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Chepak v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 4, 2015




On December 29, 2011, pro se plaintiff Mary Ellen Chepak ("plaintiff" or "Chepak") filed this action against her former employer ("Metropolitan Hospital" or "defendant"), [1] alleging gender-based wage discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 206 et seq.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq. (ECF No. 2 ("Compl.").)[2] On October 27, 2014, after a trip to the Second Circuit and back, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 40.) That motion became fully briefed on November 24, 2014. (ECF No. 59.) On November 25, 2014, the Court informed the parties that it would grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and issue its decision in a separate order. (See ECF No. 60.) This Opinion & Order sets forth the predicted order and rationale for the Court's decision.


Plaintiff worked at Metropolitan Hospital as a social worker from November 6, 2006 to March 29, 2009, when she voluntarily resigned. Plaintiff's title was "Social Worker I, " and her salary was determined by a collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff became dissatisfied with her salary in 2007, when a colleague allegedly told her about two higher-paid male employees who had worked at Metropolitan Hospital in a different capacity-as Coordinating Managers-several years earlier. Plaintiff's gender-based wage discrimination claims in this action are based on a comparison of her salary to the salaries of these two Coordinating Managers.

Plaintiff interviewed for a position at Metropolitan Hospital in the spring of 2006 with Richard Siegel ("Siegel"), the Senior Associate Director of Social Work at Metropolitan Hospital, and Angela Montague ("Montague"), the Assistant Director of Social Work at Metropolitan Hospital. (Defendant's Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Def.'s 56.1") ¶ 16, ECF No. 41.) The Complaint alleges that plaintiff's position "had been formerly occupied by males" (Compl. ¶ 13) and that plaintiff was told that "one male had worked for several years in the position, and another male took his place in that same position" (Compl. ¶ 15). The Complaint further alleges that "[p]laintiff was told that she was to do the exact same job and be responsible for the exact same duties, as the males that previously held the same position." (Compl. ¶ 15.)

When describing her interview at her deposition, plaintiff mentioned only learning about one previous male employee. Plaintiff testified that she was told that "the position that [she] was filling was formerly filled by a male and that [she] would be providing services on the weekend." (Pl.'s Dep. 106:22-25, ECF Nos. 43-51 ("Yi Decl.") Ex. B.)[3] She also testified that she did not learn the name of this male employee at the interview. (See Pl.'s Dep. 107:16-21.)

Plaintiff's personnel file indicates that Metropolitan Hospital had two vacant Social Worker positions at the time of plaintiff's interview: a full-time position and a part-time weekend position. (See Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 18; Yi Decl. Ex. L.) The file indicates that these positions were needed to meet the hospital's "immediate service needs" of assessing patients and ensuring that patients received safe and prompt discharges. (See Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 18; Yi Decl. Ex. L.) Plaintiff alleges that she had "no knowledge of two positions even being available at the time of her interview or hire." (Opposition to Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ¶ 2, ECF No. 58.)

A Personnel Requisition Form produced in discovery indicates that Chepak was a "replacement" for an employee named Mejo Kallamthandam ("Kallamthandam"), who had resigned on September 1, 2005. (Yi Decl. Ex. O at HHC000067.) The "position title" for both Kallamthanam and Chepak is listed as "Social Worker." (See id.) A Personnel Action Form, also produced in discovery, confirms that Chepak was a "replacement" for Kallamthanam. (Id. at HHC000068.) Siegel testified as follows regarding how Chepak's position was created:

To the best of my recollection and knowledge, I along with my supervisor at the time, determined based on patient and hospital need that an additional social worker was needed during the weekend. We determined that the Social Work I title was the appropriate title for the position as there had been a vacant Social Work I position that could be converted to the weekend position and back-filled. Additionally, the Coordinating Manager title implies some supervisory or administrative responsibilities, and as the weekend role being filled involved only direct clinical social work without any administrative or supervisory responsibilities, we determined the Social Work I title was the appropriate title for the new position.

