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Ameti ex rel. United States v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 6, 2018

PELLUMB AMETI, ex rel. UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT CORP., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 66]

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation's (“Defendant” or “Sikorsky”) summary judgment motion of Plaintiff Pellumb Ameti's (“Plaintiff” or “Ameti”) employment termination case.[1] Mr. Ameti brings claims of unlawful discrimination and hostile work environment based on race, national origin, and religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, et seq., and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(1); retaliation in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51m; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and common law wrongful discharge in violation of an important public policy. For the foregoing reasons, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED as to Counts I through IV, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Counts V through VII.

         I. Background

         Sikorsky is a company that designs, manufactures, and services helicopters for commercial, industrial, and military uses. [Dkt. 66-24 (Def. L. R. 56(a)(1) Statement) ¶ 1; Dkt. 79-1 (Pl. L. R. 56(a)(2) Statement) ¶ 1]. The company has policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of color, national origin, and religion. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 3; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 3]. These policies provide a procedure for individuals who believe they are subject to discrimination or harassment. See [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 3; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 3]. Specifically, the harassment policy states, “If you have witnessed or been the victim of harassment, you should immediately notify the Company through one or more of the following: (1) your supervisor (unless he/she is the alleged harasser or (2) your EEO representative, Diversity manager or Human Resources representative.” [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 100; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 100]. The policy also prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports harassment or cooperates in a harassment investigation, and it specifies that an investigation confirming harassment will lead to disciplinary action that may include the employee's termination. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 101; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 101].

         Mr. Ameti began working for Sikorsky in 2008 as an engineer in the Blades Product Center. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 4; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 4]. He is from Macedonia and Albania and has a darker complexion, which he believes suggests he is from the Middle East. [Dkt. 80 (Opp'n Ex. S, Ameti Dep.) at 70:8-17].

         Each year Mr. Ameti received a Performance Feedback Tool (“PFT”), which was a retrospective assessment of his performance during the previous year. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 11; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 11]. The PFT summary ratings were the following: Unsatisfactory Performance / Improvement Required (“U”); Progressing (“P”); Fully Competent Performance (“FC”); and Exceptional Performance (“EP”). [Dkt. 79-3 (Opp'n Ex. F-S, Ex. H; Ameti PFTs) at SIK000693]. He received an overall summary rating of FC every year from 2008 through 2012.[2] Mr. Ameti did not receive the 2013 PFT before he was laid off, but there is an unsigned draft that indicates he received an overall rating of FC for the sixth time. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶¶ 16-17; Dkt. 79-1 ¶¶ 16-17].

         A. Caputo's Supervision (2008 Through First Quarter of 2011)

         From November 2008 through the first quarter of 2011, Mr. Ameti was supervised by Frank Caputo. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶¶ 5-6; Dkt. 79-1 ¶¶ 5-6].

         Mr. Ameti testified that in either 2010 or 2011, Mr. Caputo came to his desk and told him “that he saw some kind of information somewhere about an Albanian tradition where some of the female family members of the family where there was no male party in the family, they were allowed to live their life as a male so they can take care of the family, and that was very strange and primitive thing for nation to do that.” [Dkt. 80 at 35:15-22].

         Mr. Ameti attests that he received a “below average” raise for the year 2011. [Dkt. 79-3 ¶ 12]. He does not indicate the value of his raise, against whom he compared his raise, the value of an average raise, and what a raise was based on. His affidavit reads as follows: “At this time, Plaintiff noticed that Caputo was treating him disparately.” Id.

         B. Jones's Supervision (First Quarter of 2011 Through Layoff)

         This supervision ended when Mr. Caputo became the Chief Engineer for the Blades Product Center, and at that point Mr. Ameti was transferred to a group led by Corey Jones. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 7; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 7]. Mr. Ameti then began working with another Manufacturing Engineer named Michael Tabone. See [Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 153; Dkt. 80 at 87:13-88:10].

         Mr. Tabone's comments constitute the bulk of alleged discriminatory comments. Mr. Ameti testified that Mr. Tabone said, “This is Pellumb Ameti, and he is Muslim, ” at least five times to other people, including to David Caywood, Kneil Northrop, Mike Liggen, and two others. See [Dkt. 80 at 38:2-10; Dkt. 82 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. S Cont'd, Ameti Dep.) at 262:22-265:15]. He also asked Mr. Jones, “Do you know that Pellumb is Muslim?” on another occasion. See [Dkt. 80 at 38:11-15]. Mr. Tabone asked Mr. Ameti how many wives he had approximately five times. [Dkt. 82 at 274:14-17]. Mr. Ameti estimates that between two to five times Mr. Tabone told their coworker, Ms. Joanne Pavia, “Pellumb has three wives and for a Muslim that is normal.” Id. at 275:24-276:4]. Mr. Ameti also testified that Mr. Tabone referred to Muslims as terrorists between three to five times, and he believes Ms. Pavia heard on one occasion. [Dkt. 82 at 278:21-279:7; see Dkt. 80 at 38:11-16]. Subsequently in mid-2013, Ms. Pavia asked Mr. Ameti if he owned a gun. [Dkt. 82 at 276:5-12]. Mr. Ameti never filed a formal complaint about Mr. Tabone's comments. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 20; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 20]. Although Mr. Ameti approximated the number of times Mr. Tabone said these remarks, he did not provide approximate dates when they occurred.

