United States District Court, E.D. New York
Plaintiff: Brian Adam Heller, Esq., Davida S. Perry, Esq.
Defendant: James V. Garvey, Esq., Cara J. Ottenweller, Esq.
Jonathan A. Wexler, Esq.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Rachele Prophete-Camille (“Plaintiff”) commenced
this action against Stericycle, Inc. (“Defendant”
or “Stericycle”), asserting claims for hostile
work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000
et. seq. (“Title VII”) and the New York
State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et.
seq. (“NYSHRL”). Presently pending before
the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
(Def.'s Mot., Docket Entry 52.) For the following
reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED
collects, processes, and disposes of medical waste, including
“sharps” or needles, for various medical
facilities. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry 52-2, ¶
3.) In November 2009, Plaintiff began working at Stericycle
as a Sharps Services Specialist. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 4.) Plaintiff was a member of the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 813 (the “Union”)
while she was employed at Stericycle. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
and 2013, Stericycle utilized a Team Member Handbook and
Business Conduct Guideline that contained, inter
alia, a harassment policy “stat[ing] that
Stericycle does not tolerate any form of harassment,
including harassment on the basis of sex, ” (the
“Harassment Policy”). (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 9, 11.) The Harassment Policy states that
employees should report harassment to their immediate
supervisor, the Area Vice President of Human Resources for
their area, or the Vice President of Human Resources.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 12.) The Harassment Policy also
provides the phone number for an employee help line.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13.) On November 18, 2009,
Plaintiff acknowledged receipt of the Team Member Handbook.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17.)
Business Conduct Guideline contains a “Communications
Channels” policy that provides that an employee who
becomes aware of an “unlawful or unethical
situation” should immediately inform Stericycle by
contacting their manager or Human Resources, calling the
confidential hotline, or sending a confidential communication
directly to senior management. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
21.) On November 18, 2009, Plaintiff acknowledged receipt of
the Business Conduct Guideline. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
Sharps Service Specialist, Plaintiff traveled to hospitals
and medical facilities in the New York area and was
responsible for replacing full containers of sharps with
empty containers. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 28.)
Different site supervisors were responsible for certain
locations. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 29.) Benjamin Hart
(“Hart”) served as Plaintiff's manager.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 26-27.)
took a disability leave of absence from July 4, 2011, through
February 7, 2012. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30.) In early
2012, Plaintiff began working at the Katz Women's Center
(“Katz”) at Long Island Jewish Medical Center
(“LIJ”). (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 31.) At
that time, Plaintiff began working with Alex Navarro
(“Navarro”), a Service Supervisor who was
responsible for approximately fifteen locations, including
LIJ. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 34-35.) The parties
dispute the amount of time Navarro spent at Katz. While
Defendant alleges that Navarro did not work at LIJ every day
and “pop[ped] in” at Katz once or twice per week,
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 36-37), Plaintiff alleges
that “at one point” Navarro worked on-site at LIJ
every day, (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt., Docket Entry 54,
¶¶ 36-37). Defendant alleges that Navarro's
conversations with Plaintiff “generally lasted only a
few minutes, ” while Plaintiff disputes that assertion
as a mischaracterization of her deposition testimony.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 38; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt.
2012, Plaintiff also worked at New York University
(“NYU”) three days per week and served LIJ two
days per week. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 39.) The Site
Supervisor at NYU was Sal Vento (“Vento”);
Navarro had no responsibilities at NYU. (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 40.)
four to six weeks after Plaintiff began working with Navarro,
she learned that he had complained to Hart about her work
performance, particularly that she “was not doing much
work and did not want to work.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 41-42.) Navarro testified at his deposition that
Plaintiff did not report to work at the appropriate time and
containers were not being emptied. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 45.) Bill Kearney (“Kearney”), Director of
Environmental Services for LIJ, stated in an Affidavit that
he “receiv[ed] complaints from various LIJ personnel
about the areas that Plaintiff was assigned to
service.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 47.) Hart
directed Navarro to work with Plaintiff regarding his
complaints and “document the issues.” (Def.'s
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48.) Defendant alleges that Hart testified
that other supervisors also complained about Plaintiff.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49.) Plaintiff disputes that
allegation to the extent that Hart only identified Vento as a
supervisor who complained about Plaintiff. (Pl.'s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 49.) Similarly, while Defendant alleges
that other supervisors gave Plaintiff “warnings,
” Plaintiff alleges that she received a
“discipline form or notification” from Vento
after she complained about sexual harassment. (Def.'s
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 50; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 50.)
contacted Plaintiff regarding Navarro's concerns.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 52.) Plaintiff alleges that she
advised Hart that Navarro had asked her out and she declined,
and that Navarro was assigning her additional work.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 52.) Hart directed Plaintiff to
contact her Union. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 53.)
