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Jaggon v. Community Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 16, 2019

LAWRENCE JAGGON Plaintiff,
v.
COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES, INC. Defendant.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 60).

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Lawrence Jaggon (“Jaggon”) brought the present action against defendant Community Health Services, Inc. (“CHS”), alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. See Amended Complaint (Am. Compl.) (Doc. No. 18). This court previously dismissed all claims except for the Title VII and defamation claims. See Ruling (Doc. No. 21).

         Pending before the court is CHS' Motion for Summary Judgment on the remaining claims. See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 60). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is granted.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for summary judgment will be granted if the record shows no genuine issue 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 initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The non-moving party may defeat the motion by producing sufficient specific facts to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). If the moving party satisfies that burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. 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, 477 U.S. at 252).

         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). 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. County of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996). Rather, a party opposing summary judgment “must come forth with evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in [its] favor.” Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246, 252 (2d Cir. 2001). The evidence offered in opposition to a motion for summary judgment must be both admissible and must be sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact. 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).

         III. FACTS[1]

         A. Background

         CHS is a health center located in Hartford, Connecticut. Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Facts (“Def. 56(a)(1)”) ¶ 1; Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement of Facts in Opposition (“Pl. 56(a)(2)”) ¶ 1. Jaggon worked as a Registered Nurse at CHS from August 2012 until October 2016. Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 2. Jaggon is a black male born in Jamaica. Id. ¶ 3. Gregory Stanton is CHS' CEO; Stanton is a black male. Id. ¶ 4. Genea Bell is CHS' Chief Legal and Human Resources Officer; Bell is a black female. Id. ¶ 5. Mauricio Montezuma, M.D., was CHS' Medical Director. Id. ¶ 6. Montezuma is a “white male Latino” born in Colombia. Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 6. Anne Howley is CHS' Nurse Manager for its Adult Medicine Department; Howley is a white female. Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 7.

         B. Termination

         Jaggon first filed a charge of discrimination with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) on October 14, 2016.[2] Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 10. He filed a second charge of discrimination on December 20, 2016. Id. The CHRO dismissed Jaggon's claims and, on April 3, 2018, rejected Jaggon's request for reconsideration of those dismissals.[3] Id. at 12. Three hundred days before October 14, 2016, the first date of filing with the CHRO, was December 19, 2015. Id. ¶ 13.

         On September 29, 2016, Jaggon had a phone conversation with a representative of a home care agency, Tina Antogiovanni (“Antogiovanni”). Id. ¶ 17; Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 19. During that conversation, Jaggon stated that he “had been a Director of Nursing.” Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 19; Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶¶ 19-20. Kim Tran and Kyle O'Donnell, two CHS employees, provided Howley with written statements about the incident. Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 21; Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 21. Howley spoke to Antogiovanni on September 23, 2016.[4] Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 23. Antogiovanni, Tran, and O'Donnell all submitted statements to Howley in which they stated that Jaggon had said he was “the” Director of Nursing during the phone call with Antogiovanni. See Def. 56(a)(1) ¶¶ 20-21, 25, 28. Jaggon denies that he said he was “the” Director of Nursing during his conversation with Antogiovanni, but does not deny that Antogiovanni, Tran, and O'Donnell reported to Howley that he had done so.[5] Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶¶ 21, 25. Dr. Montezuma and Bell spoke to Antogiovanni on October 3, 2016. Affidavit of Genea Bell (“Bell Aff.”) (Doc. No. 63-5) ¶ 5. Antogiovanni again reported that Jaggon had identified himself as “the Director of Nursing.” Id. Dr. Montezuma placed Jaggon on administrative leave on October 4, 2016. Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 33.

         Bell met with Jaggon and his union representative on October 13, 2016. Id. ¶ 34. During that meeting, Jaggon stated that when he told Antogiovanni that he was “a” Director of Nursing, he meant only that he had previously held that title before working at CHS. Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 36; Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 36. During a conversation between Bell and Antogiovanni on October 19, Antogiovanni told Bell that Jaggon had “absolutely not” explained that he had previously been “a” Director of Nursing, and that she was under the impression that Jaggon was the Director of Nursing for CHS.[6] Def. 56(a)(1) ¶¶ 38- 39; Bell Aff. ¶ 8; Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶¶ 38-39. Jaggon's employment was terminated on October 21, 2016. See Termination Letter (Doc. No. 63-5) at 65.

         C. Defamation

         On February 26, 2016, Stanton (the CEO of CHS) held a staff meeting in the lobby of CHS. Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 48. At the staff meeting, Stanton called Jaggon to the front of the room, and made a comment to the effect that employees “should be careful with whom they associate.” Deposition of Lawrence Jaggon (“Jaggon Depo.”) (Doc. No. 63-1) at 35.