         It is undisputed that Mr. Tabone was not a decision-maker with respect to Mr. Ameti's layoff. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 94; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 94]. However, Mr. Ameti describes Mr. Tabone and Mr. Caputo as being very close friends, [Dkt. 80 at 38:3-9], and it is Mr. Ameti's opinion that Mr. Tabone “spoke directly to Caputo about [his] Muslim religion and background, ” [Dkt. 79-3 (Opp'n Ex. F-S, Ex. F; Ameti Aff.) ¶ 10]. He does not profess to have heard this alleged conversation, however. Mr. Caputo submitted a declaration in which he stated he was not aware of Mr. Tabone's comments about Mr. Ameti's religion while Mr. Ameti worked for Sikorsky. [Dkt. 66-3 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Caputo Decl.) ¶ 7].

         Mr. Ameti also describes comments in which coworker, Kevin Leahy, told Mr. Ameti, “I see you came from another country; see how we gave you a job; we pay you.” [Dkt. 80 at 72:15-21, 89:2-90:15]. It is unclear based on the testimony the number of times and when Mr. Leahy made these statements.

         There are some circumstances in which Mr. Ameti claims he did not receive credit for his work. Mr. Ameti claims that another coworker, Carol Perkins, got credit for four to five designs that he created [Dkt. 82-4 at 425:13-21]. He did not complain to anyone about this issue. Id. at 426:25-27:1. He also complains that his name was left off a patent, but after raising this issue with Mr. Caputo he “accepted the error” and his name was added to the patent. [Dkt. 80 at 39:1-40:12]. He believes this example evidences Mr. Caputo's dislike for him because he is Muslim, that leaving him off the patent is part of a “whole pattern, starting from the comments and different other comments, ” and that the pattern shows he “was not treated as the rest of the engineers within the group.” Id. Mr. Ameti did not provide a date for either issue.

         C. Reduction in Force (February 2014)

         In February 2014, Sikorsky experienced a decrease in customer demand, which required a company-wide reduction in force. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 63; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 63]. This reduction in force aimed to address economic issues, an EBIT gap, and structural issues; it sought to retain the best talent while realigning the business. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 64; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 64]. In order to evaluate who would be laid off, managers were asked to rate and rank salaried employees according to an Employee Assessment Matrix (“Assessment Matrix”) for which they received a training. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 66; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 66; Dkt. 66-14 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 12, Sealed)]. According to the Assessor Training and Employee Assessment Guidelines (“Assessment Guidelines”), an assessment was to be prospective so as to determine “the ability of the employee to perform under current and projected business conditions.” [Dkt. 66-24 ¶¶ 67-68; Dkt. 79-1 ¶¶ 67-68]. These assessments were to be measured on five factors: (1) Achieve Results (1-10); Criticality of Skills (1-10); Qualifications (1-5); Business Orientation (1-5); and Interpersonal Skills (1-5). [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 70; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 70]. Each employee was to be assessed in comparison with other employees who held the same position and labor grade. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 72; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 72]. The Assessment Guidelines also indicated the process was not intended to rely on past performance evaluations such as the PFTs, which were “retrospective looking and used primarily as development tools and as one of the criteria used to distribute merit increases and other forms of compensation.” [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 74; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 74].

         Mr. Caputo used the Assessment Guidelines factors to assess 55 employees in the Blades Product Center, including Mr. Ameti. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 77; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 77]. He testified that he was knowledgeable about the group and relied on assessments he previously received. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶¶ 79-80; Dkt. 79-1 ¶¶ 79-80]. In addition, he spoke with Mr. Jones about Mr. Ameti and the other people in Mr. Jones's group. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 81; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 81]. Mr. Jones recalls that he told Mr. Caputo, “[P]art of the issues with Pellumb was that as an ME you need to spend time on the shop floor, you need to own the process. You need to get involved, and Pellumb as a designer, in my opinion, at this time was that, you know, he wanted to do more Catia work. He was more of a desk person, which is not conducive to ME work.” [Dkt. 66-6 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4, Jones Dep.) at 90:3-11]. Mr. Caputo testified that he felt Mr. Ameti's design engineering skills were lacking, [Dkt. 66-5 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, Caputo Dep.) at 93:8-23], and that Mr. Ameti made mistakes and relied on coworkers to correct them, id. at 136:16-23. Out of all 55 employees assessed by Mr. Caputo, Mr. Ameti and another engineer named Marco Salazar received the lowest scores. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 88; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 88].

