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Smigelski v. Connecticut Department of Revenue Services

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 15, 2019

ANNA SMIGELSKI, Plaintiff
v.
CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE SERVICES, Defendant.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 36)

          Janet C. Hall Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Anna Smigelski (“Smigelski”) brings this action, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender and gender-plus-age, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1) at 5. She names as the defendant the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (“DRS”). DRS has moved for summary judgment. See Motion for Summary Judgment (“Mot. Summ. J.”) (Doc. No. 36). Smigelski objects to the Motion. See Smigelski Objection to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 39) (“Smigelski Opp.”).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 36) is granted.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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). 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). If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).

         II. FACTS[1]

         Smigelski, who is female, was born in 1959. Smigelski Memorandum of Law in Support of Objection to Motion for Summary Judgment (“Mem. in Opp.”) (Doc. No. 39-1) at 1. Smigelski was hired by the State of Connecticut as a clerk in 1983. Id. She worked for the State of Connecticut until December 1996 and was rehired as a Connecticut Careers Trainee in February 1999. Id. Smigelski was promoted to the position of Tax Correction Examiner 1 (“TCE 1”), within DRS, on February 8, 2000. Id. at 1-2. In October 2013, DRS underwent a reorganization. DRS Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement of Facts (“DRS Facts”) (Doc. No. 36-2) ¶ 3; Smigelski Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement of Facts (“Smigelski Facts”) (Doc. No. 39-3) at 1 ¶ 3. As part of the reorganization, a Reclassification Criteria (“Original Criteria”) was developed to allow for progression of employees from the TCE 1 classification to the Tax Correction Examiner 2 (“TCE 2”) classification. DRS Facts ¶ 4; Smigelski Facts ¶ 1 ¶ 4. The Original Criteria became effective in October 2013. DRS Facts ¶ 5; Smigelski Facts ¶ 1 ¶ 5. The Original Criteria required that a TCE 1 meet the following requirements to be reclassified: (1) one year as a TCE 1; (2) ratings of superior or better, and no more than one satisfactory rating on the most recent Annual Service Rating; and (3) demonstrated ability to independently and consistently analyze and resolve at least three out of five tax issues at the TCE 2 level. DRS Facts ¶ 6; Smigelski Facts ¶ 1 ¶ 6.

         In June 2015, when DRS conducted reclassifications from TCE 1 to TCE 2, there was not a limited number of TCE 2 positions available: any TCE 1 that met the Criteria were reclassified to TCE 2. DRS Facts ¶ 12; Smigelski Facts ¶ 2 ¶ 12. At that time, Smigelski was part of Individual Tax Team One, along with Erick Siu (“Siu”) and Michael Gigliotti (“Gigliotti”). DRS Facts ¶ 18; Smigelski Facts ¶ 3 ¶ 18. In June 2015, DRS reclassified Gigliotti and Siu as TCE 2s. Mem. in Opp. at 2. Smigelski was not reclassified as a TCE 2. Smigelski Facts ¶ 13 ¶ 86. Gigliotti received superior ratings in all categories on his 2014 Service Rating; Siu received two superior ratings and two satisfactory ratings. DRS Facts ¶ 20; Smigelski Facts ¶ 3 ¶ 20. Smigelski received one superior rating and three satisfactory ratings. DRS Facts ¶ 23; Smigelski Facts ¶ 23. Smigelski received similar ratings in previous Service Ratings: she received two satisfactory ratings in 2011, 2012, and 2013, four in 2010, and three in 2009. DRS Facts ¶ 34; Smigelski Facts ¶ 4 ¶ 34. Smigelski's 2014 Service Rating noted frequent errors in her work, requirement for some supervision, and reluctance to address corrections as instructed. DRS Facts ¶ 30; Smigelski Facts ¶ 30. Smigelski's Service Ratings in previous years contained similar notes regarding a need to reduce errors and respond to supervisors in a timely manner. DRS Facts ¶ 34; Smigelski Facts ¶ 4 ¶ 34. In June 2015, a total of 14 women were reclassified to TCE 2, thirteen of whom were over the age of 40. DRS Facts ¶ 38; Smigelski Facts ¶ 5 ¶ 38. No. one at DRS, at any time, made any comments to Smigelski about her age or gender. DRS Facts ¶ 39; Smigelski Facts ¶ 5 ¶ 39.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Gender Discrimination

         Claims of employment discrimination brought pursuant to Title VII are generally analyzed under the framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Walsh v. New York City Hous. Auth., 828 F.3d 70, 74-75 (2d Cir. 2016). Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff alleging discriminatory failure to promote must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. She may do so “by demonstrating that: (1) she was within a protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position; (3) she was subject to an adverse employment action; and (4) the adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” Id. at 75 (internal quotations and citations omitted). Once the plaintiff has met the minimal burden of stating a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Id. If the employer meets this burden of production, the plaintiff must submit sufficient evidence to “show circumstances that would be sufficient to permit a rational finder of fact to infer that the defendant's employment decision was more likely than not based in whole or in part on discrimination.” Id.

         DRS argues that summary judgment in its favor is proper because Smigelski failed to state a prima facie case of discrimination. Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (“Mem. in Supp.”) (Doc. No. 36-1) at 6-8. DRS argues that, (1) Smigelski failed to demonstrate that she was qualified to be reclassified as a TCE 2; and (2) Smigelski cannot establish that DRS' failure to reclassify her as a TCE 2 took place under circumstances raising an inference of discrimination. Id. at 6-7. Smigelski responds that, “[t]he McDonnell Douglas framework does not lend itself to the instant case, ” because (1) the criteria that DRS points to as showing Smigelski was unqualified are suspect, and (2) Smigelski's service rating is suspect. See Mem. in Opp. at 12.

         The court finds no reason to conclude that the McDonnell Douglas framework is inapplicable to this case. While the McDonnell Douglas approach is not applied to Title VII class actions or allegations of a pattern and practice of discrimination, it is a well-established framework for analyzing individual claims of discrimination under Title VII. See United States v. City of New York, 717 F.3d 72, 83-84 (2d Cir. 2013) (examining differences between individual and class action Title VII claims). The cases that Smigelski ...


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