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Robinson v. Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 20, 2018

MELBA C. ROBINSON, Plaintiff
v.
CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES, Defendant.

          RULING RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 64) AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE (DOC. NO 70).

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Melba C. Robinson (“Robinson”), brings this pro se employment discrimination action against the defendant, the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”). Robinson “asserts claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (‘Title VII'), ” consisting of “claims for discrimination on the basis of race and color, ” including “both direct discrimination claims and claims of retaliation.” Rec. Ruling (Doc. No. 12) (Merriam, J.) at 1, 6-7, recommendation adopted Endorsement Order (Doc. No. 13).[1]

         The court previously granted in part DMV's First Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 28) and granted DMV's Second Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 46). DMV seeks summary judgment on Robinson's remaining claims. Also before the court is Robinson's Motion to Strike (Doc. No. 70). For the reasons stated below, DMV's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, and Robinson's Motion to Strike is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Robinson filed her original Complaint, pro se, on July 8, 2016. See Compl. (Doc. No. 1), asserting “claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (‘Title VII'), ” consisting of “claims for discrimination on the basis of race and color, ” including “both direct discrimination claims and claims of retaliation.” Rec. Ruling at 1, 6-7, recommendation adopted Endorsement Order (Doc. No. 13). She filed a First Amended Complaint on October 12, 2016. See First Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 15). The court struck the First Amended Complaint as late and directed service of the Complaint. See Endorsement Order (Doc. No. 16). DMV filed its First Motion to Dismiss on March 9, 2017. See First Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 28).

         The court ruled on DMV's First Motion to Dismiss on May 23, 2017, granting it in part and denying it in part. See Ruling on First Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 40). The court dismissed Robinson's discrimination claim stemming from her August through September 2011 suspension and her hostile work environment claim, but gave Robinson leave to replead those claims if she had a factual basis upon which to plausibly allege those claims. Id. at 27. The court denied DMV's First Motion to Dismiss as to Robinson's discrimination claim stemming from her December 2011 suspension and her retaliation claim stemming from her termination. Id. at 27-28.

         Robinson filed a Second Amended Complaint on June 12, 2017. Second Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 43). DMV thereafter filed a Second Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 46). The court dismissed Robinson's hostile work environment claims with prejudice. See Ruling on Second Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 60) at 6. The court noted that Robinson's claims of discrimination and retaliation stemming from her December 2011 suspension and her termination would proceed. Id.

         DMV filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on March 16, 2018. See Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 64). DMV seeks summary judgment in its favor on Robinson's remaining claims of discrimination related to her two suspensions, and retaliation related to her termination. Also before the court is Robinson's Motion to Strike the Affidavit of Daniel Callahan, which she filed on June 6, 2018. See Motion to Strike (Doc. No. 70).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper only where, construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, “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). On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Zalaski v. City of Bridgeport Police Dep't, 613 F.3d 336, 340 (2d Cir. 2010). If the moving party satisfies that burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is ‘a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). A genuine issue exists where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could decide in the non-moving party's favor. See, e.g., Rojas v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 660 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)).

         The court's role at summary judgment “is to determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist for trial, not to make findings of fact.” O'Hara v. Nat. Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, 642 F.3d 110, 116 (2d Cir. 2011). Unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact and cannot overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment. See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000). The non-moving party “may not rely on mere conclusory allegations nor speculation, but instead must offer some hard evidence showing that [their] version of the events is not wholly fanciful.” D'Amico v. City of N.Y., 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir.1998) (collecting cases). Additionally, the evidence the court considers in ruling on a motion for summary judgment must be admissible evidence, or evidence that could be readily reduced to an admissible form at trial. See LaSalle Bank National Ass'n v. Nomura Asset Capital Corp., 424 F.3d 195, 205 (2d Cir. 2005); Santos v. Murdock, 243 F.3d 681, 683 (2d Cir. 2001) (“Affidavits submitted to defeat summary judgment must be admissible themselves or must contain evidence that will be presented in an admissible form at trial.”) (citation omitted).

