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Siroy v. Jobson Healthcare Information LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 15, 2019


          OPINION & ORDER


         Before the Court is the motion of Defendants Jobson Healthcare Information, LLC (“JHI”) and Jeff Levitz (“Levitz”) for summary judgment against Plaintiff Annavil Siroy (“Siroy”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 28). In this diversity action, Siroy brings employment claims of discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law (New York State Executive Law § 296) (“NYSHRL”) and New York City Human Rights Law (New York City Administrative Code § 8-107) (“NYCHRL”). The Court declined to hear oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


         JHI is a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in the state of New York that provides national health information and marketing services. (Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 6-8 (ECF No. 1, Exh. A)). Levitz is a resident of the state of Georgia and an employee of JHI as Senior Vice President of Operations. (Compl. ¶¶ 10-12).

         Siroy is a Filipino-American female who resides in Hudson County, New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 5). On April 1, 2012, Siroy commenced employment with JHI, earning a base salary of $75, 000 a year as an Email Marketing Manager under the supervision of Levitz. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15, 19; Employment Agreement ¶ 5 (ECF No. 28-3, Exh. W)).

         A. Discrimination and Hostile Work Environment

          Siroy alleges that as a result of her race and gender she faced discrimination at work that led to a hostile work environment. Specifically, she alleges that she: (1) was not promoted (Compl. ¶ 30); (2) was excluded from company-wide salary increases (Id. ¶ 31); (3) was required to manage an excessive workload (Id. ¶ 39); (4) did not receive proper training (Plaintiff's Deposition Transcript (“Pl. Dep.”) at 217 (ECF No. 28-4, Exh. Y)); (5) did not receive a stipend for the work she put in overtime (Id. at 214); and (6) was reassigned to a cubicle away from the window, a cubicle that was then given to a more recently employed white female (Id. at 100-102). Siroy further claims that this discriminatory behavior created a hostile work environment, in which she suffered emotional distress from feeling humiliated, degraded, belittled, embarrassed, and victimized, ultimately leading to her constructive discharge in April 2015. (Compl. ¶¶ 59, 72-74).

         1. Failure to Promote

         Siroy claims that JHI failed to promote her during her almost three years at the company because of her race and gender. (Compl. ¶ 30). In her Complaint, Siroy asserts that white male employees at JHI were promoted after a similar duration of employment: Dmitri Veinberg was promoted within twenty months of commencing his employment; Thomas Laauwe was promoted in less than three years; Bruce Birtwell was promoted in one year; and Joshua Wasserman, who was hired at the same time as Siroy, was promoted during Siroy's employment at JHI. (Compl. ¶¶ 34, 36, 43-45). Siroy testified that she was unaware of available promotions, and thus never applied for one. (Pl. Dep. at 130). Still, Siroy's expectation was that if she “demonstrated [her] skill set and [she] showed [her] ability to help all different departments, ” she would be considered for a promotion, which she claims she was not. (Pl. Dep. at 129).

         Defendants JHI and Levitz offered Siroy the new position of Digital Marketing Manager, a position that was allegedly created specifically for her as a way to address the concerns she raised about her workload. (Declaration of Jeff Levitz (“Levitz Decl.”) ¶¶ 56 (ECF No. 28-2); Pl. Dep. at 327). Levitz maintains that Digital Marketing Manager was a more senior position to her currently held position that also offered her more money. (Levitz Decl. ¶¶ 56-61). However, Siroy testified that she felt this was a bilateral move that did not offer room for growth and ultimately declined the offer. (Pl. Dep. at 325-26).

         2. Companywide Salary Increases

         Siroy alleges that she was not provided with salary increases “when compared with other similarly situated employees because of her race and gender.” (Compl. ¶ 31; Pl. Dep. at 272). Siroy further explained in her deposition testimony that the employees she was referring to were “Dmitri Veinberg and everyone else who got a salary increase companywide.” (Pl. Dep. at 272). Beyond this claim, Siroy admits in her testimony that she does not know for certain whether Veinberg or anyone else actually received a companywide increase, nor does she proffer any evidence to support her assertions that these increases occurred. (Pl. Dep. at 272). The only evidence offered by Siroy to show that the increases occurred is her testimony that an email sent to employees announced a companywide salary increase for employees who met certain criteria: 1) the employee did not receive a promotion; 2) the employee is not on a commission plan; and 3) the employee was employed for a specific time range. (Pl. Dep. at 186).

         Siroy's employment agreement with JHI provided for yearly salary increases, which she did receive, but she claims that despite meeting all the criteria in the email, she was excluded from two company-wide increases. (Employment Agreement ¶ 5 (ECF No. 28-3; Exh. W); Pl. Dep. at 168-69; 185-87)). Siroy maintains that the companywide salary increases and the increases provided by her employment agreement are separate and that nothing in the agreement precludes her from receiving the additional companywide salary increase. (Id. at 187). According to JHI's CEO, Jeff MacDonald, JHI did not provide salary increases to any employee receiving salary increases pursuant to an employment agreement. (Declaration of Jeff MacDonald (“MacDonald Decl.”) ¶ 21 (ECF No. 28-3)).

