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Evans v. Excellus Health Plan, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 30, 2014

JOAN E. EVANS, Plaintiff,


LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.


Plaintiff Joan E. Evans ("Plaintiff") commenced this employment discrimination action on or about September 16, 2011, naming as defendants her former employer, Excellus Health Plan, Inc. ("Excellus"), and several Excellus employees (collectively, "Defendants"). See generally Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A ("Original Complaint"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 29 ("Motion"). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.


Plaintiff worked as a Customer Service Representative for Excellus, reporting to Customer Service Supervisor Helen Roser ("Roser"). Dkt. Nos. 29-2 ("Defendants' SMF") ¶ 1; 38-7 ("Plaintiff's SMF") ¶ 1. On November 18, 2009, Roser met with Plaintiff to review Plaintiff's recent customer calls. Defs.' SMF ¶ 2; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 2. Lynn Marolf ("Marolf"), another Customer Service Supervisor, also attended the meeting. Defs.' SMF ¶ 2; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 2. At the end of the meeting, Plaintiff said, "This isn't fair, " and told Roser, "I have never had a supervisor as worse as you, " and "I'm not putting up with this crap anymore." Defs.' SMF ¶ 3; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 3. After leaving the meeting, Plaintiff saw Team Lead Kathleen Bodmer ("Bodmer") and said, "Thanks a lot." Defs.' SMF ¶ 4; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 4.

Plaintiff contends that Roser was overly critical of Plaintiff, and that this meeting regarding her job performance was the culmination of Roser's disproportionate scrutiny of Plaintiff after Plaintiff complained to Roser about a discriminatory comment she had made. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 2. Dkt. No. 38-1 ("Plaintiff's Affidavit") ¶ 6. Specifically, Plaintiff previously overheard Roser use the term "hearing impaired bitch." Defs.' SMF ¶ 21; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 21. In 2009, long after hearing Roser use this term, Plaintiff told Roser that the comment bothered her because her son is disabled. Defs.' SMF ¶ 21; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 21.

Defendants state that, after the November 18 meeting, Roser and Marolf met with Ellen Wilson ("Wilson"), the Vice President of Human Resources. Defs.' SMF ¶ 6. They told Wilson that Plaintiff had become very loud and hostile, yelled various accusations at them, called them "bitches, " and then left the room and confronted Bodmer in an accusatory, unprofessional manner. Id . Wilson relayed this information to Human Resources Manager Richard Pratt ("Pratt"), and then called her supervisor, Senior Vice President of Human Resources Pat Scheg. Id . ¶ 7. Wilson and Pratt also spoke with Customer Service Director John Shea. Id . That same day, Roser and Marolf submitted a written statement to the Human Resources Department. Id . ¶ 9. They reported that Plaintiff became very angry and accused Roser of being unfair and "pick[ing] on a retarded person in Rochester." Id . Bodmer also submitted a written statement describing her confrontation with Plaintiff. Id . ¶ 10.

Plaintiff also met with Pratt after the meeting with Roser. Defs.' SMF ¶ 12; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 12. According to Pratt, Plaintiff told him that Roser had been out to get her ever since Plaintiff called Roser "mean and vindictive" for a statement Roser made about a disabled person in Rochester. Defs.' SMF ¶ 14; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 14. Defendants state that Plaintiff was then sent home for the rest of the day. Defs.' SMF ¶ 15. Plaintiff states that Pratt conferred with Roser and then suggested to Plaintiff that she go home for the rest of the day. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 15.

After leaving work, Plaintiff went to her doctor's office and reported that she lost control of her emotions in a meeting with her supervisor, that she "said a lot of things that she didn't mean to say, " and that she "kind of lost it." Defs.' SMF ¶ 16; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 16.

After the November 18, 2009 incident, Plaintiff was fired. Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 17-19; Pl.'s SMF ¶¶ 17-19.

Plaintiff commenced this action on or around September 16, 2011, in New York Supreme Court, Oneida County. Original Compl. Defendants removed the action on October 18, 2011, and Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 18, 2011. Dkt. Nos. 1; 9 ("Amended Complaint"). On August 6, 2012, the Court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims except for her agebased discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. EXEC. LAW §§ 290-301; and her retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, and the NYSHRL. Dkt. No. 22 ("Order"); see also Am. Compl. Defendants filed their Motion on September 30, 2013. Mot. Plaintiff responded, and Defendants replied. Dkt. Nos. 38-2 ("Response"); 39 ("Reply").


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) instructs a court to grant summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Although "[f]actual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary" will not preclude summary judgment, "summary judgment will not lie if... the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Taggart v. Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party claims will demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof on a specific issue at trial, the moving party may satisfy its own initial burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence in support of an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. Id . If the moving party carries its initial burden, then the non-moving party bears the burden of demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact. Id . This requires the nonmoving party to do "more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). At the same time, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Nora Beverages, Inc. ...

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