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Cintron v. Atticus Bakery, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 16, 2017

ANGEL CINTRON, Plaintiff,
v.
ATTICUS BAKERY, LLC, d/b/a CHABASO BAKERY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          Dominic J. Squatrito, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Angel Cintron (“Cintron”), brings this civil rights action against the defendant, Atticus Bakery, LLC, d/b/a Chabaso Bakery (“Atticus”), alleging: (1) discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”) (Count One); (2) hostile work environment in violation of Title VII (Count Two); (3) discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(1) (“CFEPA”) (Count Three); (4) aiding and abetting discrimination in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(5) (Count Four); and (5) invasion of privacy by unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another (Count Five).

         The defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment on all counts of the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons stated herein, the defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. FACTS

         Review of both parties' memoranda, affidavits, declarations, and Local Rule 56(a) statements submitted in support of and in opposition to the motion for summary judgment discloses the following:[1]

         Cintron, a male over the age of 40, began working at Atticus on or about June 17, 1997 and worked there for 15 years until June 30, 2012. Cintron was initially hired as a driver, but at the time his employment at Atticus ended, he held the position of Production Manager. As Production Manager, Cintron supervised approximately sixteen male and female employees. His duties as Production Manager included, but were not limited to, setting up production, confirming the completion of packages, working with outside vendors to schedule deliveries, checking for discrepancies between orders, and assisting managers and supervisors in other departments, if necessary. During the time he held the position of Production Manager, Cintron's immediate supervisor was initially John Ferreira (“Ferreira”) and then Christopher Pustizzi (“Pustizzi”). All managers and supervisors at Atticus reported to Charles Negaro Sr. (“Negaro Sr.”), who is the founder of Atticus, and Charles Negaro Jr. (“Negaro Jr.”), the Director of Operations/Plant Manager of Atticus. At all times pertinent to this action Negaro Sr. and Negaro Jr. were the only individuals with the power to hire and fire Atticus employees.

         During the majority of Cintron's employment at Atticus, he was happy with his job. Cintron's last employee evaluation, which took place on January 24, 2012, indicated that he performed his job in a satisfactory and proficient manner. Further, Cintron's supervisor, Pustizzi, stated that “Mr. Cintron's job performance was always done in a professional manner.” (Doc. #33-7, at 3, ¶ 15).

         At all times relevant to this action, the Atticus Employee Handbook contained a Non-Harassment policy stating that “[u]nwelcome sexual advances and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are serious violations of our policy and will not be condoned or permitted.” (Doc. #28-1, at 6). That policy also stated that “[a]ll complaints of sexual harassment will be promptly and confidentially investigated.” (Id.). Cintron was aware of and had read the Non-Harassment policy during the time he was employed at Atticus.

         Between April and June 2012 two investigations of alleged inappropriate behavior occurred at Atticus. Cintron was interviewed during the course of both investigations and claims that he endured repeated questioning and harassment from coworkers and management after the first investigation and during the second investigation. Each investigation will be discussed below.

         In April 2012 Atticus became aware of the possibility that male supervisors were engaging in sexually harassing behavior toward female employees. Through its attorneys, Atticus engaged Nicholas Daukas (“Daukas”) of the firm KardasLarson LLC, Human Resources Solutions to investigate this matter. Daukas' investigation consisted of interviewing a number of Atticus employees, including Cintron, about possible inappropriate behavior. Cintron is mentioned in Daukas' investigative report as a supervisor “alleged to have committed inappropriate behavior and/or sexual harassment toward female employees.” (Doc. # 28-1, at 15). That report goes on to conclude that, “Although the behavior that Cintron was alleged to have committed could not be corroborated, the perception of him by employees is not professional in this regard.” (Id.). The report further concluded that a different supervisor had engaged in sexually harassing behavior toward female employees and Atticus terminated that supervisor's employment.

         Cintron claims that after being interviewed by Daukas in connection with the first investigation, he was constantly questioned and harassed by other employees and management asking if he was the one being accused of sexual harassment and why he was being questioned.[2]During the course of the first investigation, one of the Atticus employees interviewed by Daukas indicated that Cintron “is nice to the female employees and brings them beverages on their breaks.” (Id. at 14). Atticus subsequently issued a written warning to Cintron concerning his practice of buying coffee for some of his coworkers. According to the Atticus Human Resources Manager, Amy Flood (“Flood”), “[i]t is not appropriate to buy certain people gifts or coffee . . . and leave others out, that could be seen as favoritism . . . .” (Doc. # 33-4, at 118:24-25, 119:1). According to Cintron, buying coffees for staff was “something that everybody practiced within the management.” (Doc. # 33-2, at 102:10-11). He also testified at his deposition that Flood “had it in for me” ever since he declined her invitation when she first started at Atticus to serve on her work-related health committee. (Id. at 102:13-16).

         In June 2012, Cintron began to have a personal relationship with Marsabelle Villatoro (“Villatoro”), an Atticus employee who was directly supervised by Cintron. Also in June 2012, Flood received a call from Cintron's wife, Yvette Cintron, informing Flood that Cintron was having a personal relationship with Villatoro.[3] In response to this information, Flood once again contacted Daukas to conduct an investigation into the relationship between Cintron and Villatoro. Before the second investigation started, no one at Atticus had ever questioned Cintron about his relationship with Villatoro. Additionally, Villatoro had never indicated to Cintron that his behavior toward her was unwelcome, and had never complained to Human Resources Manager Flood about Cintron's relationship with her.