         D. Other Discriminatory Actions

         In addition to his termination, Jaggon claims that CHS discriminated against him in other ways on the basis of his race, color, national origin, and sex, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[7] Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 51; Pl. 56(a)(2) ¶ 51.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Summary Judgment as to Jaggon's Title VII Claims (Count One)

         CHS first argues that it is entitled to summary judgment as to Jaggon's Title VII claims. See Defendant's Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s Mem. in Supp.”) (Doc. No. 61) at 14. CHS argues that (1) allegations that predated December 19, 2015, are time barred, see id. at 14-16, and (2) that Jaggon's timely allegations do not meet the Title VII standard set in McDonnell Douglas, id. at 16. Before addressing the merits of any claims, the court addresses whether any of the alleged discriminatory or retaliatory acts are time-barred.

         A party seeking to file discrimination claims under Title VII must ordinarily file such claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 180 days of the date on which the “alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). “However, if the alleged discrimination took place in a state or locality that has its own antidiscrimination laws and an agency to enforce those laws, then the time period for ‘fil[ing]' claims with the EEOC is extended to 300 days.” Ford v. Bernard Fineson Dev. Ctr., 81 F.3d 304, 307 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e- 5(e)(1)). Connecticut is a state with its own employment practices agency, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”). Therefore, the 300-day period applies. Jaggon first filed a charge of discrimination with the CHRO on October 14, 2016. Def. 56(a)(1) ¶ 10. Three hundred days prior to that date was December 19, 2015.

         Jaggon contends that the “continuing violation” exception applies and that the allegedly discriminatory acts that occurred before December 19, 2015, therefore remain actionable. Under the continuing violation exception to the Title VII limitations period, “[if] a Title VII plaintiff files an EEOC charge that is timely as to any incident of discrimination in furtherance of an ongoing policy of discrimination, all claims of acts of discrimination under that policy will be timely even if they would be untimely standing alone.” Chin v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, 685 F.3d 135, 155-56 (2d Cir. 2012). However, the continuing violation exception does not apply to discriminatory acts that are merely similar or related. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 113 (2002). Instead, the exception applies to “cases involving specific discriminatory policies or mechanisms, ” Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d 46, 53 (2d Cir. 1993), and to claims involving hostile work environment, Morgan, 536 U.S. at 115. In hostile work environment claims, the Second Circuit instructs courts to examine “the totality of the circumstances” including behavior outside the 300-day period. McGullam v. Cedar Graphics, Inc., 609 F.3d 70, 79 (2d. Cir. 2010).

         Jaggon supports his claim of discrimination with several events that occurred before December 19, 2015 - the date at which the 300-day window closed. Jaggon alleges that: (1) he was bypassed for two positions in 2013, Jaggon Depo. at 205, (2) he was bypassed for a position in 2014, id. at 21, (3) a co-worker called him a “rat” in 2014, id. at 72, (4) his supervisors demoted him in June 2015, id. at 93, and (5) his supervisor disciplined him in September 2015, id. at 198. The statute of limitations has run on these discrete acts of alleged discrimination; however, the court considers them for the narrow purpose of determining whether the conduct was so pervasive as to make the work environment hostile. See, infra § IV(A)(3).

         1. Discrimination

         Jaggon complains that CHS discriminated against him on the basis of his race, color, national origin, and sex in violation of Title VII. Am. Compl. ¶ 131. Specifically, Jaggon complains that CHS discriminated against him by (1) failing to promote him to two positions to which he applied, Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement (“Pl.'s Mem. in Opp.”) (Doc. No. 68) at 3- 5, (2) demoting him from several committee assignments, id. at 20, (3) refusing to allow his schedule change request, id. at 18, and (4) terminating his employment, id. at 26.

         In evaluating claims of employment discrimination, courts apply a three-step burden shifting framework. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). At step one, a plaintiff must initially establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden then shifts to the defendant to put forward a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action. If the defendant makes such a showing, “the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove discrimination, for example, by showing that the employer's proffered reason is pretextual.” Demoret v. Zegarelli, 451 F.3d 140, 151 (2d Cir. 2006).

         CHS argues that summary judgment is appropriate because (1) CHS failed to meet its initial burden of putting forward a prima facie case of discrimination, and (2) assuming, arguendo, that Jaggon established a prima facie case of discrimination, he failed to demonstrate that a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether CHS' reasons for any ...


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