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Robles v. Cox & Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

November 23, 2013

CARMEN ROBLES, Plaintiff,
v.
COX AND COMPANY, INC, Defendant

Page 200

For Plaintiff: Adeline Ellis, Esq., Of Counsel, Law Offices of Adeline Ellis, Great Barrington, MA.

For Defendant: Jennifer M. Marrinan, Esq., Of Counsel, Clifton, Budd & DeMaria, LLP, New York, NY.

OPINION

Page 201

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

ARTHUR D. SPATT, United States District Judge.

On April 21, 2011, the Plaintiff Carmen Robles (the " Plaintiff" ) commenced this lawsuit against her former employer, Cox and Company, Inc. (the " Defendant" ), alleging that, by terminating her employment, the Defendant engaged in unlawful age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the New York State Human Rights Law (" NYSHRL" ), N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq.; and the New York City Human Rights Law (" NYCHRL" ), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a) et seq. The Plaintiff also brought a claim for retaliation under Title VII and claims for breach of express and implied contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress under New York common law. Thereafter, by Order dated January 10, 2012, the Court dismissed all but the Plaintiff's claims for age discrimination under the ADEA and the NYSHRL.

Presently before the Court is the Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Fed. R. Civ. P." ) 56. For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's motion is granted and the Plaintiff's action is dismissed in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

The Defendant in this case is an engineering-driven manufacturer for the aerospace industry and has been in continuous

Page 202

business operation for approximately fifty years. Its business involves designing, developing, testing and manufacturing temperature control and de-icing equipment. Initially located in New York City, the Defendant relocated to Plainview, New York, in January of 2009.

The Plaintiff was born on July 10, 1945. On July 30, 1968, the Plaintiff began her employment with the Defendant in a position that involved ironing and cementing a special device. Soon thereafter, she began a new position with the Defendant doing soldering on an assembly line.

On October 9, 1998, the Defendant terminated the Plaintiff on the ground that the Plaintiff hid blueprints in her locker. The Plaintiff contested her termination, claiming that the Defendant's stated reason concerning the blueprints was only a pretext for her termination. In this regard, the Plaintiff brought an action against the Defendant, asserting allegations of quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation (" the 1999 lawsuit" ). However, in 2001, the Plaintiff and the Defendant reached a settlement in which the Defendant agreed to reinstate the Plaintiff to her former position on the assembly line as a solderer on the third floor and to cease discriminating against her.

On January 28, 2002, the Plaintiff returned to work. However, instead of resuming her former position on the third floor, the Plaintiff was assigned by the Defendant to the second floor. According to the Defendant, the Plaintiff was assigned to the second floor rather than the third floor because the wife of her alleged sexual harasser worked on the third floor.

While on the second floor, the Plaintiff was exposed to harmful toxins and fiberglass. Prior to the 1999 lawsuit, the Plaintiff had allegedly received a job-related injury due to exposure to these same toxins and fiberglass. The Plaintiff's attorney intervened and threatened to return to court. As such, in 2002, the Defendant relocated the Plaintiff from the second floor to the stockroom. The Plaintiff remained in the stockroom until the time her employment was terminated in April of 2009. Her duties included working with the wires, using the wire cutting machine, changing the wires and numbering the wires. According to the Plaintiff, while working in the stockroom, the Defendant did not discriminate against her and no one who worked for the Defendant ever made a discriminatory remark concerning her age. She also never made any complaints, including complaints of age discrimination, to anyone who worked for the Defendant.

Three other full-time employees worked in the stockroom with the Plaintiff: Henrietta Leka (" Leka" ), Sonia Morales (" Morales" ) and the Plaintiff's direct supervisor, Marie Buice (" Buice" ). Leka was born on October 21, 1957; Morales was born on March 7, 1964; and Buice was born on February 1, 1955. Buice reported to Charlie Klee (" Klee" ), who was the stockroom supervisor, as well as the materials managers. He was born July 28, 1947. In addition, Monica Carrillo (" Carrillo" ) also worked in the stockroom part-time, but was a " floater" who worked in other departments besides the stockroom. She was born on August 31, 1961.

Both Buice and Morales used the stockroom's computer system, but the Plaintiff was unable to, due to her limited English skills. Further, while Morales and Leka consistently received ratings of " excellent" on their annual performance reviews, the Plaintiff generally received " average" and " above average" ratings. (See Marrinan Aff., Exhs. 4-6.)

Page 203

On April 10, 2006, James Jaffe (" Jaffe" ) was hired by the Defendant as the Chief Financial Officer (" CFO" ). He was born on March 28, 1955. As CFO for the Defendant, Jaffe's responsibilities included overseeing tax and accounting, human resources and information technology. Of relevance here, concerning his human resources duties, Jaffee compiled the Defendant's anti-discrimination policies into a handbook, which was published in 2009.

Upon beginning his position as CFO, Jaffe met with then-President Stephen Landry (" Landry" ) and Chairman Warren Achenbaum (" Achenbaum" ). Jaffe advised Landry and Achenbaum that in order for the Defendant to survive, they would need to cut expenses. In his deposition testimony, Jaffee explained that the Defendant's 2007 and 2008 sales had dramatically declined and that the Defendant had serious financial concerns and losses. According to Jaffee, the Defendant considered many different avenues for decreasing expenses, including filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; raising borrowing limits from banks; postponing payments to vendors; and reducing the work force through layoffs.

As such, beginning in September of 2007 until April of 2009, the Defendant implemented a reduction-in-force. In this regard, the Defendant laid off fifty-two of its employees, but retained 135 employees. The fifty-two terminated employees were born in years ranging from 1945 to 1985, while the 135 retained employees were born in years ranging from 1936 to 1989. The layoffs occurred in five waves, with the fifth and final group being laid off in April 2009. All departments were affected by the layoffs.

With respect to the stockroom, Jaffee testified that the Defendant's managers determined that at least one person from the stockroom's four full-time employees had to be laid off. Management did not consider Carillo when making this evaluation, because she only worked part-time in the stockroom. According to Jaffee, management selected the Plaintiff for layoff because (1) her performance evaluations were average as compared with the other stockroom employees, who consistently received " excellent" ratings and (2) her skills were limited as compared with the other stockroom employees, in that she primarily worked with the wires, could not use the stockroom's computer system and had limited English language skills. Jaffee claims that, during the course of making the layoff decision, management gave no consideration to either the Plaintiff's age or to the age of any other stockroom employee.

Thus, on April 24, 2009, the Plaintiff's employment was terminated as part of the last wave of layoffs. Buice's employment was also terminated in April of 2009. In the termination letter that the Defendant sent the Plaintiff, the Defendant asserted that the Plaintiff's termination was due to " an economic downturn" and " in no way reflect[ed] [the Plaintiff's] performance in [her] job." (Ellis Aff., Exh. B.)

The Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she did not know why there were layoffs and that no one working for the Defendant ever explained to her the reason for why she was terminated from her employment. However, the Plaintiff also testified that when she was fired, she met with Klee and two additional employees of the Defendant, Diana Lopez and Munesh Persaud, who told her that the layoffs were a result of the economy.

Following the Plaintiff's layoff, her job duties were absorbed by the remaining stockroom employees. Although no one was hired to replace the Plaintiff in the stockroom, in December of 2010, Timothy Mullins (" Mullins" ) was transferred from the shipping ...


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