         3. Excessive Workload

         In her Complaint, Siroy claims that she was “overloaded with work, ” generating client reports by manual data entry. (Compl. ¶ 39). The manual process was apparently so onerous that it would take Siroy multiple days to complete. (Id.). Beginning in October 2014, Siroy and Levitz exchanged emails about managing her workload. (Levitz Decl. ¶ 50; Exh. J (ECF No. 28-2)). Defendants allegedly responded by creating the new position of Digital Marketing Manager, which Siroy declined. Levitz continued to speak to Siroy into January 2015 about managing and reducing her workload and started looking to bring on a new staff member that could assume Siroy's responsibilities of manually generating client reports. (Levitz Decl. ¶ 67-69). This position was eventually filled in March 2015. (Levitz Decl. ¶ 70).

         As further evidence of discrimination, Siroy also asserts that the manual reporting could have been automated, but Dmitri Veinberg refused to create an automated program, and Levitz permitted him to do so. (Compl. ¶ 38-39). Siroy further testified that Levitz would assign her the work that Veinberg declined to work on. (Pl. Dep. at 144).

         4. Failure to Train

         Siroy testified in her deposition that she did not receive training to handle personally identifying information, which by the end of her time at JHI, was about 80% of her workload. (Pl. Dep. at 225). Siroy claims a pattern of providing training in a discriminatory manner and identifies other minority employees who did not receive training, while white employees did. (Id. at 169, 216-17, 225). According to Levitz, JHI provides training to all employees that request it on personally identifying information. (Levitz Decl. ¶ 91). Siroy admits she never asked for such training. (Plaintiff's Responsive Statement of Material Facts in Opposition to Defendants' Rule 56.1(a) Statement (“Pl. SMF”) at 164 (ECF No. 32-5)).

         5. Stipend/Overtime

         Siroy also claims that she did not receive any overtime or stipend when asked to perform additional work, while white male and female employees did. Siroy identified another minority female who she believes was also denied overtime. (Pl. Dep. at 216). Levitz explained in his Declaration that JHI had a policy of providing stipends to employees whose job duties included deployment of marketing emails and required them to be “on call” after 5:00 P.M. to handle emergency issues. (Levitz Decl. ¶ 83-86). Levitz claims that only this limited group of employees who was entitled based on this criterion was given stipends and that the other minority female that Siroy identifies did not meet these criteria. (Id. ¶ 88). Siroy testified that while she did perform work after 5:00 P.M., she did not have to respond to clients after that time. (Pl. Dep. at 106).

         6. Reassignment of Cubicle

         Finally, Siroy alleges that JHI reassigned her cubicle away from a window and gave her old window cubicle to a newly hired white female despite Siroy's seniority. (Pl. Dep. at 100-102). Siroy also claimed that other employees who belonged to protected classes were also moved away from the window. (Pl. Dep. at 102-103). While Siroy admits that there is no written policy concerning who receives a cubicle at a window with a view, Siroy testified that there was a “company culture” that effectively adopted this policy. (Id.). Levitz claims that JHI moved the location of Siroy's cubicle, along with the cubicle of a white male, away from a window with a view because JHI's Alert Marketing Department production group grew and JHI wanted to organize the production employees' work spaces into one area of the office. (Levitz Decl. ¶ 90).

         B. Retaliation

         On January 12, 2015, Siroy filed her first formal internal complaint of discrimination. (Internal Complaint at 2 (ECF No. 28-2, Exh. T)). Then on February 11, 2015, Siroy filed a complaint with the EEOC. (EEOC Charge of Discrimination (ECF No. 28-4, Exh. BB)). After the filings, Siroy claims that she began to experience retaliation by the Defendants, which ultimately resulted in her constructive termination on April 1, 2015. (Compl. ¶ 56, 59; Letter of Resignation (ECF No. 28-2 Exh. U)). Specifically, Siroy claims that (i) her workload increased; (ii) she was wrongly accused of insubordination; (iii) she was excluded from team meetings beginning in early 2015; (iv) her non-compete agreement with JHI was enforced against her when she applied for a job at WebMD Health Corp., while similar non-competes were not enforced against other employees.

         1. Increased Workload

         In her Complaint, Siroy alleges that her workload increased as a result of her filing formal complaints of discrimination. (Compl. ¶ 58). She does not quantify or explain in any other way how it increased in her Complaint, but in her deposition, Siroy testifies that after January 2015, more reports were needed from her. (Pl. Dep. at 348). She says this is because more requests, which are client driven, came in. (Id.).

         2. Accusation of Insubordination

         Siroy also claims that she was accused of insubordination by Levitz after she submitted her first formal internal complaint of discrimination on January 12, 2015. (Internal Complaint at 3). The accusation was sent in an email to Siroy on January 11, 2015. (Id.). Levitz was allegedly responding to a miscommunication between Siroy and ...

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