Kirkland v. Cablevision Systems, 13‐3625‐cv (2d Cir. July 25, 2014)
Plaintiff Garry Kirkland, who was (2008) the only African-American Area Operations Manager in Cablevision, represented himself in a discrimination claim against Cablevision for discrimination on the basis of race and retaliation for his complaints about unequal treatment. After deposition testimony, the District Court granted Cablevision summary judgment and Mr. Kirkland appeal to the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit vacated the Orders of the District Court, finding that there were triable issues of material fact precluding summary judgment.
Summary Judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “When a plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court must construe his submissions liberally and interpret them ‘to raise the strongest argument that they suggest.’ ” Kirkland v. Cablevision Systems, 13‐3625‐cv at * 4 (2d Cir. July 25, 2014) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). “Only ‘if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief,’ will the court affirm summary judgment.” Id. (quoting Terry v, Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 137 (2d Cir. 2003)).
The Second Circuit recognized certain evidence offered by Mr. Kirkland was sufficient for Mr. Kirkland to establish that Cablevision’s non-discriminatory reasons for firing Mr. Kirkland could be viewed as a jury as pretextual in nature. Some of this evidence was that:
Supervisor, Robert Cockerill, stated to another employee that he “ha[d] come to learn that they don’t know how to police each other”;
There was heavy criticism of Mr. Kirkland during a presentation where Mr. Kirkland “used a colored background and [that] there is no room for color in a business presentation” and “how white was better than color”;
No one responded to Mr. Kirkland’s continued complaints of retaliation and race discrimination;
A Cablevision employee’s testimony that she believed Supervisor, Robert Cockerill, wished to used her because she had a black fiancé and she could fire black people in Kirkland’s former region. Additionally, the same Cablevision employee indicated she was told that Robert Cockerill is known as the KKK without the hood; and
Negative performance reviews given to Mr. Kirkland after he made complaints of discrimination.
For more information, the full decision can be read online here