alleges that she contacted her Union representative, Raymond
Woods (“Woods”), and advised that “Navarro
had asked her out, that he said she looked like his
ex-girlfriend, and that he offered to let her leave early but
still get paid for eight hours if she went out with
him.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 54, 56.) A
couple of days later, Woods called Plaintiff, advised that
Navarro had denied her allegations, and told Plaintiff to
contact him if Navarro made any additional comments.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 58.) Subsequently, Plaintiff
called Woods and told him that Navarro had called her, asked
where she was, and when she said she was in the bathroom,
Navarro waited for her outside of the door. (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 59.) Plaintiff also advised Woods that Navarro
“frequently call[ed] Plaintiff to ask where she was,
and he was coming to LIJ and waiting for her.”
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 60.) Plaintiff also called
Woods to complain that Navarro directed her to “work
faster, ” and “contact him when she finished her
duties for additional work.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 62.) Plaintiff alleges that during this phone call,
she also complained that Navarro said he wanted to have sex
with her. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 62.)
Hart, Navarro, and Woods attended a meeting at
Stericycle's Farmingdale facility with Operations Manager
Louis Jannotte (“Jannotte”), and Anthony Marino
(“Marino”), the Union's business agent.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 64-66.) Woods and Marino
represented Plaintiff at the meeting. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 67.) Hart testified that the meeting's purpose was
to discuss Navarro's issues with Plaintiff's
performance and Plaintiff's issues with the amount of
work assigned to her. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 68.)
Plaintiff disputes that characterization and alleges that she
complained about Navarro's sexual harassment during the
meeting. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 68.) Plaintiff
alleges that during this meeting, Plaintiff advised that
Navarro asked her out, told her she did not have to pay
full-price airfare because he received a military discount,
offered to take her to his house in North Carolina, told her
that she looked like his ex-girlfriend, and told her that his
former employer paid him more than Stericycle to impress her.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 69.) Plaintiff also advised
that Navarro had assigned her additional work and sometimes
yelled at her. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 73.) While
Plaintiff alleges that Navarro also told her she could
perform oral sex on him, she was too embarrassed to mention
this comment during the meeting. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
this meeting, Navarro denied Plaintiff's allegations and
alleged that Plaintiff “was slow at her job, that she
could not get to work, and that she was sometimes late to
work.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 74.) Marino asked
whether Plaintiff could be assigned to a different
supervisor. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 76.) Plaintiff
alleges that Hart replied that LIJ had specifically requested
a female employee and “they did not want to interfere
with the LIJ account.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
76.) At the end of the meeting, Jannotte looked at Navarro
and remarked that “he hoped there would not be a
problem again.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 77.)
May 23, 2012, through April 29, 2013, Plaintiff took a
workers' compensation leave of absence due to a shoulder
injury. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 80-81.) During
her leave, Plaintiff inquired whether light duty was
available and was told it was not. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 84-85; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶¶
returned to work in 2013 and resumed working two days per
week at Katz and three days per week at NYU. (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 86.) The parties dispute whether Kearney
received complaints about Plaintiff's work areas during
her leave of absence. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 87;
Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 87.) Defendant alleges
that when Plaintiff returned, Kearney received complaints
from LIJ employees that the rooms Plaintiff was responsible
for had not been serviced. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 87.)
Hart directed Navarro to investigate these issues.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 89.) Defendant alleges that
Navarro conducted an investigation and “determined that
Plaintiff had issues arriving to work on time, starting work
on time, and missing areas that needed to be serviced.”
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 90.) Plaintiff disputes this
allegation and alleges that Hart testified that he did not
know whether Navarro spoke to anyone aside from Plaintiff
during his investigation. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶
90.) Plaintiff alleges that Navarro told her that she would
be fired if she did not move faster and that she was
“going to regret [her] life.” (Pl.'s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 92.) Plaintiff concedes that she could
not keep up with her assigned work and believes that Navarro
assigned her additional work because of her complaints.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 93.)
alleges that after she returned to work from her leave of
absence, Navarro harassed her by walking behind her,
commenting on her rear end and mouth, and asking her to tuck
her shirt in. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 94.) Plaintiff
alleges that she continued to contact Woods to complain about
Navarro; however, Hart did not receive any calls from Woods.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 95-96.)
alleges that in 2013, she contacted Hart “each time she
felt that Navarro was intimidating her, ” and told him
that Navarro “would pick on her, that he would give her
hard, heavy work or additional work, and that he would check
up on her more than he would the other technicians.”
