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Griffin v. Adams And Associates of Nevada

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 28, 2016




         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff William Griffin has filed this lawsuit against Defendants Adams and Associates of Nevada, Adams and Associates, Inc., Shriver Job Corps Center (“Shriver”) and Jamie Wilson (“Wilson”) (collectively, “Defendants”) asserting discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims arising from Griffin’s employment and termination at Shriver. D. 11 at 10. Griffin asserted claims for gender and sexual orientation discrimination, harassment and retaliation pursuant to Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Adams and Associates of Nevada, Adams and Associates, Inc. and Shriver (Counts I, II, III, IV, V & VI) and Wilson (Counts VII, VIII, IX, X, XI & XII). D. 11 at 10-25.[1] The Court previously granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Section 1983 claims in light of no opposition from Griffin. D. 15. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on all remaining counts, those arising under Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B, against them. D. 45. For the reasons discussed below, the Court ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion for summary judgment.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that “carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” García-González v. Puig-Morales, 761 F.3d 81, 87 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Newman v. Advanced Tech. Innovation Corp., 749 F.3d 33, 36 (1st Cir. 2014)) (internal quotation mark omitted). The moving party “bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Rosciti v. Ins. Co. of Pa., 659 F.3d 92, 96 (1st Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Once that burden is met, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in his pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but, “with respect to each issue on which [he] would bear the burden of proof at trial, ” must “demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in [his] favor.” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, “drawing reasonable inferences” in his favor. Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “Conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation, ” however, are “insufficient to establish a genuine dispute of fact.” Travers v. Flight Servs. & Sys., Inc., 737 F.3d 144, 146 (1st Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation mark omitted).

         III. Factual Background

         The following facts are drawn from the parties’ statements of material facts, D. 47, D. 53, and, unless otherwise noted, are undisputed.

         From November 2008 to his termination on or about May 21, 2013, Griffin was employed as an “Overnight Center Shift Manager” at Shriver in Devens, Massachusetts. D. 47 ¶¶ 1-2; D. 53 ¶¶ 1-2. At all relevant times, Shriver was owned and operated by Adams and Associates, Inc. D. 47 ¶ 2; D. 53 ¶ 2. On February 12, 2012, Wilson joined Shriver as Social Development Manager and served as Griffin’s supervisor. D. 47 ¶¶ 30, 90; D. 53 ¶¶ 30, 90. It was at this time Griffin started noticing a pattern of Wilson’s treatment towards him, making him feel uncomfortable. D. 47 ¶ 31; D. 53 ¶ 31. From February 2012 through April 2012, Wilson purportedly made certain discriminatory statements at or regarding Griffin, a gay man. D. 47 ¶¶ 32-50; D. 53 ¶¶ 32-50 (disputing the Defendants’ characterization of some of these comments).

         On April 9, 2012, Griffin wrote a letter to Walter Carino (“Carino”), the human resources director at Shriver, D. 47 ¶ 138; D. 53 ¶ 138, describing some of the incidents, D. 47 ¶¶ 50, 53; D. 53 ¶¶ 50, 53. In response, an investigation was launched and Carino called a meeting between Griffin and Wilson. D. 47 ¶ 55; D. 53 ¶ 55. Griffin and Wilson attended the meeting with Carino to mediate the matter. Id. Leon Parker, Griffin’s other supervisor, and Jen O’Neal, Shriver’s Deputy Director at the time, also joined the meeting. Id. At the meeting, Carino instructed Griffin and Wilson to treat each other with respect and they both agreed to be more sensitive to each other in conversation. D. 47 ¶ 56; D. 47 ¶ 56. At the request of Griffin, he and Carino had a follow-up meeting. D. 47 ¶ 59; D. 53 ¶ 59.

         About four months after the April 2012 meetings, Griffin received written discipline on August 18, 2012 for not being in the area to which he was assigned, but claims he also received verbal discipline for other matters. Id. ¶¶ 63-65; D. 53 ¶¶ 63-65. Shortly thereafter, on August 28, 2012, Griffin wrote a letter to Adams’ management outlining the issues he was encountering at Shriver. D. 47 ¶ 68; D. 53 ¶ 68. Griffin felt that his treatment rose to the level of a valid gender and sexual orientation claim and thus the ability to file a claim with the “Massachusetts Commissioner [sic] Against Discrimination.” D. 47 ¶ 70; D. 53 ¶ 70. Adams assigned Ross Peterson (“Peterson”), the Executive Director of New England Operations, to investigate Griffin’s complaints. D. 47 ¶ 76; D. 53 ¶ 76. As a part of the investigation, Peterson met with Griffin and the individuals implicated by Griffin’s complaints. Id. Following the investigation, Griffin met with Peterson, Carino, Barbra Smith, the property manager and EEO Officer at Shriver at the time, D. 53 ¶ 200, and Wilson to discuss the results of the investigation, D. 47 ¶ 79; D. 53 ¶ 79. At that meeting, Peterson informed Griffin that Adams found no evidence of discrimination and closed Griffin’s complaint. D. 47 ¶ 80; D. 53 ¶ 80. Following the meeting, Griffin alleges that Wilson was angry and that she stated to him that she was “protected” and will see that “everything that needs to happen to [him] happens to [him].” D. 47 ¶ 83; D. 53 ¶ 83. After the meeting, Griffin felt that the Defendants were not going to do anything to alleviate his situation and he began to seek other employment. D. 47 ¶ 85; D. 53 ¶ 85.

