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Martinelli v. The Bancroft Chophouse, LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 22, 2019



          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge

         This case arises from federal and state employment discrimination claims brought by Charles Martinelli (“Martinelli” or “plaintiff”), a former employee of the defendant, The Bancroft Chophouse, LLC (“The Bancroft” or “defendant”). Martinelli alleges that the managers of The Bancroft subjected him to sexual harassment and retaliation which ultimately caused him to terminate his employment with defendant. He now brings claims for 1) hostile work environment, 2) quid pro quo sexual harassment and 3) retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and M.G.L. c. 151B, § 4.

         Before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 22). For the reasons that follow, that motion will be allowed.

         I. Background

         A. The Parties

         Martinelli lives in North Reading, Massachusetts. The Bancroft is a steakhouse restaurant located in Burlington, Massachusetts. In May, 2014, plaintiff began working as a server at The Bancroft and he worked there for approximately five months before terminating his employment in early October, 2014.

         At all relevant times, Martinelli worked as a server at the restaurant. On occasion, he was assigned to work as a “closing server”. Closing servers are responsible for attending to the customers who come in near closing time and after the other servers go home for the evening. They are also responsible for confirming that the other servers have completed all their work and have reset their tables.

         B. The Incident

         On Saturday, September 13, 2014, Martinelli was scheduled to work as a closing server along with one of his co-workers, Angela Michaels. Colleen Seznec, plaintiff's manager, was also working that day. At some point early in Martinelli's shift, he observed Seznec and Michaels having a conversation in the dining room. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff alleges that Seznec approached him and told him that she and Michaels had been discussing which employee they would like to sleep with. She then told Martinelli that he would be her choice. Martinelli responded that he was “gay and, basically, you have a better chance of seeing a unicorn than that ever happening” and she just laughed it off. Plaintiff concedes that 1) he did not consider Seznec's comment to be offensive at the time or think about it too much and 2) Seznec never said anything else that day or on any other occasion that he considered to be offensive.

         Later in the shift, Seznec spoke to Martinelli about his failure to perform all of his work responsibilities and his over-concentration on music. Martinelli characterizes those interactions as uncharacteristically aggressive on the part of Seznec. Finally, Seznec asked Martinelli to come into work the next day, Sunday, which was not his regular day. Martinelli took that request as a reprimand.

         Later that night, both plaintiff and Michaels left the restaurant early without checking out the other servers. There is a dispute between the parties as to whether the closing manager knew about plaintiff's early departure but Martinelli concedes that 1) he left early, 2) he could not remember specifically whether he had asked permission to do so and 3) he could not remember who he had asked to take over for him.

         C. The Complaint

         The following morning, September 14, 2014, Martinelli reported to the restaurant for the brunch shift. He was immediately told by the manager that he was suspended from work for leaving early the previous evening without completing his closing duties. He was also informed that he would not be allowed to return to work until he spoke with Richard Brackett, the General Manager of The Bancroft. Michaels was also suspended for leaving the restaurant early without completing her closing duties.

         Martinelli met with Brackett and Laura Ferry, the Human Resources Manager, on September 18, 2014, to discuss his suspension. During that meeting, Brackett told plaintiff that he was being held responsible for not finishing his closing shift on September 13 and that his discipline was suspension for one shift which had been served. Martinelli signed a document reflecting that he had left the restaurant early without completing his closing duties.

         During that meeting, Martinelli told Brackett and Ferry about the sexual comment that Seznec had made to him on September 13. The Bancroft immediately initiated an investigation into plaintiff's allegations. That same day, Brackett met with Seznec who told him a different version of the subject conversation. According to Seznec, she had only told Michaels that she thought Martinelli was handsome and it was Michaels who had relayed that comment to plaintiff.

         The next day, on September 19, 2014, Martinelli met with Seznec, Brackett and Ferry. At that meeting, Seznec apologized to Martinelli for the inappropriate remark and told him that it would not happen again. Martinelli accepted her apology and did not ask The Bancroft to take any further action with respect to his complaint. The Bancroft concluded that the situation had been resolved and informed plaintiff that he should contact Human Resources immediately if any subsequent incidents of alleged harassment or retaliation were to arise.

         D. Subsequent Conduct

         Plaintiff alleges that he was thereafter subjected to “an overall uncomfortable feeling” when he would walk into the restaurant and felt as though he was being ostracized by The Bancroft management. The only specific incident that Martinelli can recall, however, involved his request of another manager to help him find a particular wine. The Manager acted annoyed and told him that it was located in the ...

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