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Atkins v. Pitney Bowes Management Services

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 12, 2015

DANIEL ATKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
PITNEY BOWES MANAGEMENT SERVICES ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge.

The pro se plaintiff, Daniel Atkins, brings this action against Pitney Bowes Management Services ("Pitney Bowes"), Luis Medina, Brian Colvil, Jerry Lester, and unidentified Pitney Bowes human resources managers. Atkins appears to allege claims for employment discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, assault, battery, defamation, and wrongful termination. The defendants moved pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment on all causes of action. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion is granted.

On December 22, 2014, the plaintiff also moved for summary judgment. He failed to request a pre-motion conference or provide a Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts. And, as explained below, the motion lacks merit and is therefore denied.

I.

The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "[T]he trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224.

The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter that "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts that are material, and "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)). Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994). If the moving party meets its burden, the nonmoving party must produce evidence in the record and "may not rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F.2d 522, 532 (2d Cir. 1993).

When, as here, a pro se plaintiff opposes summary judgment, the Court must afford the plaintiff "special solicitude" in the construction of the pleadings and the motions and in the enforcement of procedural rules. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 100-03 (2d Cir. 2010). However, this solicitude does not "relieve [a] plaintiff of his duty to meet the requirements necessary to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Jorgensen v. Epic/Sony Records, 351 F.3d 46, 50 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).

II.

The parties do not dispute the following facts unless otherwise noted.

A.

Pitney Bowes employed David Atkins from June 1990 to January 2012. Atkins Dep. Tr. 6. Pitney Bowes staffs mailrooms, copy centers, and conference rooms and provides other administrative services for businesses.[1] Marinelli Decl. ¶ 2. From 1990 to 2006, Atkins worked in the copy centers and the mailrooms of various District of Columbia law firms. Atkins Dep. Tr. 296-98.

In May 2005, Atkins filed a complaint against Pitney Bowes in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging claims for wrongful termination, discrimination, and retaliation. Atkins v. Pitney Bowes Mgmt. Servs., No. 05cv912 (D.D.C. filed May 6, 2005). In April 2006, the parties settled the case. As part of the settlement agreement, Pitney Bowes promised to enroll Atkins in "Team Lead Training" and to transfer Atkins to an available position in New York City. In exchange, Atkins agreed to release Pitney Bowes and its employees from any liability arising before the date of the settlement agreement. Atkins Dep. Tr. Ex. 6. In December 2006, Atkins began working in the copy center for Pitney Bowes at White and Case, LLP in New York City. Atkins Dep. Tr. 6-7.

On November 11, 2009, Atkins alleges that he overheard Brian Colvil, a supervisor in the copy center, telling another employee that he believed Jesus Christ was gay. Atkins Dep. Tr. 156-57. Colvil made this comment in a copy room, about fifteen to twenty feet away from where Atkins was standing. Atkins Dep. Tr. 157-58. Atkins then informed Medina that he was offended by Colvil's comment. Atkins Dep. Tr. 161-62.

Atkins also alleges that Colvil laughed at him and made "lewd sounds" when Atkins read the Bible during breaks, that Colvil made rude comments to him, and that Colvil "impeded" his travel. Atkins Dep. Tr. 164-67, 194-96. Atkins also claims that he found a letter from Colvil to Medina dated October 5, 2010, in which Colvil alleged that Atkins referred to someone as a "white devil." Atkins Dep. Tr. 197-99, 221-23. Atkins further asserts that Colvil drew a picture of the copy room employees that did not include Atkins. Atkins Dep. Tr. 226-30. And at his deposition, Atkins described a number of other verbal altercations between Colvil and him. Atkisn Tr. 216-20, 224-25, 230.

In August 2009, Atkins informed Medina that Colvil and Fidel Razak had falsified their time cards. Atkins Dep. Tr. 180. Medina then informed the Pitney Bowes copy center employees that they must fill out their time cards correctly. Atkins Dep. Tr. 182.

In November 2010, Atkins was transferred from the copy center to the mailroom of White and Case. Atkins Dep. Tr. 186. Atkins believes that the transfer was in retaliation for "all the activities that were going on in the copy center." Atkins Dep. Tr. 183, 186. After he transferred, Atkins retained the same job title, salary, and responsibilities. Atkins Dep. Tr. 184. Atkins worked in the mailroom at the White and Case New York office until he was terminated in January 2012. Atkins Dep. Tr. 186.

On February 18, 2011, Atkins alleges that Jerry Lester, a supervisor, yelled at him and pushed him. Atikins Dep. Tr. 201-02, 238. Atkins was startled and hit his head on a wall. Atikins Dep. Tr. 203, 239-40. Atkins informed Medina of the incident, and Medina reprimanded Lester. Atkins Dep. Tr. 207.

On March 30, 2011, Atkins alleges that Medina told Atkins that "[y]ou people [are] always looking for somebody to give you something." Atkins Dep. Tr. 108. Atkins, who is African American, believed that "you people" referred to his race. Atkins Dep. Tr. 109-10. Medina denies making this statement. Medina Decl. ¶ 20.

According to Atkins, Medina is the only person from Pitney Bowes that discriminated against him on the basis of, or made a comment about, his race during the relevant time period. Atkins Dep. Tr. 119, 150-51. And Atkins does not allege that he was denied a promotion to team leader because of his race. Atkins Dep. Tr. 121, 133.

B.

In July and August of 2011, Pitney Bowes required that all of its employees complete two online training courses, one on data privacy and the other on insider ethics. Marinelli Decl. ¶ 3. Pitney Bowes required that its employees finish the insider ethics course by August 17, 2011, and the data privacy course- after an extension-by October 1, 2011. Id.

On or around August 9, 2011, Shakel Houssain Ali, a Pitney Bowes team leader, informed Atkins that he needed to complete the training and offered to provide Atkins a computer to do so. Atkins Dep. Tr. 10-14; Ali Decl. ¶ 4. Atkins told Ali that he would not complete the training. Ali Decl. ¶ 4. On August 11, Medina asked Atkins why he refused to complete the training, and Atkins explained that he feared the training would prevent him from speaking about the harassment that he had faced at Pitney Bowes. Atkins Dep. Tr. 15-19; Medina Decl. ¶ 7.

That same day, Medina e-mailed and called Mayte Lopez, then a Pitney Bowes Human Resources Generalist, and Lopez and Medina decided that Atkins should be issued a verbal warning for insubordination. Medina Decl. ¶¶ 8-9, Ex. 1; Lopez Decl. ¶¶ 4-5. Accordingly, Medina ...


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