         On June 12, 2012, the day of the second investigation, Daukas interviewed Cintron in Negaro Jr.'s office while Flood separately questioned Villatoro in a conference room. Daukas asked Cintron if he was having a personal relationship with someone who worked at the bakery. Cintron responded by saying, “it's my private life and whatever I do outside of the bakery is my business, . . . it's my private business, you should not be asking me about my private business.” (Doc. # 33-2, at 129: 9-10, 13-15). According to Cintron, the conversation lasted only a few seconds. Daukas states that the conversation lasted approximately five minutes. Regardless of the exact length of the short interview, it is undisputed that after Daukas asked Cintron whether he was having a personal relationship with another Atticus employee, Cintron told Daukas he had nothing to say to him and got up and left the room.

         After being questioned by Daukas, Cintron went directly to Pustizzi's office. Cintron told Pustizzi that he was being harassed and that the questioning was an invasion of his privacy. The parties dispute whether Cintron stated to his supervisors that he might resign or whether he actually resigned. However, the Court must construe all genuine factual disputes in Cintron's favor. See Simpson v. City of New York, 793 F.3d 259, 262 (2d Cir. 2015) (“the district court [is] bound to consider the facts in the light most favorable to . . . the non-moving party”). According to Cintron, while in a distressed state he said to Pustizzi and Negaro Jr., “if this [harassment] keeps up, I will be handing in my two weeks' notice.” (Doc. # 33-2, at 130:17-18). At that point, Pustizzi and Negaro Jr. told Cintron to “think about it and come back, you're acting irrational . . . .” (Id. at 131:10-11). Cintron then left Pustizzi's office and went back to work. Two or three days later, Cintron went back to Pustizzi's office. Pustizzi asked Cintron how he was doing, and Cintron responded by saying, “I'm still upset, this shouldn't happen, you know, I didn't do anything wrong . . . and I said . . . I'm not going anywhere, I rescind whatever I said. He goes, fine, just get back to work.” (Id. at 132:2-6).

         After the second investigation Atticus employees kept asking Cintron why he and Villatoro had been questioned and whether he had sexually harassed somebody. Cintron approached Pustizzi and asked him to speak to the employees about the situation “but it just kept on.” (Id. at 198:1). Cintron himself told employees that he didn't want to talk about the second investigation. At that point the employees stopped directly asking him about the situation, “but they were talking about it.” (Id. at 197:13-14). At some point between June 12, 2012, and June 29, 2012, Villatoro was transferred to a different department within Atticus “to avoid any conflicts.” (Id. at 135:13-14).

         On June 29, 2012, Negaro Jr. told Cintron that he was accepting Cintron's two weeks' notice and that Cintron had to leave the premises. Cintron states that Negaro Jr. told him that “due to the [second] investigation, ” his employment was being terminated. (Id. at 132:25). Rocio Pinos (“Pinos”), a female employee, was subsequently promoted and took over Cintron's position after he was terminated.

         Cintron alleges that female supervisors at Atticus had personal relationships with male subordinates, but were not terminated or disciplined because of those relationships. First, Cintron mentions Maribel Rodriguez (hereinafter “Rodriguez”), a female supervisor who was married to another employee, Gabino Aguilar (hereinafter “Aguilar”). Atticus management knew about Rodriguez's relationship with Aguilar but never investigated or disciplined her for having a relationship with another employee. According to Atticus, “Rodriguez is married to another employee of Atticus who does not now report nor at any relevant time has he reported to her.” (Doc. # 28-1, at 4, ¶ 21). According to Cintron, however, for the majority of the time he worked at Atticus, Aguilar worked in the same department as Rodriguez and reported to her.

         Second, Cintron claims that Hydee Vazquez (“Vazquez”), a female supervisor, was neither disciplined nor investigated for having a relationship with a male employee, Albert Santiago (“Santiago”). It is undisputed that Vazquez and Santiago worked in different departments. Cintron does not know whether Atticus had knowledge of the relationship between Vazquez and Santiago. Atticus claims it had no knowledge of that relationship.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Cintron alleges that Atticus' conduct violated Title VII and CFEPA. Specifically, Cintron claims that: (1) he was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against in violation of Title VII and CFEPA, and (2) he was subjected to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. Cintron also alleges that Atticus supervisors aided and abetted its discriminatory conduct and that Atticus invaded his privacy by unreasonably intruding upon his seclusion. Atticus has moved for summary judgment on all counts of Cintron's complaint. The Court hereby DENIES Atticus' motion on Cintron's sex discrimination claims under Title VII and the CFEPA and GRANTS Atticus' motion on all remaining counts. The Court shall discuss Cintron's claims seriatim in the context of the summary judgment standard.

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A “material fact” is one whose resolution will affect the ultimate determination of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute concerning a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The Court “accept[s] as true facts that [are] undisputed by the parties, and resolve[s] disputed facts in favor of the non-moving plaintiff where there [is] evidence to support his allegations.” Sousa v. Roque, 578 F.3d 164, 166 n.1 (2d Cir. 2009). “Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991).

         Summary judgment is appropriate if, after discovery, the nonmoving party has “failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of any material factual issue genuinely in dispute.” American International Group, Inc. v. London American International Corp., 664 F.2d 348, 351 (2d Cir. 1981) (internal quotation marks omitted). Upon the moving party satisfying that burden, the nonmoving party must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. However, mere conclusory statements, conjecture, surmise, or unsubstantiated allegations are insufficient to defeat a well-founded motion for summary judgment. See Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir.1995).

         The Second Circuit has emphasized that “trial courts must be especially chary in handing out summary judgment in discrimination cases, because in such cases the employer's intent is ordinarily at issue.” Chertkova v. Connecticut General Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 87 (2d Cir. 1996). Accordingly, the Court must carefully scrutinize “relevant depositions, affidavits, and [other] materials . . . for circumstantial evidence that could support an inference of discrimination.” Id.

         B. Sex Discrimination in ...


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