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Culleton v. Honeywell International, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

June 29, 2017


          For the Plaintiff: RICOTTA & MARKS, P.C. By: Matthew Ian Marks, Esq. Thomas Ricotta, Esq.

          For the Defendant: OGLETREE DEAKINGS NASH SMOAK & STEWART, P.C. By: Allison Elizabeth Ianni, Esq. Leah S. Freed, Esq.



         Plaintiff Donna Culleton (“plaintiff” or “Culleton”) commenced this action against defendant Honeywell International, Inc. (“Honeywell” or “defendant”) asserting claims of sex-based and age-based discrimination and retaliatory employment practices in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), and New York's Human Rights Law (“NYHRL”), Executive Law § 296. Presently before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (“Rule 56”). For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion is granted.


         The following facts are drawn from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 Statements and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff began working for Honeywell in 2006 as a Manager of Strategic Sourcing. Honeywell invents and manufactures technologies to address global issues such as safety, security, and energy. In her role, she supervised a team of approximately eight managers tasked with procuring the proper amount of parts and material inventory for Honeywell Security Group products.

         Between 2008 and 2012, Culleton reported to Honeywell's Vice President of Global Sourcing Robert Simpson (“Simpson”). In her 2010 performance review, Simpson noted that plaintiff needed to “initiate change” and delegate her day-to-day tactical work to her team so that she could focus her time on high-level managerial initiatives. In a July 2011 review, Simpson noted that plaintiff was a “dedicated, conscientious, driven, resource[] for [Simpson] and the business, ” but reiterated that plaintiff needed to delegate more effectively to her team and focus her time on managerial and business initiatives. (Def.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10.) In early 2012, plaintiff received another performance review where Simpson rated her a “five” out of nine, five meaning “at standards.” (Id. ¶ 12.) The review praised plaintiff's product knowledge, but noted that she needed to focus on “bringing her team to the next level” by “embracing . . . and identifying necessary changes to methods.” (Id. ¶ 13.)

         On January 30, 2012, Honeywell hired Thom Jones (“Jones”) to manage global inventory procurement. Upon his hire, Jones became plaintiff's direct supervisor and remained as such until plaintiff resigned in November of 2014. In August of 2012, Jones issued plaintiff's mid-year performance review, noting that plaintiff spent too much time executing tasks and not enough time managing her team.

         In January of 2013, plaintiff complained to Human Resources Director Sue Berdel (“Berdel”) that she felt she was being harassed by Jones, that she felt like a “battered housewife, ” and that Jones was condescending and dismissive in their work-related interactions. Plaintiff also explained to Berdel that she felt Jones favored men over women because he omitted her from conversations with a male employee on plaintiff's team and because of the tone in which he communicated to Culleton and several of her female team members.

         Honeywell investigated plaintiff's complaints by interviewing plaintiff, Jones, Jeannine Lane (“Lane”), the General Counsel of Honeywell, and another female employee who directly reported to Jones. As part of the investigation, Honeywell also arranged meetings where Culleton could voice her concerns to higher management, including Vice President of Supply Chain, Neal Speranzo (“Speranzo”). Ultimately, Berdel and Speranzo concluded that Jones did not demonstrate any inappropriate conduct or criticism based on plaintiff's gender. Honeywell also concluded, however, that Jones could benefit from leadership and communications counseling. Berdel informed plaintiff of the results of the investigation.

         For several weeks after Jones received leadership and communications coaching from his supervisor, plaintiff noticed an improvement in their working relationship. However, on March 6, 2013, Jones issued plaintiff's 2012 annual performance review and rated her a “five, ” meaning “at standards.” The review noted that plaintiff performed well in developing relationships with other departments and had strong product knowledge, but noted that she was resistant to new department procedures. On July 22, 2013, Jones issued Culleton's 2013 mid- year performance review, which provided that plaintiff performed personal tasks very well, but reemphasized the need of her team to embrace changes. Then, on March 6, 2014, Jones issued Culleton's 2013 annual performance review. Jones again rated plaintiff a “five.” Jones praised plaintiff's understanding of customer needs, among other things, but also stated that she resisted direction from management and was not promoting teamwork.

         In early 2014, plaintiff applied for a promotion to Category Manager in Honeywell's Building Solutions business line. This was the only position she applied for while reporting to Jones. Plaintiff interviewed for the position, but according to defendant, subsequently, on or around September 18, 2014, Honeywell canceled the position due to budgetary constraints. Plaintiff, however, claims that the position was filled internally, though she does not recall how or from whom she learned that information.

         On March 24, 2014, plaintiff complained to Berdel that she felt her 2013 performance review contained misrepresentations of her performance. On April 9, 2014, she met with Berdel to discuss her concerns about her review and Jones's management. Honeywell then proceeded to investigate plaintiff's complaints. Plaintiff claims, however, that the investigation was deficient in that Honeywell did not talk to any of plaintiff's staff or outside suppliers. Ultimately, Honeywell concluded that Jones's assessment of plaintiff's performance was appropriate, and Berdel met with plaintiff to inform her that the investigation did not support her allegations of bias.

         On June 4, 2014, Jones sent an email to Berdel requesting guidance on how to address ongoing deficiencies in plaintiff's performance. On June 13, 2014, plaintiff sent an email to Berdel and Honeywell Associate General Counsel Josh Foster complaining that she was having a difficult time with Jones and that he was “[s]ending numerous emails falsely accusing [her] of [unspecified] things.” (Def.'s R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 92.) Berdel promptly responded to plaintiff's email requesting that she and plaintiff meet to discuss her complaints and requested that plaintiff send her the alleged emails. After several requests from Honeywell's Human Resources, plaintiff sent Berdel one email where Jones scolded her for going against his ...

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