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Joiner v. MVP Service Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 19, 2014


Hess Dell Joiner pro se Macedon, NY, for Plaintiff.

Michael Billok, Esq., Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, Albany, NY, for Defendants.


CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA, District Judge.


This employment discrimination case is before the Court Defendant's motion for summary judgment, filed on December 19, 2013, ECF No. 48. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's application is granted.


Defendants complied with L.R. Civ. P. 56 and filed a statement of material facts, Dec. 19, 2013, ECF No. 49, as well as the required notice to pro se litigants, Dec. 19, 2013, ECF No. 55.[1] Plaintiff responded with a "Rule 56 Counterstatements of Material Facts that Are In Dispute, " Jan. 23, 2014, ECF No. 59 ("Pl.'s Counter-Statement"). Plaintiff's Counter-Statement is signed under penalty of perjury. Id. at 46. From those statements and the complaint, the Court gleans the following material facts important to disposition of this motion.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated her rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (race based claims). Compl. at 1. Plaintiff's specific claims from the Complaint are: failure to provide her with reasonable accommodations to the application process; failure to provide her with reasonable accommodations so she could perform the essential functions of her job; harassment on the basis of unequal terms and conditions of her employment; retaliation because she complained about discrimination or harassment directed toward her; and hostile work environment. Compl. at 3. She claims discrimination based on her race, age (date of birth June 1955) and national origin. Compl. ¶ 14.

Plaintiff commenced employment with Defendant on February 25, 2008. She alleges that acts of discrimination occurred on several dates in 2010 and 2011. See Compl. at 1. She was terminated on February 3, 2012. Def. Appx. at 447-50. Defendant's lengthy statement of facts sets out detailed, almost day-to-day assessments of Plaintiff's performance, while Plaintiff's Counter-Statement provides the minutia of contradictory facts. Many of Plaintiff's counter-statements are not supported by citation to evidentiary proof in admissible form, and her responses to some of Defendant's assertions of fact are pages long, for example, ¶ 6 ( Compare Def.'s Statement: "MVP Service Corp. maintains both an Equal Opportunity Policy and an Unlawful Harassment Policy that prohibit harassment and discrimination on race, gender, age, and any basis protected by law, as well as retaliation for making any complaint of harassment or discrimination. Rivera-Platt Decl. at ¶ 5; Appendix ("App.") at 309-11." to Pl.'s Counter-Statement which begins at page 6 and includes charges that Plaintiff was treated unequally that continue until page 17). Where Plaintiff's Counter-Statement violates L.R. Civ. P. 56, the Court has disregarded it.[2]

Defendant provides health care insurance and administrative services, including timely and accurate processing of claims. Plaintiff disputes that white supervisors were required to timely process claims. Pl.'s Counter-Statement ¶ 3. However, her citation to Def. Appx. at 56 reveals only hand-written notes with no evidentiary foundation listing the names, "Caroline" on one line, "Faith Boswell" on the next and "Linda Wallace" on a third, and under those lines, "write up for being 32 days late paying claim." Def. Appx. at 56. The page contains no evidence of who wrote the notes, or what they mean. Defendant states that Plaintiff was hired by Debbie Groth, MVP's Claims Manager of Government Programs, as a claims processor in the claims processing department on February 25, 2008. Subsequently, on January 10, 2010, as a result of a department restructuring, Plaintiff reported directly to Groth, whereas previously, she reported to a different supervisor. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 8-10. Though Plaintiff disputes these statements, she provides no citation to evidentiary proof in support of her disagreements.

On March 22, 2010, Debbie Groth promoted Plaintiff to a team leader position in the government programs department. Def. Appx. at 368. At a meeting with Debbie Groth and Jason Kurz in April 2010, Kurz called Plaintiff a liar and, according to Plaintiff, who was Kurz's supervisor, Kurz "only wanted to do what he wanted to do and not what was actually assigned to him." Joiner Dep. 38:9-10 (Def. Appx. at 154). At her deposition, Plaintiff agreed that it was unacceptable for an employee to do what he wanted to do and not what his supervisor wanted him to do. Id. 40:5-9 (Def. Appx. at 156). Following the meeting, Plaintiff asked Groth for her old position back, and Groth responded, "It's going to be hard, but you're doing a good job. I want you to stay there." Id. 40:15-17 (Def. Appx. at 156).