         Griffin alleges that on or about September 28, 2012, Wilson made purportedly discriminatory and graphic comments to him regarding his conduct in the bathroom and with other gay men. D. 47 ¶ 91; D. 53 ¶ 91. On October 22, 2012, Griffin went on FMLA leave and did not return until January 13, 2013. D. 47 ¶ 86; D. 53 ¶ 86. At some point before Griffin returned from FMLA leave, a restructuring took place and Wilson ceased being Griffin’s supervisor and became his peer. D. 47 ¶ 90; D. 53 ¶ 90. Griffin alleges that once he returned from leave, he found a photograph of him and his boyfriend damaged and in the trash. D. 47 ¶ 94; D. 53 ¶ 94.

         The parties dispute whether Griffin was having job performance issues in February 2013. D. 47 ¶ 95; D. 53 ¶ 95. It is undisputed, however, that on March 4, 2013, Adams evaluated Griffin’s performance as “Below Acceptable Standards”-the parties dispute the issues identified in the review-and on March 11, 2013, placed him on a ninety-day Corrective Action Plan (“CAP”), which identified certain areas for improvement. D. 47 ¶¶ 96, 98, 101, 104. The plan indicated that if “Performance Progress does not occur, or if performance in other required areas outside those specified in the CAP falls below the required levels, you may be considered for termination prior to the completion of the 90-day CAP period.” Id. ¶ 103. Following alleged complaints by staff members, Griffin was issued a final writing warning on May 11, 2013 due to his alleged failure to give staff breaks and leaving dorm areas unattended by staff. Id. ¶¶ 107, 113, 115.

         On May 20, 2013 at approximately 11:30 p.m., Griffin attended a staff training conducted by LeniRae Martyn-Seidl (“Martyn-Seidl”). D. 47 ¶ 119; D. 53 ¶ 119. Shortly after the training, Martyn-Seidl believed Griffin’s behavior at the meeting suggested he was intoxicated and she began trying to contact various Shriver employees. D. 47 ¶¶ 122-124; D. 53 ¶¶ 122-124. In the early morning of the next day, Tamer Koheil (“Koheil”), the Shriver Director since November 2012, D. 47 ¶ 87; D. 53 ¶ 87, and Thomas Hammond (“Hammond”), another Shriver employee, headed to Carlin’s Tavern at approximately 1:30 a.m., upon the belief that Griffin was there, D. 47 ¶¶ 129, 131; D. 53 ¶¶ 129, 131. The parties contest whether Griffin was at the bar with an alcoholic drink. D. 47 ¶ 131; D. 53 ¶ 131. Upon confronting Griffin, Koheil and Hammond believed that Griffin was intoxicated. D. 47 ¶ 132. Shortly thereafter, Shriver personnel conducted an investigation regarding the events transpiring on May 20-21, 2013. D. 47 ¶¶ 135, 138. On May 21, 2013, Carino submitted a recommendation to Adams Human Resources that Griffin be terminated. D. 47 ¶ 137; D. 53 D. 47 ¶ 137. On May 23, 2013, Koheil sent Griffin a letter indicating he was being terminated for, among other things, being under the influence of alcohol at work. D. 47 ¶¶ 139.

         IV. Procedural History

         Griffin filed this lawsuit against Defendants in Middlesex Superior Court on April 14, 2014. D. 11 at 27. Defendants removed the case to federal court on June 26, 2014. D. 1. Prior to removal, Griffin had filed an amended complaint. D. 11 at 10-25. On July 3, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss the § 1983 claims for failure to state a claim. D. 6. Griffin did not oppose, D. 12 at 1, and the Court dismissed those claims, D. 15.[2] Defendants has now moved for summary judgment on the remaining counts, those arising under Chapter 151B, D. 45, and Griffin opposed, D. 52. The Court heard Defendants on their pending motion and took these matters under advisement. D. 56.

         V. ...

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