United States District Court, N.D. New York
WILLIAM QUINCE, Plaintiff, Pro Se Syracuse, NY.
EDWARD G. MELVIN, ESQ., BARCLAY DAMON, LLP, Counsel for Defendants, Syracuse, NY.
DECISION and ORDER
GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.
Currently before the Court, in this pro se employment civil rights action filed by William Quince ("Plaintiff") against Anoplate Corporation ("Defendant"), are Defendant's motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's motion to reopen discovery. (Dkt. Nos. 34, 43.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
A. Plaintiff's Claims
Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that, while he was employed by Defendant between 2008 and 2010 (first as a production trainee and then as a Plater I), Defendant wrongfully denied his application for a promotion to an open managerial position on three occasions due to a purported lack of qualifications, denied him an opportunity to transfer to a lateral position, and sent him home early from work one day, based on his race (African-American) and age (46 to 48 years). (Dkt. No. 1 [Plf.'s Compl.].) Plaintiff's Complaint also alleges that, shortly after he left the employment of Defendant, Defendant falsely told possible employers that Plaintiff had been terminated for stealing copper bars. ( Id. )
Based on these factual allegations, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts four claims against Defendant: (1) a claim that Defendant discriminated against him based on his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); (2) a claim that Defendant discriminated against him based on his race, in violation of New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 et seq. ("Human Rights Law"); (3) a claim that Defendant defamed him under New York State common law; and (4) a claim that Defendant discriminated against him based on his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). ( Id. )
Familiarity with these claims, and the factual allegations supporting them, is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. ( Id. )
B. Parties' Briefing on Their Motions
1. Parties' Briefing on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
a. Defendant's Memorandum of Law
Generally, in its memorandum of law, Defendant argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on the current record for four reasons. (Dkt. No. 37 [Def.'s Memo. of Law].) First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's failure-to-promote claims under Title VII and the ADEA are untimely because they were not asserted in an administrative complaint filed within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct; and, in any event, they are unsupported by admissible record evidence from which a rational fact finder could conclude that Defendant refused to promote Plaintiff due to his race or age, because (a) he cannot establish a prima facie case of such discrimination, (b) Defendant has shown a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for taking the alleged discriminatory actions, and (c) Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that the reasons given by Defendant for its adverse action were not the true reasons but were a pretext for discrimination. ( Id. )
Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's denial-of-transfer claims under Title VII and the ADEA are untimely and in any event are unsupported by admissible record evidence from which a rational fact finder could conclude that Defendant refused to promote Plaintiff because of his race or age given that the denial of a transfer is not an adverse employment action. ( Id. )
Third, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's termination-of-employment claims under Title VII and the ADEA are untimely and in any event are unsupported by admissible record evidence from which a rational fact finder could conclude that Defendant refused to promote Plaintiff because of his race or age given that he was terminated for stealing copper bars from Defendant and not because of his race or age. ( Id. )
Fourth, Defendant that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim; and, even if it exercises such supplemental jurisdiction, it should dismiss his state discrimination claims for the same reasons that it dismisses his federal claims, and it should dismiss his state defamation claim as untimely and/or precluded by a qualified privilege for communications addressing an employee's performance, character or termination. ( Id. )
b. Plaintiff's Opposition Memorandum of Law
Liberally construed, Plaintiff's opposition memorandum of law argues that he has adduced evidence (specifically, his deposition) from which a rational fact finder could conclude that Defendant's decisions to not promote him and then to terminate him were motivated, at least in part, by discrimination and that his purported lack of qualifications and his purported theft of copper bars were pretexts for discrimination. (Dkt. No. 44 [Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)
c. Defendant's Reply Memorandum of Law
Generally, in its reply memorandum of law, Defendant argues that its motion should be granted for four reasons. (Dkt. No. 45 [Def.'s Reply Memo. of Law].) First, Defendant argues that all properly supported facts asserted in its Statement of Material Facts must be deemed "admitted" by Plaintiff for purposes of Defendant's motion, because Plaintiff has failed to support his various denials of Defendant's factual assertions with a specific citation to the record, as required by Local Rule 7.1(a)(3) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court. ( Id. )
Second, Defendant argues that almost all of the facially meritorious legal arguments asserted by Defendant in its memorandum of law must be deemed "consented to" by Plaintiff (e.g., Defendant's argument that Plaintiff was not discriminated against based on his age, that the statute of limitations has expired for all of his failure-to-promote claims, and that his defamation claim should be dismissed), because he has failed to oppose those arguments, as required by Local Rule 7.1(b)(3). ( Id. )
Third, Defendant argues that, in any event, Plaintiff's reliance on his purported actual innocence of the theft accusation (in arguing, in his response, that the theft was a pretext for racially discriminating against him by terminating his employment) misses the point because, in discrimination cases, what matters is not the truth of such accusations but what motivated the employer (and, here, unrefuted evidence exists that there was a theft, an accusation of Plaintiff by a co-worker, and a thorough investigation by Defendant). ( Id. )