(Deposition of Richard Siegel by Written Questions ("Siegel Dep.") ¶ 38, Yi Decl. Ex. C.)

In 2006, when plaintiff was hired, the annual salary for all Social Work I employees was fixed at $44, 125.00 pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.[4] (See Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 8, 10, 19.) At the time she accepted defendant's offer of employment, plaintiff knew that she was accepting a Social Work I position; that her annual salary would be $44, 125.00; and that the position was unionized and subject to a collective bargaining agreement. (See Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 20; Pl.'s Dep. 118:10-16, 119:14-17; Compl. ¶ 17.) Richard DeLaGarza ("DeLaGarza"), a male social worker who was hired in August 2006, also received an annual salary of $44, 125.00. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 43.) The Social Work I salary was increased twice before plaintiff's resignation: to $48, 765.00 in 2007 and to $52, 745.00 in 2009. (See id. ¶¶ 35, 60.) Plaintiff and DeLaGarza both earned $52, 745.00 per year at the time of plaintiff's resignation. (See id. ¶¶ 43, 60.)

Plaintiff alleges that a female Coordinating Manager, Obdulia Fontanez ("Fontanez"), told her in 2007 that two male Coordinating Managers-Almando Infante ("Infante") and Mohamed Meyo ("Meyo")-had previously worked at Metropolitan Hospital and earned approximately $35 per hour, which was at least $10 per hour more than what plaintiff was earning. (See Pl.'s Dep. 129:10-130:25; Compl. ¶¶ 19-20.)

In discovery, plaintiff took Fontanez's deposition by written questions. (See Deposition of Obdulia Fontanez by Written Questions ("Fontanez Dep."), Yi Decl. Ex. E.) Fontanez testified that she had worked with Infante and Meyo (see id. ¶¶ 7, 13) and that she "believe[d]" that their job duties were the same as her own duties and those of plaintiff:

Question: What were [Infante's] duties?
Response: I believe that Alan Infante had the same duties as I did, but during a different tour.
Question: What were [Meyo's] duties?
Response: I believe he had the same duties as Mr. Infante.
Question: Did Mary Chepak perform the same duties as Almando Infante and Mohamed Meyo or any other Coordinating Manager during or prior to her tenure at Metropolitan hospital?
Response: Yes, I believe Mary Chepak performed the same duties at Metropolitan Hospital as Mr. Infante, Mr. Meyo, and myself.

(Id. ¶¶ 9, 15, 19.) Fontanez did not explain the basis of any of her beliefs as to Infante's and Meyo's job duties, and acknowledged that she and Infante had covered different shifts. (See id. ¶¶ 5, 7.)

Records produced in discovery indicate that Infante worked at Metropolitan Hospital between March 2001 and August 2003 and received a salary of $30.22 per hour (approximately $55, 000 per year). (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 42.) Metropolitan Hospital has been unable to identity any employee named Mohamed Meyo. (See id. ¶¶ 64, 66-67.) Plaintiff testified that the sole source of her information as to Meyo was Fontanez. (Pl.'s Dep. 136:2-5.) According to an e-mail from Fontanez, Meyo started working at Metropolitan Hospital about four to five months after Infante resigned, and left about ten months later. (Def.'s ¶ 65.)

At her deposition, plaintiff described her job at Metropolitan Hospital as follows:

... Well, I worked on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday and Monday. So on Saturday and Sunday, I covered-I was primarily covering the emergency room. However, from 5:00 on, I covered the entire hospital, and I worked until 12:00 at night.
So if there was a problem in pediatrics, they would call me, cause I was the only social worker around. If Obdulia was out, they would call me also. And sometimes Obdulia was very busy. And sometimes Obdulia was very busy. She had certain things, social work duties that she did on the maternity unit, and that was like a big part of what she did. And so I would-even during the day when she was there, I'd also get ...

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