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Daggs v. Donahoe

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 30, 2014

DAWN M. DAGGS and DEBORA K. WAGNER, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE. Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs commenced the present action in April 2011 alleging claims of retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Presently before this Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. This Court finds the matter fully briefed and oral argument unnecessary. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed.

II. BACKGROUND

Many of the facts in the instant case are undisputed. Plaintiffs each began working with the Postal Service in 2007 at the Caledonia, New York post office. (Pl's Stmt of Facts ¶¶ 2, 6, Docket No.28-1.) Plaintiffs assert that, from September 2009 to June 2010, the then-Postmaster of the Caledonia Post Office, Eugene Volger, harassed Plaintiffs and otherwise behaved inappropriately toward staff and customers. (Id. ¶¶ 10-58.) Plaintiffs complained about this conduct to Volger's supervisor, Ronald Coon, on June 15, 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 58-65.) Volger was removed from the building the next morning, and never again worked as Plaintiffs' supervisor. (Id. ¶¶ 70-72.) He was ultimately given a letter of warning for violating Postal Service rules and informed that further misconduct could result in his removal. (Id. ¶¶ 84-85.)

Plaintiffs initiated the pre-complaint process with the Postal Service's Equal Employment Opportunity Office ("EEO") on June 16, 2010 and filed formal complaints of discrimination on September 24, 2010. (Docket No. 20-4 at 21-22, 36.) These formal complaints reflected the allegations against Volger and further alleged that the subsequent investigation was biased. (Id.) This formal complaint was dismissed by the EEO on October 18, 2010. (Id. at 21-24, 49-52.)

On October 25, 2010, both Plaintiffs complained to the EEO of retaliation for their prior complaints. (Docket Nos. 20-4 at 62, 20-5 at 18.) Following the informal complaint resolution process, Plaintiff Wagner and Plaintiff Daggs filed formal complaints of retaliation on December 27 and December 29, 2010, respectively. (Docket Nos. 20-4 at 59, 20-5 at 13.) Plaintiff Wagner's complaint was dismissed by the EEO on January 25, 2011, (Docket No. 20-5 at 2-6), and Plaintiff Daggs' complaint was dismissed on January 21, 2011. (Docket No. 20-5 at 39; Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs commenced the instant action on April 25, 2011 alleging retaliation under Title VII based on their December 2010 formal EEO complaints. (Docket No. 1.)

Defendant now moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint in its entirety.

III. DISCUSSION

"A motion for summary judgment may properly be granted... only where there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried, and the facts as to which there is no such issue warrant the entry of judgment for the moving party as a matter of law." Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp. , 609 F.3d 537, 545 (2d Cir. 2010). A court's function on a summary judgment motion "is not to resolve disputed questions of fact but only to determine whether, as to any material issue, a genuine factual dispute exists." Kaytor , 609 F.3d at 545 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). "A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Weinstock v. Columbia Univ. , 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248), cert denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003). A court must also "construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp. , 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir. 2003).

Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee "because he [or she] has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he [or she] has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Plaintiffs each claim that Defendant impermissibly retaliated against them for filing discrimination complaints.

Defendant argues that summary judgment is warranted in his favor because many of Plaintiffs' retaliation claims are untimely or unexhausted. With respect to those that are not, Defendant argues that neither Plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of retaliation. In making his arguments, Defendant considers the alleged retaliatory acts listed in Plaintiff's responses to Defendant's interrogatories. Notably, Plaintiffs' responses were not submitted in support of the motion, [1] but are summarized by Defendant in two appendices for "easy reference." (Def's Mem of Law at 5 n. 1, Docket Nos. 21, 22.) In any event, in their opposition to Defendant's motion, Plaintiffs do not specifically reference either their interrogatory responses or Defendant's summary thereof, but assert that their retaliation claims are supported by evidence of a reduction in Plaintiffs' hours; threats; the "silenc[ing], " ostracizing, and monitoring of Plaintiffs; and demotion in Plaintiffs' job responsibilities. (Pl's Mem in Opp'n at 8-12.)

A. Timeliness and Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Defendant first argues that many of the alleged retaliatory acts listed in Plaintiffs' interrogatories must, to the extent that they are being relied on as adverse actions supporting individual retaliation claims, be dismissed as either time barred or because Plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The timely exhaustion of administrative remedies is a prerequisite to bringing suit under Title VII. Belgrave v. Pena , 254 F.3d 384, 386 (2d Cir. 2001). In the case of federal employees such as Plaintiffs, the Equal Employment Opportunity ...


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