         III. FACTS[2]

         Robinson began working at DMV in May 2007. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement of Facts (“DMV 56(a)1”) (Doc. No. 64-2) ¶ 12; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)2 (“Robinson 56(a)2”) (Doc. No. 72) ¶ 12. In June 2011, Robinson was involved in a dispute with a DMV customer. According to Robinson, the customer threw documents at her. See Robinson 56(a)2 ¶ 26. Robinson slammed the documents on her workspace and stated, using an expletive, that she was tired of the way customers treated DMV employees. Id.

         Lucy Manente (“Manente”) served as Human Resources Manager for the DMV. DMV 56(a)1 ¶¶ 19-22; Robinson 56(a)2 ¶¶ 19-22. Manente received an email from Agustin Roman (“Roman”), the DMV Branch Manager, on June 7, 2011, which stated that Roman had observed Robinson yelling and cursing at a customer. DMV 56(a)1 ¶ 23; Robinson 56(a)2 ¶ 23. Manente was assigned to investigate the incident. DMV 56(a)1 ¶ 24; Robinson 56(a)2 ¶ 24. At the conclusion of the investigation, Robinson signed a Last Chance Stipulated Agreement, in which she agreed to a 20-day suspension. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 32; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 32.[3]

         On July 26, 2011, DMV Human Resources received information indicating that Robinson had been involved in a dispute with a coworker. See DMV 56a(1) ¶ 38; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 38. Manente conducted a second investigation and determined that Robinson's conduct on July 26, 2011 violated DMV policies and Robinson's Last Chance Stipulated Agreement, and that the conduct warranted disciplinary action. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 42; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 42. Manente also concluded that the coworker involved in the dispute had violated DMV policies and should be disciplined. Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 49. Robinson signed a Second Stipulated Agreement on December 7, 2011. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 47; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 49.[4] Robinson served a two-day suspension as part of the Agreement. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 47; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 47.

         On August 9, 2012 Robinson attended a meeting with DMV and her Union regarding her unscheduled absences. DMV 56a(1) ¶¶ 51-52; Robinson 56a(2) ¶¶ 51- 52. Robinson had received unsatisfactory ratings in her performance reviews for two consecutive rating periods. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 60; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 60. A pre-disciplinary meeting was held on January 8, 2013. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 64-65; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 64-65. Robinson was notified on February 15, 2013, that her employment with DMV was being terminated. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 68; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 68.

         Robinson filed a Complaint with the CHRO, alleging discrimination, on May 24, 2012. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 4; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 4. Robinson filed an Amended Complaint with CHRO, alleging retaliation, on February 25, 2014. DMV 56a(1) ¶ 5; Robinson 56a(2) ¶ 5.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Strike

         Robinson filed a Motion to Strike the Affidavit of Daniel Callahan on June 6, 2018. See Motion to Strike (Doc. No. 70). Robinson seeks to strike the Affidavit (Doc. No. 64-6), which was submitted as an exhibit to DMV's Motion for Summary Judgment, because Callahan lacked personal knowledge of the facts to which he swore. Id. at 1. The court need not reach the merits of Robinson's arguments, nor those of the DMV in its Objection, because Robinson's Motion to Strike is barred by the Local Rules. The Local Rules state that “[m]otions to strike . . . statements made in a Rule 56(a) statement or . . . the supporting evidence are prohibited.” D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56(a)4. Callahan's Affidavit is evidence submitted in support of DMV's Motion for Summary Judgment. Robinson's Motion to Strike is therefore denied.

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         DMV seeks summary judgment in its favor as to Robinson's claims of discrimination and retaliation. See Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Motion for Summary Judgment (“DMV Mem. in Supp.”) (Doc. No. 64-1) at 1. DMV argues that, (1) Robinson's retaliation claim regarding her termination is time-barred, id. at 3; and (2) all of Robinson's claims are barred by the Stipulated Agreements she signed, id. at 8. In the alternative, DMV argues that (1) Robinson failed to meet her burden to provide evidence sufficient to state a prima facie case of discrimination, or to establish that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether ...


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