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Burnett v. Océ North America and Tom Donovan

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 12, 2014



EDGARDO RAMONS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jefferson Burnett ("Plaintiff"), appearing pro se, brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), the New York State Human Rights Law, codified at New York Executive Law §§ 290, et seq. ("NYSHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, codified at New York City Administrative Code §§ 8-101, et seq. ("NYCHRL"), alleging that his former employer, Oce North America ("Oce" or the "Company"), and supervisor, Tom Donovan ("Donovan" and together with Oce, "Defendants"), discriminated against him on the basis of his race and national origin. Plaintiff is a Black man of Barbadian descent who self-identifies as Afro-Caribbean. Oce is a copying and printing company that previously employed Plaintiff as a service technician in New York City, but selected him for layoff in December 2008. Plaintiff contends that unlawful discrimination motivated Defendants' decision to dismiss him from his job and, through the instant action, seeks reinstatement and $150, 000.00. Compl., Doc. 2.

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 36. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.[1]

A. The Parties

Plaintiff self-identifies as an Afro-Caribbean Black male of Barbadian descent. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4, Doc. 41; Compl. 2.[2] Plaintiff began employment at Pitney Bowes in May 1997 as a Trainee Customer Service Representative. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 5. From approximately 1997 to 2008, he worked, in varying capacities, as a service technician on copy machines.

Oce is a copying and printing specialist that offers a range of products and services relating to "imaging needs." Id. ¶ 1. Oce asserts that it "is an equal opportunity employer, which does not discriminate on any basis protected by applicable laws, " and neither requests nor maintains national origin information for its employees. Id. ¶ 2. Through its acquisition of Pitney Bowes, Oce also acquired Plaintiff as an employee.[3] Id.

B. Events Leading Up to Plaintiff's Termination on December 3, 2008

Plaintiff's supervisors included Leonard Sterling ("Sterling"), a Field Supervisor, and Defendant Donovan, the District Manager. Id. ¶ 6. In 1998, Plaintiff received a promotion to Associate Customer Service Representative, as well as a raise. Id. ¶ 8. He was also promoted in January 2000, to Customer Service Representative, and again received a pay raise. Id. ¶ 9. Each subsequent January, from January 2001 through and including January 2006, and then in February of 2007, Plaintiff received additional pay raises. Id. ¶ 10. At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he did not believe that he was being mistreated or discriminated against when he received salary increases. Id. ¶ 11.

During his employment at Oce, Plaintiff periodically received performance appraisals, in which Sterling and Donovan were involved; Plaintiff also discussed his performance reviews with his supervisors. Id. ¶¶ 13-15. Defendants' performance appraisals rank employees on a scale from one to five, with one being the lowest and five the highest. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff received an overall final rating of "2" on his 2006 performance evaluation, which, at his deposition, he described as "not good." Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff further testified that he did not believe that his 2006 performance evaluation score resulted from discrimination against him. Id. ¶ 20.

Defendants put Plaintiff on an "action plan" following his low 2006 performance evaluation score in an attempt to improve his performance, and more specifically, "his customer communication and follow up." Id. ¶ 21. The following year, Plaintiff received an overall rating of "3.25" for his 2007 performance evaluation, which included a rating of "1" in the category of cost control and asset management. Id. ¶¶ 22-24.

Donovan prepared a mid-year performance evaluation for Plaintiff in 2008, which covered the period from January 1 through May 31, 2008. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff received a final mid-year rating of "2.10." Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff asserts that he never received a copy of this 2008 mid-year performance evaluation. Id. ¶ 27; Pl.'s Opp. 3.

"[D]ifficult economic conditions in 2008" forced Oce to reduce its workforce in late 2008. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 31-32. Donovan received instructions from management that he needed to reduce headcount by three service technicians in the New York City office. Id. ¶ 33. Defendants contend that every service technician in the New York City office was assessed according to the same set of criteria in connection with the 2008 layoffs, which included evaluation of employee performance ratings for 2007 and 2008. Id. ¶¶ 34-36. Defendants entered the results of each service technician's assessment into a chart ( see Donovan Decl. Ex. F, Doc. 40). Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 37. Through an unsworn statement included with his opposition, and without citing any evidence to support his theory, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants evaluated him ...

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