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Cuozzo v. American Rock Salt Co.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 28, 2014

TRACEY CUOZZO, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN ROCK SALT COMPANY, JOSEPH BUCCI, Individually, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Tracey Cuozzo brought this action against American Rock Salt Co., LLC ("ARS") and Joseph Bucci, alleging claims of sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and a claim for sexual harassment under the New York Human Rights Law ("HRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq.

On June 28, 2013, defendants moved for summary judgment (Dkt. #20). Plaintiff was given until August 9, 2013 to respond, Dkt. #21, and on the request of her then-attorney, Christina Agola, she was granted an extension to respond until November 7, 2013. Dkt. #22.

After defendants' motion was filed, attorney Agola requested, and was granted, permission to withdraw from all her pending cases in this Court, including this one, because she had been suspended from practice in this District. See Dkt. #23. At that point-which was two weeks after the deadline to respond to defendants' summary judgment motion-plaintiff had not filed any response to the motion, through her attorney or otherwise.

On January 3, 2014, the Court issued an Order (Dkt. #24) noting that plaintiff had not responded to the pending motion, and giving her thirty days to do so, either pro se or through new counsel. The Court stated that if plaintiff failed to respond to the motion, the Court would "consider the motion on the papers submitted, which could result in the action being dismissed." Id. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion or to that order, nor has she communicated with the Court in any way since her attorney withdrew.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that she began working for ARS in September 2010 as a benefits specialist. Complaint ¶ 15.[1] Bucci is a part owner of ARS. Def. Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts ("SOF"), Dkt. #20-1 ¶ 2. Prior to her employment at ARS, plaintiff had worked with Bucci for several years in an unrelated business. Complaint ¶ 17. Before the incidents giving rise to this action began, plaintiff had considered Bucci a friend. SOF ¶¶ 18, 19.

According to defendants, during plaintiff's employment at ARS, she and Bucci had frequent work-related interactions, and occasionally engaged in small talk, but Bucci did not directly supervise her. SOF ¶ 29. Plaintiff's immediate supervisor was Gary Perrin, who was also ARS's Director of Human Resources. SOF ¶ 25.

Plaintiff alleges that beginning in late August 2011, Bucci began discussing with her certain anonymous letters that he said had been sent to his home and to his neighbors, concerning an alleged sexual relationship between Bucci and another woman. Defendants contend that these letters were utterly false, and that Bucci expressed his intent to "get to the bottom" of the matter. SOF ¶ 37.

According to defendants, Bucci hired a former law enforcement officer to investigate the source of the letters. Based on information uncovered by that person, Bucci came to believe that plaintiff had either sent the letters, or knew who had sent them. SOF ¶ 41.

In early October 2011, Bucci confronted plaintiff in her office over the matter. She denied any involvement or knowledge of where the letters had come from. After some words were exchanged, Bucci returned to his office. A few minutes later, plaintiff left, telling a coworker, in sum and substance, that she was not going to put up with further harassment and that she was going home. Complaint ¶ 30; SOF ¶ 44.

Later that day, plaintiff telephoned Perrin. She told him what had happened between her and Bucci. Plaintiff stated that the situation had been going on for several weeks but that she had not previously brought it to Perrin's attention because it had nothing to do with ARS. SOF ¶ 45.

Perrin told plaintiff that he needed her to return to work, but she refused, stating that she would not return until ...


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