York. (Dkt. No. 24 at 1-3).

During his time as a Xerox employee, Heinrich claims that he was subject to age discriminatory employment practices, and as a result of these practices, he was subject to undue discipline, scrutiny, and ultimately termination. (Dkt. No. 5 at 3-4). Specifically, he alleges that similarly situated employees "under the age of 40 and/or significantly younger than" him engaged in the same form of conduct that allegedly led to the termination of his employment.

Plaintiff maintains that his work record at Xerox was stellar and has no recollection of several events that resulted in the labor reports, suspensions, and warnings recorded in Xerox's records. (Dkt. No. 27 Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ("Pl's Facts") at 5). The following incidents from his disciplinary record, however, are undisputed.[1] (Dkt. No. 27 Pl's Facts at 7-9).

On March 5, 1992, Heinrich was issued a verbal warning for failing to follow his supervisor's oral and written instructions. On June 24, 1994, he was suspended from work for three days, according to the labor report, for acting abusive and threatening toward a supervisor.

On August 23, 1996, Plaintiff's supervisor issued a "D" Labor Report and Plaintiff was suspended from work for 29 days as the result of an incident in which he repeatedly threatened a co-worker in a provoking and intimidating manner, including threats to the co-worker's person and life. On April 9, 1999, Plaintiff was issued a labor report for leaving work without permission during work hours. An assessment of Plaintiff's work performance from 2008, the year of his termination, stated that he did not have a cooperative attitude and his performance did not meet expectations.

According to Defendant, the events that led to Heinrich's termination began on August 20, 2008, when one of his co-workers, Bob Earl ("Earl"), reported to his manager, Joy Longhenry ("Longhenry"), that Plaintiff had harassed and taunted him, suggested they settle their differences in the parking lot, repeatedly told Earl that Plaintiff was a member of the Iron Horsemen motorcycle gang and a black belt in martial arts and could break Earl's arm in two moves. (Dkt. No. 24 Defendant's Memorandum of Law in support of motion for summary judgment ("Def's Mem.") at 7). Earl reported that he no longer felt comfortable working in the same area as Heinrich. When his supervisor suggested a meeting between Plaintiff and Earl, Heinrich, according to Defendant, responded threateningly, stating he "would be glad to meet with [Earl] off Xerox premises;" however, Plaintiff contends that he had simply agreed to meet with Longhenry and Earl "after work." (Dkt. No. 27 Pl's Facts at 12).

On August 28, 2008, another co-worker, David Young ("Young"), complained to Longhenry that the night before Plaintiff had accused Earl and him of "snitching" and threatened him by smirking and stating, "Don't worry, I won't threaten you."

Longhenry reported the two complaints to Xerox Industrial Relations Manager Braithwaite ("Braithwaite") and Xerox Corporate Security employee Darrell Franklin ("Franklin"), who conducted an investigation into the veracity of the complaints. Id. at 12-14. Four of Plaintiff's co-workers interviewed during the investigation, including Earl and Young, complained and signed statements to the effect that Plaintiff had threatened and intimidated them. Earl confirmed what he had told Longhenry, adding that Plaintiff had taunted him, "you would like to punch me, wouldn't you?" Young told Braithwaite and Franklin about the incident he reported on August 28, 2008 and added that Heinrich had told him before that he was a black belt and member of a motorcycle gang and had also thrown boxes around their work area. Another coworker, Laurie Snyder ("Snyder") reported that she was afraid to work alone with Plaintiff and feared retaliation for participating in the investigation. She reported that Plaintiff called her "slow" and a "retard" and would throw objects in the workplace and intentionally throw co-workers' belongings in the trash.

Another co-worker, Rex Pentycofe ("Pentycofe") reported that he had overheard Plaintiff threaten Earl. He also reported that Heinrich was a constant agitator and had told Pentycofe that he was the member of a biker gang and that he and ...


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