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Whyte v. Nassau Health Care Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 27, 2013

CAROL WHYTE et. al., Plaintiffs,
NASSAU HEALTH CARE CORPORATION and RITA BERNHARDT, in her official and individual capacity, Defendants

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For the Plaintiff: Frederick K. Brewington, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF FREDERICK K. BREWINGTON, Hempstead, New York.

For the Defendants: Sheryl Ann Orwel, Esq., CLIFTON BUDD & DeMARIA, LLP, New York, New York; Brian J. Clark, Esq., VENABLE LLP, New York, NY.


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Denis R. Hurley, Senior United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Carol Whyte (" Whyte" or " plaintiff" ) commenced this action against defendants Nassau Health Care Corporation (" NHCC" ) and Rita Bernhardt (" Bernhardt" )(collectively " defendants" ) asserting claims of race-based and national-origin-based discrimination and retaliatory employment practices in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and New York's Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 296. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 1, as Defs.' Ex. A). Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (" Rule 56" ). For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion is granted.


The following facts, drawn from the parties' local Rule 56.1 statements, the pleadings, and prior decisions in this case, are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Procedural History

In an Order dated June 13, 2008, this Court, adopting Magistrate Judge Orenstein's Report and Recommendation in its entirety, granted defendants' motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 to sever into separate actions the claims of seven plaintiffs, including Leacock, each of whom claimed that defendants had discriminated against him or her based on race. ( See 06-CV-4757, Docket No. 64 (Memorandum and Order, dated June 13, 2008)). In the same opinion, the Court also dismissed plaintiffs' Title VI claims in their entirety and their Title VII claims against all of the individual defendants, including defendant Bernhardt. ( Id . at 14-15.)

Plaintiff's Employment at NUMC

Plaintiff, a black woman of Jamaican National Origin, " began working in the position of Medical Technologist I in the hematology Department of the Laboratory [at Nassau University Medical Center (" NUMC" )] on or about May 19, 2003." (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7; Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 40.) Medical Technologist I is a " competitive position and Ms. Whyte took a Civil Service examination in order to qualify for the position." (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7.)

While defendants contend that Whyte had no hematology experience prior to her hiring by NHCC, they do concede that " from 1996-1998, [plaintiff] worked at the New York City clinical lab where she took urine samples and did alcohol testing on sanitation workers." ( Id . ¶ 11.) Whyte asserts that her work at the New York City clinical lab constituted " hematology and urinalysis experience," and that " the only experience she did not have was in chemistry." (Pl.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11.)

At the start of her employment, Whyte " was subject to a 26-week probationary period, to conclude on November 16, 2003 . . . imposed by the Nassau County Civil Service Commission, pursuant to the New York State Civil Service Law, to ensure

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that the conduct, capacity, and fitness of the individual hired for the position was satisfactory." (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.) In addition, " [s]o that the probationary employees [could] have sufficient feedback during the . . . period, they [were] provided a two-month and four-month review." ( Id . ¶ 26.) During the probationary period, " new employees like Whyte were rotated through the different areas in which they would be working, i.e., Coagulation, Urinalysis, CBC, and slide areas." ( Id . ¶ 21.) Whyte, like other Medical Technologists, " started on the day shift" and " in the coagulation and urinalysis areas since they were easier than the other areas and had less need for use of the department computer." ( Id . ¶ 22.)

Defendant Bernhardt was Whyte's " direct supervisor in the hematology lab." ( Id . ¶ 10.) " She supervised the day shift from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and [had] some responsibilities for the evening shift, 4:00 p.m. to 12 midnight. Her duties include[d] quality control, quality assurance and reviewing the Medical Technician's work in the Hematology Lab." ( Id . ¶ 6.)

In addition to Bernhardt, Kathleen Martinez-Walsh, a Medical Technician III, supervised both the hematology and chemical laboratories at NUMC. ( Id . ¶ 9.) " Martinez-Walsh gave plaintiff her two-month review in or about July 21, 2003," finding that Whyte " [did] not meet standards in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities when performing technical work in the field," had " little if any knowledge in the coagulation and urinalysis areas," was " slow to catch on" and " repeatedly [had to] be shown the same procedures." ( Id . ¶ 27.) Though plaintiff claims that she improved after four months, Martinez-Walsh concluded in her four-month review that plaintiff still did not meet the standard for Medical Technologist I. (Pl.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30; Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30.)

As a result, Martinez-Walsh asked Bernhardt to monitor Whyte's work closely. (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 31.) In addition, " Martinez-Walsh also directed Ms. Bernhardt to develop a test for Ms. Whyte," the purpose of which is disputed. ( Id . ¶ 32.) While defendants claim that the purpose of the test " was to determine whether [plaintiff] had the basic knowledge and skills regarding hematology or whether she was having trouble operating the machine in the laboratory," ( id . ¶ 32), plaintiff states that the point of the test " was to humiliate Plaintiff and to force her not to pass her probationary period." (Pl.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 32.) In any event, according to defendants, the test results made it " clear to Martinez-Walsh that [plaintiff] did not have the most basic knowledge required for the position of Medical Technologist I." (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 32.)

In general, plaintiff does not dispute that defendant " Bernhardt reviewed Whyte's work in coagulation and found multiple errors including incorrect commenting and incorrect running of specimens," ( id . ¶ 24), but she claims that Bernhardt " screamed at her and belittled her in front of other employees" because of these mistakes. (Pl.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24.) For example, Whyte admits that about four months into the probationary period there was an incident where " she used the wrong reagent to test the specimen" and " made a mistake in running the test." (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 39.) Bernhardt admits " to yelling at Whyte on this occasion because Whyte released improper results from the lab to a doctor and the doctor may have been relying on it to the patient's detriment." ( Id .) On a separate occasion, " Whyte challenged the [department's] finding that she had made the same mistake twice in the same day," and " when confronted with the computer print

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out showing the mistake the second time," Whyte suggested that " someone else must have signed into the computer under her name and made the same mistake." ( Id . ¶ 41.)

" Toward the end of her probationary period, Ms. Whyte was rotated into the chemistry department in the laboratory under the direct supervision of Lisa Crispino." ( Id . ¶ 33.) Ms. Crispino completed an evaluation of plaintiff and " also found Ms. Whyte's performance unsatisfactory," ( id . ¶ 33), although the plaintiff claims that this evaluation " was not a true and accurate statement of Plaintiff's work." (Pl.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 33.)

Two weeks prior to the end of plaintiff's probationary period, NHCC completed a report required by the Nassau County Civil Service Commission on the suitability of the plaintiff for continued employment. (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 34.) NHCC gave Whyte an " unsatisfactory rating" and " on October 28, 2003, NHCC wrote to . . . Whyte and advised her that her employment would be terminated effective November 11, 2003. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 35-36.)

Complaint to the Office of Diversity

According to the plaintiff, on or about November 4, 2003, she " consulted with the Office of Diversity to report the discriminatory acts that she was being subject[ed] to." (Pl.'s R. 56.1 Stmt., Counterstatement of Facts (" Pl.'s Counterstatement" ) ¶ 30.) " Although Plaintiff visited the office during her lunch break," the meeting ran past the end of her break. ( Id . ¶ 30.) When plaintiff returned from the meeting, Martinez-Walsh told her that she was not supposed to go to the Office of Diversity on the department time and " that she would be docked for the extra time that she spent at the Office." ( Id . ΒΆ 31; Whyte Dep. at 129.) While reviewing her last paycheck, plaintiff noticed that it was less than her previous paychecks and notified the Human Resources Department. (Pl.'s Counterstatement ...

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