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Smith v. Centerlight Healthcare, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 21, 2018

CELESTE SMITH, Plaintiff, CENTERLIGHT HEALTHCARE, INC., CENTERLIGHT HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., and GLENN COUROUNIS, Defendants.

          For the plaintiff: Celeste Smith, pro se.

          For the defendants: Diane Windholz, Damon W. Silver

          OPINION AND ORDER

          DENISE COTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an employment discrimination and retaliation action by Celeste Smith against her former employers, Centerlight Healthcare System, Inc. (“CLHS”), her former supervisor at CLHS, Glenn Courounis, and a related company, Centerlight Healthcare, Inc. (“CLHC”). She has brought claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), as well as various state law causes of action. The defendants have moved for summary judgment, and plaintiff has failed to oppose the motion. For the following reasons, the motion is granted to the extent of dismissing the federal law claims. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

         BACKGROUND

         The following describes the evidence which is either undisputed or taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[1] CLHS provides long-term healthcare services through its member company, CLHC. CLHC is a managed care provider that serves patients in New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. In July 2006, plaintiff Celeste Smith, a Black female, was hired as a Director of Human Resources for CLHS. In 2010 and 2012, Smith received promotions, to Corporate Human Resources Director, and Corporate Vice President of Human Resources, respectively. As Corporate Vice President of Human Resources, Smith received a salary of $190, 000 per year and was eligible for a bonus and other benefits. Smith claims, however, that she did not receive a car allowance and did not begin receiving an 11% pension contribution until 2014, despite allegedly being eligible for those benefits upon her 2012 promotion.

         In 2013, Smith claims that she was subjected to a “personality assessment” by an outside consultant for the fourth time, after previously taking the assessment three times over the course of her employment. According to Smith, the questions on the assessment were demeaning and discriminatory, and she was the only female required to take it four times.

         In 2013 and early 2014, Smith, as part of her role as Corporate Vice President of Human Resources, participated, along with her then-supervisor, in two internal investigations into the behavior of a CLHS executive. Smith claims that after the subject of the investigation found out about her involvement, the executive “coached” her to leave CLHS. Smith raised her concerns about the “coaching” to the then-president of CLHS, and he did not indicate that plaintiff's employment would be terminated.

         Glenn Courounis began his tenure as CLHS's Senior Vice President of Human Resources on April 27, 2015. At around the same time, the Centerlight companies began experiencing severe financial difficulties. Courounis was brought in to restructure CLHS's human resources department. Courounis was 59-years-old at the time, 9 years older than his predecessor and 7 years older than plaintiff. At the start of Courounis's tenure, CLHS's human resources department employed 24 full-time employees, and Courounis decided that he needed to downsize the department. At a staff meeting shortly after he took the position, he announced this decision to the staff, so that they would be able to begin searching for other employment. The number of full-time employees was reduced from 24 to 18.5 by the beginning of 2016, and to 10.5 by July 2016. Of the remaining positions, four were filled by Black employees, four were filled by Hispanic employees, and 2.5, including Courounis, were White. Approximately 60% of the remaining staff was over 40 years of age, and 81% of the remaining staff were female. During Courounis's tenure, Courounis hired five new employees for lower-level positions: two of them Black, two White, and one Asian; four of the five were female, and two were over 47 years of age. He also terminated the employment of five employees, two of whom were Asian, two of whom were Black, and one was White (out of the two White employees in the department at the time); two were older than Smith and two were younger, and three of the five were male.

         The layoffs were not limited to the human resources department. CLHS has laid off over 200 employees since January 2015, including 26 with the title of Vice President or above. Of the laid off Vice Presidents, 21 were White, two were Black, two were Hispanic, and one was Asian. The laid-off individuals eventually included Courounis himself.

         In October 2015, plaintiff made complaints to CLHS's Chief Compliance Officer and its Chief Administrative Officer that Courounis sent her information about a job opening in Virginia or Washington, D.C., and had hired employees for the human resources department that she believed did not have the appropriate qualifications. Later that month, Smith made a complaint to CLHS's then-president about Courounis alleging that he made inappropriate comments concerning various employees. Courounis, however, did not learn about either set of complaints until plaintiff's deposition in this action.

         In December 2015, Smith had a conversation with Courounis in which they discussed certain medical problems that Smith was experiencing. The two of them came up with a plan under which Smith would be permitted to take intermittent leave. Smith also went on a vacation to the Caribbean in late December 2015 to early January 2016.

         On January 13, 2016, Courounis, along with CLHS's then-Chief-Information-Officer, met with Smith to advise her that CLHS was eliminating her position. Courounis informed Smith that he had delayed terminating her employment until after January 1, 2016 so that she would be eligible for a new severance plan that CLHS had implemented as of that date. Courounis had decided that CLHS's financial condition mandated her discharge well before her termination. After the discussion turned to Smith's job performance, Courounis told Smith that he had been dissatisfied with her handling of a particular matter, but after Smith disputed Courounis's view, Courounis looked into the matter and sent plaintiff a letter apologizing for his mistake. Courounis reiterated that Smith's job performance was not a factor in his decision to eliminate her position, and thus that his decision was unchanged. CLHS has not reinstated Smith's position to date.

         PROCEDURAL ...


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