United States District Court, W.D. New York
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
LAWRENCE J. VILARDO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff is a retired police officer who claims that her
former employer discriminated against her on the basis of her
sex and disability. The defendant moved for summary judgment
(Docket Item 28), after which the Court referred this matter
to United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer. Docket
Item 40. Judge Roemer then issued a Report and
Recommendation ("R&R"), dated April 25, 2016,
recommending that the defendant's motion be granted.
See Docket Item 45. Pending before this Court are
the plaintiffs objections to Judge Roemer's R&R.
See Docket Item 48.
Court "must determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected
to" and "may accept, reject, or modify the
recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return
the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions."
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); see 28 U.S.C. §
novo review, this Court agrees with Judge Roemer's
conclusions that "there is simply no evidence that
McKnight's gender played any role in the adverse actions
she complains of," Docket Item 45 at 21, and that she
"could not perform the essential functions of her job,
with or without a reasonable accommodation."
Id. at 23. Therefore, for substantially the same
reasons set forth in the R&R, the defendant's motion
for summary judgment (Docket Item 28) is GRANTED.
arguments made in the plaintiffs objections (or at oral
argument of those objections) are, however, worth briefly
objections, the plaintiff argues that she submitted evidence
sufficient to defeat summary judgment, that Judge Roemer
failed "to construe the evidence in the light most
favorable to [her]," and that he "sycophantically
accepted defendant's version of events as true."
Docket Item 48 at 1.
discrimination cases like this one, it is appropriate to
employ the burden-shifting analysis that the Supreme Court
set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411
Under McDonnell Douglas, a plaintiff must first
establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden
then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for its employment action. If the
employer meets this burden, the presumption of intentional
discrimination disappears, but the plaintiff can still prove
disparate treatment by, for instance, offering evidence
demonstrating that the employer's explanation is
Raytheon Co. v. Hernandez, 540 U.S. 44, 49 n.3
(2003) (internal citation omitted).
R&R found that the plaintiff failed to establish a prima
facie case of sex discrimination. See Docket item 45
at 20. But even assuming that the plaintiff had satisfied
that burden, the defendant also satisfied its burden of
articulating nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions.
Therefore, the defendant was entitled to summary judgment
"unless the plaintiff can point to evidence that
reasonably supports a finding of prohibited
discrimination." Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble,
398 F.3d 211, 216 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks
omitted). In this regard, the plaintiff had "no
obligation to prove that the employer's innocent
explanation [was] dishonest." Henry v. Wyeth Pharm.,
Inc., 616 F.3d 134, 156 (2d Cir. 2010). Instead, she
need have shown only "that the defendant was in fact
motivated at least in part by the prohibited discriminatory
plaintiff pointed to certain comments and conduct by the
chief of police when he was a patrol officer in 1991 as being
evidence that reasonably supports a finding of prohibited
discrimination. See, e.g., Docket Item 36-2 at
¶¶ 10-12. Judge Roemer found that "not
probative of discrimination because [it] occurred nearly
twenty years before McKnight went on leave, and [it had]
nothing to do with the adverse employment actions she
alleges." Docket Item 45 at 16. The plaintiff objected
to that conclusion, characterizing it as relying on a
"per se rule that remarks of more than one year in age
are, as a matter of law, not probative." Docket Item 48
at 11. But the plaintiffs objection misses the mark.
the plaintiff is correct that "there is no bright-line
rule for when remarks become 'too attenuated' to be
significant to a determination of discriminatory
intent." Id. (quoting Tolbert v.
Smith, 790 F.3d 427, 437 (2d Cir. 2015). But Judge
Roemer did not rely on such a bright-line rule. Moreover, and
more importantly, this Court finds on de novo review that the
chiefs comments and conduct still are far too attenuated to
defeat summary judgment. And that is based on the
decades-long gap between the specific remarks or conduct
alleged and the adverse employment actions, as well as the
lack of any connection between the remarks or conduct and the
circumstances surrounding the adverse employment actions.
plaintiff also alleged that similarly situated male police
officers were treated more favorably, and she argued that
this supported a finding of prohibited discrimination. That,
too, was insufficient because the plaintiff failed to submit
evidence that those police officers were "similarly
situated in all material respects." Shumway v.
United Parcel Serv., Inc.,118 F.3d 60, 64 (2d Cir.
1997). Indeed, the plaintiff relied almost entirely on her
own statements, based on "common knowledge" (as her
counsel described it at oral argument) that comparable male
officers were treated ...