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Battle v. Carroll

United States District Court, W.D. New York

April 28, 2014

OLA M. BATTLE Plaintiff,


WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief District Judge.


Ola Battle was a longtime employee of Hart Hotels, Inc. when she was released after a confrontation with her supervisor, David Carroll, in 2010. A black woman, Battle claims that race was a motivating factor in her discharge, and she therefore asserts that Hart Hotels, which operates the Holiday Inn where Battle worked as a housekeeper, is liable under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As relevant to this case, Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to "discharge any individual... because of [her] race." See 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a).

As a threshold matter, in addition to the claim above Battle also brings a Title VII retaliation claim and a state-law discrimination claim against Hart Hotels and Carroll. But Battle affirmatively chose not to defend those claims in response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, (see Pl.'s Br. at 1), and the claims will therefore be dismissed. As a consequence, David Carroll must also be dismissed from the case because, though New York discrimination law provides for individual liability, Title VII does not. See Spiegel v. Schulmann , 604 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 2010) (per curiam).

With those claims and Defendant Carroll dismissed, Hart Hotels - now the lone defendant - moves for summary judgment on Battle's lone remaining claim, arguing that Battle has produced insufficient evidence to support the contention that her release was motivated by her race. For the following reasons, that aspect of the motion is denied.


A. Facts[1]

Ola Battle began working at the downtown Buffalo Holiday Inn as a housekeeper in 1993. She was eventually promoted, and her responsibilities in 2010 included inspecting rooms and supervising other housekeepers. Still, Battle had at least two supervisors to whom she reported: Teresa Strickland, the executive manager of the housekeeping department, and David Carroll, who is white and was the Hotel's general manager.[2]

On May 18, 2010 Carroll wrote a long email to Strickland, expressing displeasure with the "entire [housekeeping] department." (See Carroll email, attached as Ex. P to Pl.'s Stmnt. of Facts; Docket No. 51-16.) His grievances were many, but, regarding Battle, he was "shocked at [her] response... regarding check[-]in/check[-]out times" and complained that, on that morning, she could not be found on the hotel grounds until 8:20 a.m. despite being "punched in at 7:00 [a.m.]."(Id.)"I'm telling you right now, " he wrote to Strickland, "if someone punched her in at 7:00 we're going to have a problem." (Id.) Carroll completed the email by writing that he was "done with attitudes, the sense of entitlement, the sense of disrespect from your department." (Id.) "If things don't change, I will clean house and start from scratch, " he concluded. (Id.)

Battle learned of the email, and, although she was not scheduled to work, she came to the hotel the next day and requested a meeting with Carroll to discuss it. The two eventually met in Carroll's office, where Battle confronted Carroll, disputing the accusations Carroll made in the email. Rosemary Mankowski, an executive assistant at Hart Hotels, overheard at least part of the exchange. She says that it became "heated, " and while the parties generally agree on at least that much, they ultimately arrive at different versions of the exchange. Who said what? Who swore first? These issues remain in some doubt.

There is, however, no dispute that at one point, Carroll told Battle something to effect of "you people are never satisfied." (See Mankowski Dep., 30:13.) In her deposition, Battle is more specific, claiming that Carroll told her, "I'm fucking tired about [sic] you people. You [sic] always complaining about something, this or that and this or that." (Battle Dep., 77:1-3.) Battle contends that Carroll was referring to his recent decision to allow Battle's family to stay in the hotel without charge for 10 days. "Did I not fucking let you and your family stay here?" Carroll allegedly asked Battle. (Battle Dep., 76:23-24.) "You people, " she therefore contends, meant black people. But Carroll and Hart Hotels dispute that characterization; they suggest that he was referring to the housekeeping department.

In any event, as a result of the meeting, Carroll fired Battle. Battle recalls the following exchange occurring just as she was about to leave Carroll's office that day:

Carroll: "Ola."
Battle: "What?"
Carroll: "And you're fucking ...

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