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Grasso v. EMA Design Automation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

October 2, 2014



MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.


Plaintiff Brenda Grasso ("Grasso"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.); 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the New York State Human Rights Law against her former employer, EMA Design Automation, Inc., ("EMA") and Emmanuel Marcano ("Marcano"), the President of EMA, claiming that she was retaliated against for complaining of gender, national origin, and racial discrimination. Specifically, Grasso claims that she was fired from her employment in retaliation for complaining of discrimination and filing administrative complaints of discrimination.

Defendants contend that plaintiff's employment was terminated only after her old job was eliminated, and she refused, without explanation, to accept a new position that was offered to her. Defendants move for summary judgment claiming that plaintiff has failed to state a claim of retaliation, or, in the alternative, that plaintiff has failed to rebut the legitimate, non-discriminatory reason the defendants have offered for terminating plaintiff's employment.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.


The following facts are taken from the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (docket item 3), the Defendants' Local Rule 56(a) Statement of Facts (docket item 28), Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Facts and Counterstatement of Facts (docket item 39), and the Court's review of the entire record. The facts set forth herein are uncontested except where noted.

Plaintiff Brenda Grasso was employed by defendant EMA Design Automation Inc., from January, 2003 to April, 2011. EMA develops, sells and maintains design software used by manufacturers to design and create industrial products such as circuit boards. Defendant Emmanuel Marcano ("Marcano") is the founder, president, and Chief Executive Officer of EMA.

Grasso was hired by Marcano in 2003 as a sales representative. Shortly after being hired, plaintiff became a customer fulfilment representative, and in 2004, became the manager of licensing and fulfilment. Marcano's wife Nancy Marcano ("Mrs. Marcano"), who currently serves as Vice President of EMA, promoted Grasso to the managerial position, and in that position, Grasso reported to, inter alia, Mrs. Marcano.

According to the defendants, plaintiff was a productive worker, but often had difficulty getting along with subordinates. Plaintiff denies that she had difficulty getting along with her co-workers. According to Mrs. Marcano, in 2006, the director of operations at EMA, Richard Carley, wanted to fire the plaintiff because of her difficulty in getting along with co-workers. Mrs. Marcano, however, refused to approve firing the plaintiff.

In 2010, the plaintiff became involved in an e-mail exchange with a subordinate. Marcano became aware of the exchange, and believed that plaintiff had not engaged professionally or appropriately with the employee, and asked Grasso to have a face-to-face meeting with the employee to amicably resolve the matter. According to the plaintiff, there was nothing discourteous or inappropriate in her communications with the employee, and Grasso requested a meeting with Marcano to discuss the matter.

On April 19, 2010, Marcano, along with Mrs. Marcano, held a meeting with Grasso in his office. According to the plaintiff, Marcano became belligerent during the meeting, and accused Grasso of being "too emotional" as a result of her Puerto Rican heritage and being raised in a Puerto Rican household. It is undisputed that Marcano is also of Puerto Rican heritage. According to the plaintiff, Marcano yelled at her, pounded on his desk, pointed at her, belittled her, and refused to allow her to leave the meeting. The plaintiff claims that she told Marcano that she believed he was harassing her. She further told Marcano that she could not work under the conditions then present at EMA, and that she would be looking for employment elsewhere.

Although plaintiff contends that she informed Marcano that she felt like she was being harassed because she was a woman, she did not pursue any such claims internally, and indeed, in a November 9, 2010 e-mail provided to EMA's attorney, did not claim that she felt as though she was being, or had been, subjected to harassment based on her gender, race, or national origin. The e-mail was in follow up to a meeting with the defendant's attorney which was conducted as part of an investigation requested by the defendants to determine if plaintiff had been unlawfully harassed.

After the April 19, 2010 meeting, plaintiff alleges that the defendants began scrutinizing her more closely, prevented her from earning commissions, and removed duties from her position. The defendant's deny these claims, and contend that no adverse action of any type was taken against the plaintiff on any level. Indeed, in November, 2010 plaintiff ...

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