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Sass v. MTA Bus Co.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 14, 2014

GARY SASS, Plaintiff,
v.
MTA BUS COMPANY, Defendant

Page 230

For Gary Sass, Plaintiff: Aaron N Solomon, The Law Office of Michael G. O'Neill, New York, NY; Michael G. O'Neill, New York, NY.

For MTA Bus Company, Defendant: Renee Lucille Cyr, Law Office of Steve S. Efron, New York, NY; Steve S. Efron, Steve S. Efron, New York, NY.

OPINION

Page 231

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

MARGO K. BRODIE, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Gary Sass filed the above-captioned action against his former employer Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bus Company (" MTA Bus" ) for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ), the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 (" NYSHRL" ) and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107 (" NYCHRL" ). After a jury trial, the jury found Defendant liable and awarded damages in the amount of $358,300. Four days after the jury verdict, on June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in University of Texas Southwest Medical Center v. Nassar changing the standard of proof necessary to establish a retaliation claim pursuant to Title VII. 570 __ U.S. __, __, 133 S.Ct. 2517, 2533 (2013). Based on Nassar, Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law, or

Page 232

in the alternative, for a new trial. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for a new trial is granted.

I. Background

The Court assumes familiarity with the underlying facts and procedural history of this case. See Sass v. MTA Bus Co., No. 10-CV-4079, 2012 WL 4511394 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 2, 2012). According to Plaintiff, he was terminated from his position as a bus maintenance supervisor at MTA Bus in retaliation for telling MTA Bus investigators that he had reported to his supervisor finding a bus roster with Nazi symbols superimposed on it, and that his supervisor failed to take any action. On June 17, 2013, the Court commenced a jury trial on Plaintiff's retaliation claim and after presentation of all the evidence, Defendant moved pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for judgment as a matter of law, on the basis that Plaintiff could not establish a causal connection between his termination and the protected activity. (Docket Entry No. 57, Trial Transcript (" Tr." ) 405.) The Court denied the motion on the grounds that a reasonable jury could find that Defendant's reason for the termination was pretextual, based on the differential treatment accorded to a similarly situated employee. (Tr. 413-14.) The Court instructed the jury that in order to establish liability on the claim of retaliation, Plaintiff had to prove that " one or more of his protected activities played an important role in [D]efendant's decision to terminate [P]laintiff," and that " [P]laintiff's participation in protected activities were more likely than not a motivating factor in [D]efendant's termination of [P]laintiff." (Tr. 586:16-24.) On June 20, 2013, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. Plaintiff moved for reinstatement, pension contributions, back pay and for attorneys' fees.

On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in Nassar holding that " Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation," expressly rejecting the motivating-factor standard. Nassar, 570 __ U.S. at __, 133 S.Ct. at 2533. Based on the Supreme Court's Nassar decision, Defendant renewed its motion pursuant to Rule 50 for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, moved pursuant to Rule 59 for an order vacating the verdict and granting a new trial.

II. Discussion

a. Standard of Review


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