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 97-98.) Hart testified
that he followed up with Navarro and Navarro advised that he
would follow-up on issues that he observed. (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 99.) Hart testified that he did not believe
Plaintiff's complaints regarding “harder or heavier
work” were valid in light of the equipment Stericycle
uses. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 101; Pl.'s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 101.)
11, 2013, Kearney sent Navarro an email stating that LIJ had
previously received complaints about Plaintiff and they
continued to receive complaints after she returned to work.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 102.) Kearney further requested
that Navarro “remove [Plaintiff] from the building and
provide an alternative.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
102.) Navarro forwarded Kearney's email to Hart.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 103.) Hart testified that he
was “concerned” upon reading Kearney's email,
as “[i]t was an indication that the situation was
serious given that Kearney himself had become involved”
rather than his subordinates. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
13, 2013, Hart and Navarro met with Kearney. (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 108.) Hart testified that Kearney was
“adamant” that Plaintiff be removed. (Def.'s
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 109.) Hart further testified that following
the meeting, he instructed Navarro to tell Plaintiff to leave
LIJ and not to return to the facility, and that Hart would
contact her or she should contact Hart. (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 110.) Plaintiff testified that Navarro told her
“[g]ive me your badge. You're fired.”
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 113.) The parties dispute
whether Navarro had the authority to fire employees.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 115; Pl.'s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 115.)
testified that after his meeting with Kearney, he spoke with
Jannotte and they scheduled a meeting with the Union
“to discuss Plaintiff's removal from the
property.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 118.) Hart
forwarded Marino a copy of Kearney's email. (Def.'s
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 119.) Hart testified that he and Jannotte
decided to fire Plaintiff. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
120.) The parties dispute whether Hart relied on
Navarro's complaints in deciding to terminate Plaintiff.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 122; Pl.'s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 122.) However, Hart testified that he did
not think about terminating Plaintiff until he received
Kearney's email. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 123.) Hart
also testified that he “did not consider transferring
Plaintiff because she had been removed from an entire
hospital system” and “employees with performance
issues couldn't be relocated.” (Def.'s 56.1
Stmt. ¶ 124.)
informed Plaintiff that Kearney requested her removal and
directed her to contact the Union. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 125.) Plaintiff contacted Woods and advised that
Navarro told her she was terminated. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶ 126.) Subsequently, Plaintiff met with Woods, Marino,
Jannotte, Hart, and Navarro. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶
127.) Prior to the meeting, Plaintiff told Marino and Woods
that the reason Navarro fired her is because “he wanted
to have that sexual [sic] with me and I refused, he ke[pt]
giving me more work, more work, more work and he was angry
after the first meeting. He kept pushing it more and
more.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 128.)
meeting, Hart presented Plaintiff with Kearney's email;
however, Plaintiff “believed that Navarro had
manipulated Kearney.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.
¶¶ 129-130.) The parties dispute whether Navarro
discussed Plaintiff's performance with Kearney, and
whether Navarro asked Kearney to request Plaintiff's
removal. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 131-32;
Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶¶ 131-32.) Plaintiff
alleges that on June 11, 2013, an LIJ employee sent Kearney
an email with the subject line “Message from Alex
(Stericycle)” that stated, in relevant part,
“Alex asked [me] to ask you to email him the info on
not wanting Rachel in the building.” (Pl.'s 56.1
Counterstmt. ¶ 132.) However, Kearney alleges that he
requested that Plaintiff be removed from LIJ “based on
the complaints he received from LIJ employees and based on
his own observations and opinions of Plaintiff's work
performance.” (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 134.)
24, 2013, Plaintiff's employment was terminated.
(Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 135.) Plaintiff concedes that
Hart did not harass her, but she alleges that Hart retaliated
against her. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 137.) On March 10,
2014, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against
Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7.)
judgment will be granted where the movant demonstrates 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). A genuine factual issue
exists where “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In determining
whether an award of summary judgment is appropriate, the
Court considers the pleadings, deposition testimony,
interrogatory responses, and admissions on file, together
with other firsthand information that includes but is not
limited to affidavits. Nnebe v. Daus, 644 F.3d 147,
156 (2d Cir. 2011).
movant bears the burden of establishing that there are no
genuine issues of material fact. Gallo v. Prudential
Residential Servs., L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir.
1994). Once the movant makes such a showing, the non-movant
must proffer specific facts demonstrating “a genuine
issue for trial.” Giglio v. Buonnadonna Shoprite
LLC, No. 06-CV-5191, 2009 WL 3150431, at *4 (E.D.N.Y.
Sept. 25, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Conclusory allegations or denials will not defeat
summary judgment. Id. However, in reviewing the
summary judgment record, “‘the court is required
to resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual
inferences in favor of the party against whom summary
judgment is sought.'” Shee ...