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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

Monte STEPHENS, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. ISABELLA GERIATRIC CENTER, INC., et al., Defendants–Respondents.


Decided: December 10, 2019

Friedman, J.P., Kapnick, Kern, Oing, JJ. Keenan & Bhatia, LLC, New York, (Edward (E.E.) Keenan of counsel), for appellant. Peckar & Abramson, P.C., New York (Kevin J. O'Connor, River Edge, of counsel), for respondents.

Order, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Kenneth L. Thompson, Jr., J.), entered on or about June 4, 2018, which, to the extent appealed from as limited by the briefs, granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims of retaliation in violation of the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff asserts that he was terminated from his employment at defendant Isabella Geriatric Center as a certified nursing assistant shortly after he stated during an August 2011 performance evaluation meeting that defendant Mariam Paul, who was the director of nursing at Isabella, was “very biased” and that he intended to take a copy of his evaluation “to Human Rights.” Assuming that plaintiff made out a prima facie case of

retaliation based on these facts (see Albunio v. City of New York, 16 N.Y.3d 472, 477–479, 922 N.Y.S.2d 244, 947 N.E.2d 135 [2011]), defendants met their burden of proffering legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the termination (see Bantamoi v. St. Barnabas Hosp., 146 A.D.3d 420, 44 N.Y.S.3d 398 [1st Dept. 2017]; Bendeck v. NYU Hosps. Ctr., 77 A.D.3d 552, 553–554, 909 N.Y.S.2d 439 [1st Dept. 2010]). Defendants submitted numerous written statements and letters from plaintiff's coworkers to Isabella, spanning more than 10 years, complaining of plaintiff's insubordinate and aggressive behavior in the workplace, which made them feel threatened. He had previously been suspended for such conduct in 2005, and a nursing supervisor also testified that she had to move several staff members to other units, upon their request, as they did not want to work with plaintiff.

In response, plaintiff failed to show that defendants' reasons for suspending and ultimately terminating his employment were mere pretexts (see Bantamoi, 146 A.D.3d at 421, 44 N.Y.S.3d 398; Bennett v. Health Mgt. Sys., Inc., 92 A.D.3d 29, 46, 936 N.Y.S.2d 112 [1st Dept. 2011], lv denied 18 N.Y.3d 811, 2012 WL 1432090 [2012]). Plaintiff did not attempt to refute any of the evidence defendants submitted, which showed that before he was terminated he had engaged in years of inappropriate behavior in violation of the Employee Handbook.

We have considered plaintiff's remaining arguments, including that further discovery was necessary, and find them unavailing.