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Salters v. Hewitt-Young Electric, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 2, 2017

ROBERT SALTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
HEWITT-YOUNG ELECTRIC, LLC, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Robert Salters (“plaintiff”) commenced this action against Hewitt Young Electric, LLC (“Hewitt Young” or “defendant”), seeking damages for racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to e-17 (“Title VII”), Article 15 of the New York State Executive Law, Human Rights Law § 290 et seq. (the “NYSHRL”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“§ 1981”). Specifically, plaintiff, who is African American, claims that he was subjected to race discrimination based on Hewitt Young's failure to hire him based on his race, leading to plaintiff's termination by Hewitt Young's subcontractor and a continued refusal to employ him.

         Defendant now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), arguing that (1) plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination; (2) defendant had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for not hiring plaintiff that were not pretextual; and (3) plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation. Plaintiff opposes defendant's motion, arguing that there are genuine issues of material fact that necessitate a jury trial. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that defendant has established its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, its motion for summary judgment is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from the respective statements of fact, affidavits, and exhibits submitted by plaintiff and defendant.

         Plaintiff is an African American electrician. He works as a journeyman wireman and obtains work though his union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union #86 (“Local #86”). Local 86 refers plaintiff to various jobs offered by contractors. Defendant engages in industrial, commercial, and residential electrical work in schools, retail spaces, restaurants, and offices, and receives referrals from Local 86. The relationship between Local 86 and defendant is governed by a collective bargaining agreement.

         Plaintiff first worked for defendant in 2009. Plaintiff testified at deposition that he was treated respectfully on this job and was not teased because of his race. Plaintiff voluntarily left this job due to a death in his family.

         Plaintiff began working for defendant again on July 2, 2013. Plaintiff worked on various projects between July 2, 2013 and September 27, 2013, including at Charlotte High School, School 17, SUNY Geneseo, and the Batavia Casino. Plaintiff maintains that he would not have been permitted to move from project to project if his job performance had been lacking. Plaintiff testified at deposition that he was treated respectfully throughout this time period and was not disparaged based on his race.

         During his work at the Batavia Casino, plaintiff was involved in an incident where a supervisor, Mark Spall, was injured in the course of unloading a large toolbox from a truck. Mr. Spall has submitted a sworn declaration in which he states that he believed his injury was caused by plaintiff. Plaintiff disputes this account, claiming that Mr. Spall did not report the injury contemporaneously and that plaintiff would not have been called back to the work site had he caused an injury.

         Plaintiff was laid off by defendant on September 27, 2013, and hired again on October 1, 2013. Plaintiff worked three additional days before being laid off again, due to completion of the job.

         According to defendant, Mr. Spall reported to Hewitt Young management that plaintiff was a poor and inefficient worker, and Hewitt Young therefore determined that it would not hire plaintiff again. Under the collective bargaining agreement, defendant has the right to reject any applicant for employment. Plaintiff disputes defendant's characterization of his work, and maintains that no one at Hewitt Young ever complained about his work and that he would not have been called back to the job at the Batavia Casino if his workmanship had been poor.

         In December 2013, plaintiff received a referral to defendant from Local 86 to work on the Rochester City School District Modernization Project (the “RCSD Project”). He reported to defendant's offices on December 6, 2013. According to plaintiff, Gregory Young, the President of Hewitt Young, came into the waiting room and told plaintiff to leave and that he would not take plaintiff's referral. Mr. Young maintains that plaintiff arrived late, was disheveled, and appeared to be intoxicated, which plaintiff disputes. The parties agree that Mr. Young never said anything to plaintiff related to his race. In fact, plaintiff testified at deposition that no one at Hewitt Young ever said anything to him about his race.

         On December 23, 2013, after having rejected plaintiff's referral, Hewitt Young hired Leonard Miller, an African American electrician, to work on the RCSD project. Hewitt Young added another African American ...


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