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Haygood v. Unity Health System

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 2, 2015

HAROLD L. HAYGOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITY HEALTH SYSTEM, d/b/a ACM MEDICAL LABORATORY, INC., and DAWN CRUZ, Homebound Services Supervisor, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Represented by counsel, Harold L. Haygood ("Plaintiff") instituted this action, alleging that his former employer, ACM Medical Laboratory, Inc. ("ACM"), and his supervisor at ACM, Dawn Cruz ("Cruz") (collectively, "Defendants") discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended by the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"); and the Human Rights Law of New York State, New York Executive Law § 296 ("the HRL").

II. Background

The following facts are drawn from the Complaint ("Compl.") [#1] and are assumed to be true for purposes of this Decision and Order only.

A. Plaintiff's Employment

On July 11, 2011, Plaintiff, an African-American male, began his employment with ACM as a Patient Services Senior Receptionist. On August 31, 2011, he was promoted to a Homebound Services Scheduling Specialist. Cruz, a Caucasian female, served as one of the Plaintiff's supervisors. On or about August 31, 2011, during a training meeting relating to the Plaintiff's new position, Cruz stated, "I thought your black ass didn't want to be here[.]'" Compl. ¶ 18. Plaintiff also states that he "witnessed, or overheard, on numerous occasions, " Cruz make "racially motivated comments or remarks about, among others, the Defendant ACM's African/black Road Techs[.]" Compl. ¶ 22. For instance, Plaintiff "witnessed or overheard" Cruz say that a female coworker was a "black bitch" and that "some black people will never get it". Id.

On July 19, 2013, Plaintiff took a leave of absence pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA". On July 31, 2013, while on FMLA leave the Plaintiff contacted Associate Human Resource Director, Diane Wilson ("Wilson"), and "reported racial discrimination and harassment which he witnessed, or overheard, by Supervisor Cruz, directed at, among others, some of the Defendant ACM's African/black Road Techs." Id . ¶ 21.

After Plaintiff returned from leave on September 16, 2013, Cruz "became more hostile[, ]" id. ¶ 24, and he overheard her refer to him as a "dumb nigga" after he had asked her for computerrelated assistance. Id . ¶ 25. Later on, Cruz said to Plaintiff, "[t]he next time you're [sic] stupid black ass goes to human resource [sic]...." Id . ¶ 26. Plaintiff believed that Cruz was threatening him with termination if he complained to Wilson again.

On September 17, 2013, Cruz said to Plaintiff, "[k]nock that shit off or you're going to be fired". Plaintiff believed Cruz to be referring to the complaint he made to Wilson about Cruz. Later that same day, Supervisor Cruz stated to the Plaintiff that "black people will never learn[.]" Id . ¶ 28.

On September 18, 2013, Plaintiff turned in his company cell phone and identification and signed a letter of resignation.

B. Proceedings at the State Level

On October 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") asserting that he had been complained about being subjected to a hostile work environment in July 2013, and was terminated in retaliation for doing so. This claim ("Charge 1") was dismissed because the EEOC was unable to conclude that the information obtained during its investigation established a violation of any civil rights law. The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on January 30, 2014.

Also on October 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("the SDHR") based upon the same allegations in Charge 1. The SDHR dual-filed the complaint ("Charge 2") with the EEOC. In the course of its investigation, the SDHR reviewed Plaintiff's complaint and obtained the following documents: a position statement from ACM dated November 14, 2013, with fourteen exhibits; two rebuttal statements from Plaintiff; and supplemental submissions from both parties with additional exhibits and CD copies of recorded conversations between Plaintiff and ACM employees. On December 20, 2013, the SDHR investigator Human Rights Specialist II, Kalam Muttalib ("Inv. Muttalib") ...


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