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Quartey v. Schiavone Construction Co. LLC

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 27, 2014

BEN QUARTEY, Plaintiff


DORA L. IRIZARRY, District Judge.

Ben Quartey ("Plaintiff" or "Quartey") brought this action against Schiavone Construction Co. LLC, Schiavone Contracting Corp (together "Schiavone"), and John P. Picone, Inc. ("Picone, " together with Schiavone, "Defendants"), alleging employment discrimination on the basis of race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"). Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff opposes. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is denied in its entirety.


Plaintiff, a black male who was born in Ghana, is a member of Drill Runners and Blasters Union Local 29 of the Laborers International Union of America ("Local 29" or the "Union"). (Defs.' Statement of Uncontested Facts ("Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt") ¶¶ 3, 8, Doc. Entry No. 60-3; Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Counter-Statement of Material Facts ("Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt") ¶¶ 3, 8, Doc. Entry No. 51.) Defendants are heavy construction companies that formed a joint venture (the "Joint Venture") for the purpose of performing a public construction project at the Croton water treatment plant (the "Croton Project").[1] (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 1-2, 4; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 1-2, 4).

In early 2010, Plaintiff visited the Croton Project site several times in an attempt to find work, a process known as "shaping" a job. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 9, 11; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 9, 11.) While shaping the Croton Project, Plaintiff spoke with the Joint Venture's Project Superintendent, Adriano Mele ("Mele"), who was responsible for, inter alia, managing the unionized labor force. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 6, 10; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 6, 10.) Mr. Mele told Plaintiff that the Joint Venture needed Local 29 members to perform drilling and blasting on the Croton Project. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 10; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 10.)

In January 2010, Plaintiff was hired by the Joint Venture to work on the Croton Project. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 14; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 14.) The parties dispute the nature of Plaintiff's employment. Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff was hired as a foreman solely for the drilling phase of the Croton Project, while Plaintiff contends that Mr. Mele told him he was hired for both the drilling and blasting phases of the Project. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 12, 13; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 12, 13, 79.) The parties also dispute whether Mr. Mele and Joseph Ascolese ("Ascolese"), the Joint Venture's Project Manager, were aware of Plaintiff's qualifications, other than the fact that he was a Local 29 member, when he was hired. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 5, 15-16; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 5, 15-16.)

Mr. Mele asked Plaintiff to put together a crew of drillers to work under him. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 17; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 17.) On Plaintiff's recommendation, the Joint Venture hired Isaac Weaver and David Gyan, who are both Black. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 19; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 19.) Local 29 sent Joseph Russo ("Russo"), who is Caucasian, to join Plaintiff's crew as the shop steward. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 20-21; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 20-21.) The Joint Venture also hired Francis Hanson, who is Caucasian, and Carl Stinnie, who is Black, as members of Plaintiff's crew. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 22-23; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 22-23.) Plaintiff and his crew performed line and channel drilling for the Croton Project. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 24; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 24.)

On or about March 14, 2010, Plaintiff and his crew were laid off. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 25; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 25.) Defendants claim that the drilling phase of the Croton Project was over when Plaintiff was laid off, but Plaintiff contends that the drilling work was not completed entirely. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 25; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 25.) Additionally, since the parties disagree about whether Plaintiff was hired to perform blasting in addition to drilling, there is a dispute as to whether Plaintiff actively was terminated or whether his employment simply ended once the tasks he was hired to perform were complete. ( See Pl.'s 56.2 Stmnt ¶¶ 12, 13, 25, 26.)

After Plaintiff and his crew were laid off, the Joint Venture hired Jorge Barahona, Sr. ("Barahona"), who is not black, and his crew to perform blasting for the Croton Project. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 27, 28, 48, 50; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 27, 28, 48, 50.) In addition to the crew members recommended by Mr. Barahona, Mr. Russo was assigned by Local 29 to be the shop steward on the blasting crew. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 49; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 49.) According to Defendants, Mr. Barahona was hired based on the advice of Fred Streichenwein, a drill blast superintendent for Schiavone with significant blasting experience. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 29, 30; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶ 29, 30.) Notably, Mr. Streichenwein had worked with both Mr. Quartey and Mr. Barahona on a prior Schiavone construction job (the "South Ferry Project"). (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 36-39, 45; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 36-39, 45, 89.) The parties dispute the circumstances surrounding the Joint Venture's decision to hire Mr. Barahona and Mr. Streichenwein's motives for recommending that Mr. Barahona, rather than Mr. Quartey, perform the blasting phase of the Croton Project. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 28, 30, 33-47; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmnt ¶¶ 28, 30, 33-47.)

On April 26, 2011, Plaintiff commenced the instant action, alleging that the Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race by terminating him from his employment on the Croton Project.


I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the district court must resolve all ambiguities, and credit all factual inferences that could rationally be drawn, in favor of the party opposing summary judgment and determine whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, raising an issue for trial." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 202 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotations omitted). A fact is "material" within the meaning of Rule 56 when its resolution "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is "genuine" when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. To determine whether an issue is genuine, "[t]he inferences to be drawn from the underlying affidavits, exhibits, interrogatory answers, and depositions must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 46 F.3d 196, 202 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam) and Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F.2d 460, 465 (2d Cir. 1989)). "[T]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

The moving party bears the burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record]... which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party has met its burden, "the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (emphasis omitted). The nonmoving party must offer "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in [its] favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The nonmoving party may not "rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible, or upon the mere allegations or denials of the nonmoving party's pleading." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F.2d 522, 532-33 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations and internal quotations omitted). ...

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