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Thior v. Jetblue Airways, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

July 24, 2017

ABDOU THIOR, Plaintiff

          OPINION & ORDER

          NINA GERSHON United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Abdou Thior brings this action against JetBlue Airways, Inc. for discrimination based on race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as well as New York Executive Law § 296 ("NYSHRL") and New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. Admin. Code § 8-107 ("NYCHRL"). In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he was discriminated against on the grounds of race and national origin when he received a failing mark at a pilot training program, which temporarily disqualified him from being eligible for a promotion. Plaintiff seeks back pay, front pay, and that the failing mark be removed from his record. Defendant now moves for summary judgment seeking dismissal of plaintiffs claims in their entirety. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is granted on the ground of timeliness.

         I. Facts[1]

         Plaintiff describes himself as a black, Senegalese-American. He began working at JetBlue in 2007 as a pilot, initially as a "first officer" and later as a captain after a promotion in March of 2014 (approximately four months after initiating this lawsuit). JetBlue requires its pilots to pass an annual training program known as the Annual Recurrent Training (the "Training").

         In January of 2011, plaintiff attended a Training at which his training partner was James Hughes and his trainer was James Olenik, both of whom are Caucasian males. Plaintiff alleges that Olenik discriminated against him at the Training by: (1) mocking his accent; (2) diverting from the standardized Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") approved syllabus; and (3) giving him a failing mark despite his having performed competently. The defendants dispute that there was any discrimination.

         It is undisputed that, after receiving a failing mark in January of 2011, plaintiff was required to attend a remedial course for one year, during which time he was ineligible to receive a promotion. According to defendant, JetBlue's policy is that a person who receives a failing mark must complete one year of remedial training. In his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission ("EEOC"), plaintiff identified March of 2011 as the date on which his eligibility for promotion, based on seniority, would have accrued had he not been in the remedial training program.

         After he failed the Training and was placed into the remedial program, plaintiff filed internal grievances with JetBlue and requested that he be removed from the remedial program, but these requests were denied in September of 2011. Plaintiff ultimately filed a complaint with the EEOC on March 1, 2012.

         In his complaint, plaintiff claims discrimination based on race and national origin pursuant to: (1) Title VII; (2) NYSHRL and (3) NYCHRL.[2]

         II. Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is appropriate if 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. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). "A dispute is not genuine unless the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Shiflett v. Scores Holding Co., Inc., 601 Fed.Appx. 28, 29 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation omitted). A court is required to "construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in its favor." Dickerson v. Napolitano, 604 F.3d 732, 740 (2d Cir. 2010). The moving party bears the burden of proof that no genuine issues of fact exist, but, once it satisfies this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to present evidence that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "Summary judgment is appropriate where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Rosenfeld v. Hostos Comty. Coll., 554 Fed.Appx. 72, 73 (2d Cir. 2014). Here, as noted, the facts material to the issue of timeliness are undisputed.

         B. Title VII Claim

         "Under Title VII, a plaintiff in New York State must file an employment discrimination charge with the EEOC within 300 days after an alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." Perez v. Harbor Freight Tools, 2017 WL 2644638, at *1 (2d Cir. June 20, 2017) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1)). "This statutory requirement is analogous to a statute of limitations." Sanderson v. New York State Elec. & Gas Corp., 560 Fed.Appx. 88, 90 (2d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation omitted). Here, it is undisputed that plaintiff filed his EEOC charge on March 1, 2012-more than a year (and thus more than 300 days) after Olenik failed plaintiff at the Training.

         Plaintiff argues that his claim is nonetheless timely because the entire period that he spent in the remedial program, including the instances in which superiors refused to remove him from the program, constitutes a discriminatory act. Because a supervisor denied plaintiffs request to be removed from the remedial program in September of 2011, plaintiff argues his EEOC charge was timely filed on March 1, 2012, and that the failing mark ...

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