         Michael Ambrose, Vice President of Aircraft Design & Manufacturing Engineering, and Alan Walling, Blades Product Center General Manager, thereafter evaluated the assessments. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 78; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 78]. The exact time frame during which the assessment and reviews were made is murky. On an unspecified date, Mr. Ambrose reviewed Mr. Ameti's assessment and thereafter changed some of the scores. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 91; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 91]. Mr. Caputo believes that Mr. Ambrose would have changed the scores based on input from Mr. Caputo, although he does not remember “the conversations for the exact number and there results.” [Dkt. 79-2 at 194:8-15]. Mr. Ameti ultimately received a total credit of 19 points: 6 for Achieve Results, 4 for Criticality of Skills, 3 for Qualifications, 3 for Business Orientation, and 3 for Interpersonal Skills. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 83; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 83].[3] Mr. Ambrose scheduled a telecom for February 7, 2014 to review the “EAP rankings.”[4] See [Dkt. 89 (Opp'n Sealed Exhibits) at 38]. Mr. Ambrose elected to lay off Mr. Ameti and emailed human resources about his decision on February 11, 2014.[5] [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 92; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 92; Dkt. 89 at 36]. Mr. Ambrose did not know Mr. Ameti's religion, color, or national origin while Mr. Ameti worked for Sikorsky. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 93; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 93].

         Ultimately, Mr. Ameti and 17 other engineers from the Blades Product Centers were laid off. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 89; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 89]. Mr. Ambrose submitted a declaration indicating Sikorsky eliminated a total of 250 positions. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 90; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 90; Dkt. 66-18 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 16, Ambrose Decl.) ¶ 7]. He also averred that Sikorsky did not hire a replacement for Mr. Ameti and his remaining colleagues assumed his responsibilities. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶¶ 95-96; Dkt. 79-1 ¶¶ 95-96; Dkt. 66-3 ¶ 9].

         Mr. Ameti filed a charge of discrimination with the CHRO on May 27, 2014. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 98; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 98]. Mr. Ameti testified that “the only difference” between the other engineers and him was his skin color. See [Dkt. 80 at 70:18-20]. Prior to this, he did not file a complaint while he was at Sikorsky. [Dkt. 66-24 ¶ 102; Dkt. 79-1 ¶ 102]. His reasoning is that he previously filed a complaint with human resources in 2002 or 2003 regarding his boss's treatment, and he was subsequently laid off. See [Dkt. 80 at 80:1-82:12].

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment should 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). The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine factual disputes exist. See Vivenzio v. City of Syracuse, 611 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2010). “In determining whether that burden has been met, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and credit all factual inferences that could be drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). This means that “although the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000); see Welch-Rubin v. Sandals Corp., No. 3:03-cv-00481, 2004 WL 2472280, at *4 (D. Conn. Oct. 20, 2004) (“At the summary judgment stage of the proceeding, [the moving party is] required to present admissible evidence in support of their allegations; allegations alone, without evidence to back them up, are not sufficient.”) (citing Gottlieb, 84 F.3d at 518); Martinez v. Conn. State Library, 817 F.Supp.2d 28, 37 (D. Conn. 2011). Put another way, “[i]f there is any evidence in the record that could reasonably support a jury's verdict for the nonmoving party, summary judgment must be denied.” Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Hapag Lloyd Container Linie, GmbH, 446 F.3d 313, 315-16 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A party who opposes summary judgment “cannot defeat the motion by relying on the allegations in his pleading, or on conclusory statements, or on mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are not credible.” Gottlieb v. Cnty of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996). Where there is no evidence upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it and upon whom the onus of proof is imposed, such as where the evidence offered consists of conclusory assertions without further support in the record, summary judgment may lie. Fincher v. Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., 604 F.3d 712, 726-27 (2d Cir. 2010).

         III. Analysis

         A. Counts I and III: Employment Discrimination

         Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). CFEPA similarly proscribes employment discrimination based on race, national origin, and religious creed. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(b)(1). The statutes employ slightly different language but are read coextensively. State v. Comm'n on Human Rights and Opportunities,211 Conn. 464, 470 (1989); see Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 556 (2d Cir. 2010) (“The analysis of discrimination and retaliation claims under CFEPA is the same as under Title VII”). The claims are evaluated under the three-part, ...


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