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Senior v. State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 31, 2019

ROBYN SENIOR, Plaintiff,


          Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Robyn Senior (“Senior”) brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq, claiming that she was retaliated against by her employer, the State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, Third District, because of Senior's opposition to religious discrimination in the workplace. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background and Summary Judgment Record

         The operative complaint is Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint, filed December 29, 2017. ([Doc. # 25].) After the Court's Order on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ([Doc. # 34])-in which the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claim for hostile working environment-the remaining claim in this lawsuit is Count Two, which alleges that Plaintiff has been retaliated against for previous opposition to discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) on May 28, 2015. (Parties' L.R. Stmts. [Doc. ## 40-2, 41-1] ¶ 3.) She began working for the Workers' Compensation Commission in 1987 and worked as a clerk in the Hamden office for about ten years before she was promoted to the role of processing technician. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff moved to the Hartford Office and then was transferred, at her request, to the New Haven office in 1998, where she has remained as a processing technician since. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff's supervisor, Dave Lawson, has been her supervisor the entire time she has worked in New Haven. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         There are about ten to twelve people who work in the New Haven Office. Plaintiff is one of two processing technicians; the other is Helen Payne. (Id. ¶ 8.) Mr. Lawson supervises all of the employees in the New Haven office as the District Administrator. (Id.) There are three office assistants in the office: Debra Trimachi, Jennifer Nieves (formerly Watert), and Silveri Robinson. (Id. ¶ 9.) There is also a paralegal, Deborah Russo, and a court reporter, Robert Miller. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff's job duties are clerical in nature and she also does archiving for the office. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         In 2005 and 2008, Plaintiff alleges that she witnessed her co-worker, Silveri Robinson, state that another co-worker, Jennifer Nieves, was the devil and was evil, and that Ms. Robinson would draw pictures and write letters, and that Plaintiff also witnessed Robinson tear pictures down from Nieves's wall. (Id. ¶ 12.) During the same time period, Plaintiff also allegedly witnessed Robinson running away from Nieves in the office. (Id. ¶ 13.) On another occasion, Plaintiff observed Robinson running away from Plaintiff's car in the parking garage “as though [Plaintiff] was going to hit her.” (Ex. 1 (Senior Dep.) to Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 40-3] at 30-31.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that Ms. Robinson would hand out religious pamphlets in the office to Commissioners during the same time frame (2005) and would talk about Jesus and religion, which continues to the current day. (Parties' L.R. Stmts. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Robinson reads her Bible all the time, but that she does not really have contact with Ms. Robinson because she stays away from her. (Id. ¶ 16.) More recently, there was another incident between Ms. Robinson and an unnamed coworker, but Plaintiff does not know “what happened”; she “just heard a lot of commotion and a lot of pushing.” (Senior Dep. at 34.) Plaintiff testified that “Sandra Cunningham, which is human resources, she came down and said that she was going [to] move Sil[]veri's seat.” (Id.) Plaintiff was not involved. (Id.) At her deposition, Plaintiff testified that she could not think of any other incidents of religious harassment involving Ms. Robinson. (Id. at 31, 34.)

         Plaintiff alleges that she complained about Ms. Robinson to her supervisor, Dave Lawson, to Sandra Cunningham in Human Resources and to her union. (Parties' L.R. Stmts. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Nieves asked her to complain to Mr. Lawson about the incident in 2005 involving the pictures and Ms. Robinson running. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         She complained to Lawson “all the time[, ]” first doing so in the 2005-2008 period, and did so orally. (Senior Dep. at 35-36.) During this period, she specifically told him that “Sil[]veri was harassing Jennifer because of her religion[.]” (Id. at 37.) Plaintiff did not complain to Lawson about religious harassment by Silveri Robinson outside of the 2005-2008 time frame. (Id. at 38.) In addition to her oral complaints to Lawson, Plaintiff also wrote a letter about Robinson's behavior at some point in the 2005-2008 period. (Id. at 38-39.)

         Plaintiff also complained to Sandra Cunningham in HR in 2008 or 2009, after Cunningham came down to meet with everyone in the office at Jennifer Nieves' request. (Id. at 40.) However, Plaintiff testified that Cunningham did not give Plaintiff a chance to elaborate on Robinson's behavior in any detail. (Id. at 41.) Plaintiff subsequently complained to Cunningham in phone calls about Robinson's behavior after Robinson “wrote a letter stating that . . . she almost fell down the stairs and lost her life because . . . she heard [Plaintiff] coming.” (Id. at 41-42.) Plaintiff told Cunningham that this had never happened and that if it did, Plaintiff “knew nothing about it.” (Id. at 42.)

         Plaintiff and her clerical coworkers (presumably including Nieves, but she did not specify) filed a union grievance claiming religious harassment by Robinson, which Cunningham “had . . . dismissed because she told the union she was going to move [Robinson] to another office[.]” (Id.) However, Cunningham never moved Robinson. (Id.)

         Plaintiff testified that “we called CHRO” but otherwise she never participated in any EEOC or CHRO proceedings in support of Trimachi or Nieves. (Senior Dep. at 37.)

         Plaintiff also testified that she complained after 2008 about Robinson on a regular basis but could not identify any specific occasions on which she did so because she ...

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