Fourth, Defendant argues that, in any event, Plaintiff's argument that Defendant's failure to promote Plaintiff was caused by racial discrimination is undermined by the fact that his own supervisor, Cory Corridors, is African-American, and that Plaintiff implemented a training plan for Plaintiff to become a third-shift back-up supervisor. ( Id. )
2. Parties' Briefing on Plaintiff's Motion to Reopen Discovery
a. Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law
Liberally construed, Plaintiff's memorandum of law argues that discovery should be reopened for four reasons. (Dkt. No. 43 [Plf.'s Memo. of Law].) First, Plaintiff argues that the purpose of re-opening discovery is to (a) permit him to serve Defendant with interrogatories and requests for documents (specifically, requests for termination records and promotion records) in an effort to "show a pattern of discriminatory intent in terminations and promotions, " and (b) depose Christy Leclair to resolve "certain inconsistencies that I dispute and... am just now aware [of] due to her declarations in support of [Defendant's] motion for summary judgment." ( Id. )
Second, Plaintiff argues that the reason he needs the discovery in question is that it "would greatly help me to present evidence in my favor that will support my opposition [to] the summary judgment motion." ( Id. )
Third, Plaintiff argues that the reason he did not serve the desired document requests earlier is that "[t]his is my first time handling a court case and I was not aware that I could ask for past termination records and promotion records to show the pattern of discriminatory intent." ( Id. )
Fourth, Plaintiff argues that the reopening of discovery will not unduly prejudice Defendant because (a) "we have a great deal of time before trial, " and (b) Defendant has "more than enough time to respond to my request." ( Id. )
b. Defendant's Opposition Memorandum of Law
Generally, in its opposition memorandum of law, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's motion must be denied for the following three reasons. (Dkt. No. 47 [Def.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].) First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's motion is untimely because (a) discovery closed on December 12, 2014, more than three-and-a-half months before the motion was filed and (b) Plaintiff had reason to know he could obtain the information sought during the discovery period (which lasted six months). ( Id. )
Second, Defendant argues that, in any event, Plaintiff fails to show by affidavit or declaration (a) what facts are sought to resist the motion, or (b) how those facts are reasonably expected to create a genuine dispute of material fact. ( Id. )
Third, Defendant argues that, in any event, to allow such additional discovery at this late date would be unfair to Defendant and would afford Plaintiff an undeserved tactical advantage by allowing him to conduct discovery after he has had the benefit of seeing Defendant's factual and legal arguments based on what Defendant believed was the complete factual record. ( Id. )
Fourth, Defendant argues that, in any event, the discovery sought is futile, because it is relevant to only a pattern-or-practice claim, and a private, non-class, pattern-or-practice claim cannot be maintained by an individual such as Plaintiff, who is asserting an individual disparate treatment claim. ( Id. )
C. Undisputed Material Facts The following material facts have been asserted and supported by Defendant in its
Statement of Material Facts, and not denied in a matching numbered paragraph with a supporting record citation by Plaintiff in his response thereto, and thus admitted pursuant to Local Rule 7.1 of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, as explained below in Part II.A. of this Decision and Order. ( Compare Dkt. No. 38 [Def.'s Rule 7.1 Statement] with Dkt. No. 44 [Plf.'s Rule 7.1 Response].)
1. Defendant is an industrial metal finishing company located in Syracuse, New York. Its services include surface engineering and finishing (e.g., copper, nickel, chromium, etc.) through several different processes such as anodizing, electroplating, electroless nickel, and other conversion coatings. Defendant was founded in 1960 by Milt Stevenson, Sr., and many members of his family continue to lead and manage the company.
2. As of July 2012, which is when Plaintiff was terminated from Defendant at age 49, almost 44% of Defendant's employees were age 49 and older while almost 9% of its employees were African-American. ( Compare Dkt. No. 38, at ¶ 2 [Def.'s Rule 7.1 Statement, asserting facts and supporting assertion with accurate record citation] with Dkt. No. 44, at ¶ 2 [Plf.'s Rule 7.1 Response, admitting termination from Defendant at age 49 in July 2012, and failing to deny other above-stated facts with accurate record citation].)
Plaintiff Begins Employment at Defendant in August 2008, and Is Demoted to Production Assistant 1 by February 2009
3. Plaintiff was hired by Defendant on August 11, 2008.
4. As with most other entry-level employees at Defendant, Plaintiff was hired as a Production Trainee. ( Compare Dkt. No. 38, at ¶ 4 [Def.'s Rule 7.1 Statement, asserting fact and supporting assertion with accurate record citation] with Dkt. No. 44, at ¶ 4 [Plf.'s Rule 7.1 Response, admitting he was hired as a Production Trainee, and failing to deny other above-stated fact with accurate record citation].)
5. As a Production Trainee, Plaintiff assisted the Platers and other skilled workers with their production needs.
6. During an employee's first weeks as a Production Trainee, Defendant typically determines whether a Production Trainee possesses the skill and desire necessary to be placed on Defendant's "Plater track, " or whether the employee is more suited for its "Production Assistant track."
7. As reflected in the "Production Trainee" flowchart attached to the LeClair Declaration as Exhibit "C, " the Plater track provides more room for advancement and better pay than the Production Assistant track. For example, whereas both tracks involve plating and finishing, depending on the employee's certification in a variety of finishing and plating processes. In contrast, an employee on the Plater track can advance to the position of Plater 4 and earn $16 to $25 per hour; an employee on ...