On May 26, 2010, Groth called another meeting with Plaintiff concerning one of Plaintiff's subordinates, Sandy Langmaid. Joiner Dep. 44:18-22 (Def. Appx. 160). According to Plaintiff, Langmaid had an issue with the way Plaintiff was structuring and prioritizing her workload. During the meeting, Groth encouraged Plaintiff "to increase the communication between" herself and Langmaid. Id. 45:20-21 (Def. Appx. 161).

On June 24, 2010, Groth called a meeting with Plaintiff and Kellie Traver, Associate Director of Rochester Operations, to discuss concerns Traver's staff had brought to her attention. Id. 45:22-46:11 (Def. Appx. 161-62). With respect to this meeting, Plaintiff testified that she recalled a concern about the fact she had asked Kurz to return to work while he was having a conversation with two people on the floor, and a complaint by Sarina Miller-Richardson that Plaintiff treated her disrespectfully. Id. 46:8-23 (Def. Appx. 162).

Plaintiff testified that she did not recall an October 5, 2010, "due process" meeting with Groth to discuss an email that Plaintiff had sent to another employee, id. 47:22-48:14; however, she did recall having several meetings with Groth regarding complaints from employees about how Plaintiff treated them when asking them questions, id. 48:15-21 (Def. Appx. 164). At her deposition, Plaintiff indicated that she reviewed an email she sent on October 4, 2010, at 4:02 p.m. to Carolyn Stuckey, in which Plaintiff wrote, "You made an issue on this from Friday, when I were [sic] playing with you." Joiner Dep. 49:17-25 (Def. Appx. 165). Plaintiff stated she forwarded the whole email string to several employees, including her supervisor, Groth, "[b]ecause Debbie Groth wasn't telling the truth." Id. at 50:18-19 (Def. Appx. 166). Asked to explain, Plaintiff responded saying:

A. When she said data entry asked for help, the very first paragraph. Ladies, data entry indicated they asked for help on Friday with this report and was told that they had to do it themselves. That was not the truth. That was an incomplete. She was not telling the truth.

Joiner Dep. 51:8-13 (Def. Appx. 167). Following several questions and answers that simply confused the issue more, opposing counsel asked the following follow-up questions and received Plaintiff's answers:

Q. So let me get this straight. On October 4, 2010, at 4:08 p.m., you sent an e-mail to Carolyn Stuckey saying, "You told me you will let me know when Sue, " underlined, "find out what she had coming to work on. I had to wait because you couldn't make that decision until then." Ms. Stuckey responds, "You still on this. If I needed help, I would have came and asked. Roz came in at 1 and it got finished. What is the problem now? Every day it's something. And I am not trying and don't want to deal with no office politics or he say she say. But if you think that it's on me, okay, so be it. It's not that serious. What's really going on?" You take this e-mail chain and you forward it to several people. And is it your testimony today, under oath, that the reason you did this was not because of Carolyn Stuckey, but because of Debbie Groth?

A. Because Debbie Groth's inconsistency with not telling the truth.

Q. Are you testifying that you had no issue with Carolyn Stuckey?

A. Carolyn Stuckey? I have no issue with Carolyn Stuckey.

Joiner Dep. 53:8-54:8 (Def. Appx. 169-70).

On October 5, 2010, Erin Banach, a Quality Assurance Supervisor, wrote to Groth to complain about the way in which Plaintiff was treating Banach's employees. Def. Appx. 374. Banach's email forwarded an email she had received from Kimberly Bremer, a senior quality assurance and defect tracking employee, also dated October 5, 2010, in which Banach wrote:

I need to vent. I am furious with [Plaintiff]. She was so disrespectful and rude to me. She is always reprimanding people for talking too loud. She was coming up behind my desk, I turned and looked at her and said [Plaintiff] I need to ask you a question. She kept walking towards Sandy's desk. I said [Plaintiff] I'm talking to you and she said I can hear you. I told her I was not going to yell my question across the department. Everyone was in awe!

Def. Appx. 374. Plaintiff addressed this issue in her EEOC filing, stating:

I was walking when Kim Bremer (a white) called out my name and I said "I will be right back." Meanwhile, I went to Sandy's desk to pick some folders for Caroline's desk. And, then I went to Kim's desk-I was written up for not stopping immediately because her feeling got hurt when she had called out ...

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