Meiri v. Dacon, No. 874

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore KAUFMAN, OAKES, and MESKILL; IRVING R. KAUFMAN
Citation759 F.2d 989
Parties37 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 756, 36 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 35,124 Miriam MEIRI, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Claudius DACON, Roger Woods, Maryanne Monteodorisio, Stanley McKinley, Adele Stern and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Defendants-Appellees. ocket 84-6337.
Decision Date02 April 1985
Docket NumberD,No. 874

Page 989

759 F.2d 989
37 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 756,
36 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 35,124
Miriam MEIRI, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Claudius DACON, Roger Woods, Maryanne Monteodorisio, Stanley
McKinley, Adele Stern and the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 874, Docket 84-6337.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued Feb. 27, 1985.
Decided April 2, 1985.

Page 992

Lloyd Somer, New York City, for plaintiff-appellant.

Gerald T. Ford, Asst. U.S. Atty., New York City (Rudolph W. Giuliani, U.S. Atty., S.D.N.Y., and Jane E. Booth, New York City, on the brief), for defendants-appellees.

Before KAUFMAN, OAKES, and MESKILL, Circuit Judges.

IRVING R. KAUFMAN, Circuit Judge:

This case requires us to address the propriety of granting summary judgment in an employment discrimination suit brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq. Miriam Meiri alleged she was discharged from her clerk-stenographer position at the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") because of her religion. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of INS, finding that Meiri had failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination. 607 F.Supp. 22. Although we are inclined to agree with Meiri that a prima facie case was indeed made, we nonetheless affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment because Meiri failed to proffer any evidence suggesting that the stated reasons for her discharge were merely a pretext for religious discrimination.

Mindful that "the court cannot try issues of fact, it can only determine whether there are issues to be tried," Heyman v. Commerce and Industry Co., 524 F.2d 1317, 1319-20 (2d Cir.1975), we shall proceed carefully to limn the relevant facts necessary to resolve the instant confrontation between a claim of employment discrimination based on religion and the pragmatic needs of the judiciary.

I.

The saga of Miriam Meiri, an Orthodox Jewish woman, began on May 14, 1979, when she was given a conditional appointment by the INS as a clerk-stenographer. Her appointment was subject to a one-year probationary period, during which Meiri was required to demonstrate her fitness for continued employment in the areas of performance, conduct and general character traits. 1 Because the task of determining an employee's occupational aptitude may, in certain instances, be extremely difficult, the INS has instructed its supervisors to "[o]bserve the employee's conduct, general character traits and performance closely." Where circumstances so warrant, the employee is to be separated "without undue formality." The responsibility of assessing Meiri's job performance fell to Claudius Dacon, a black Protestant male, who was the Record Administration and Information Section Supervisor with the INS at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City.

During the first nine months of her employment, Meiri exhibited numerous instances of inappropriate behavior that expressly contravened established INS policy, committed a variety of inexplicable, imprudent and indiscrete acts and generally usurped power wherever possible. We believe it would prove instructive to describe seriatim certain undisputed actions that exemplified Meiri's employment difficulties:

1. Meiri, without authority, wrote a letter to the United States Vice-Counsel in Vancouver, Canada.

2. Meiri, again absent authorization, wrote caustic memoranda to supervisors in other sections. She ordered one supervisor to return certain forms by a deadline that she imposed without authority; Meiri castigated another for alleged violations of

Page 993

timekeeping; 2 and she sent an unauthorized memorandum announcing the promotion of an employee.

3. Meiri criticized the Chief of the Travel Control Unit about matters that were entirely outside her position's limited purview.

4. Meiri composed and mailed an unauthorized letter on official government stationery to an alien, stating that he should contact her to retrieve "important documents" he had lost.

5. Meiri repeatedly interrogated incoming telephone callers, requiring them to respond to a barrage of prying questions.

6. Although Meiri frequently was asked to refrain from conversing with visiting attorneys, she often became embroiled in disputes over "political affairs" or "current events."

7. By speaking to visiting attorneys and others in Hebrew, French, Italian, German and Spanish, Meiri violated the INS policy prohibiting employees from speaking to visitors in foreign languages.

8. Meiri acknowledged that she had occasionally consoled employees after they had been reprimanded by Dacon, and discussed with them possible avenues of recourse.

Prompted by this series of events, Dacon made several attempts to counsel Meiri and provide her with guidance. His efforts, however, appear to have been unavailing. Finally, on February 21, 1980, Dacon met with Meiri to repair their damaged relationship and stem the mounting tide of improper actions. Again, his efforts at constructive criticism were met only with resistance, as Meiri announced she was fully satisfied with her job performance and, thus, was entirely unwilling to accept counseling. Angered by her recalcitrance and utterly disappointed with her job performance, Dacon, on March 3, informed Meiri that he would recommend she be terminated during her probationary period. On March 19, the INS informed Meiri she would be terminated on March 28, 1980. 3

Believing her discharge was motivated by racial and religious animus, Meiri filed a formal complaint with the INS. An Equal Employment Opportunity officer investigated the circumstances surrounding Meiri's termination and, in a report issued on June 2, 1981, found her discharge was based on "an acceptable and equitable decision" by her supervisor. On January 21, 1983, the complaint adjudication officer for the Department of Justice similarly concluded that Meiri's separation was for lawful reasons and did not violate Title VII.

Ten days later, the travails of Meiri began anew in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. There, Meiri filed a Title VII suit, pro se, alleging the INS had discriminated against her because she was Jewish. 4

Page 994

On April 7, 1983, the INS filed an answer, in which it denied Meiri's allegations of religious discrimination, buttressing this denial with twelve job-related complaints proffered by Dacon. Of these, Meiri disputed the accuracy of only four, conceding that the remaining eight were true. She did, however, posit exculpatory explanations for certain of her actions. Once again, Meiri admitted the verity of Dacon's charges when the INS took her deposition in October 1983. Armed with a number of undisputed facts that would appear to establish that Meiri was terminated for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons, the INS moved for summary judgment on December 15, 1983. In support of its motion, the INS offered the affidavits of Claudius Dacon, Adele Stern (Dacon's secretary who was Jewish) and Joseph Schleifer (an Orthodox Jew who also worked for Dacon), as well as documented evidence of Meiri's inappropriate actions. Three days later, on December 18, 1983, Meiri submitted answering papers, 5 in which she propounded by reference to subjective criteria that her termination was animated by religious discrimination. 6 Oral argument was heard on February 10, 1984.

On October 1, 1984, Judge Owen granted the INS's motion for summary judgment and dismissed Meiri's complaint. The district court concluded that Meiri had failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination because she was not qualified for the position from which she was terminated and because she was not replaced by a person outside her protected class. Judge Owen relied extensively on the reasons for termination proffered by Dacon and conceded by Meiri. He also found particularly inappropriate Meiri's "habit of engaging certain attorneys and other INS visitors in unnecessary conversations" in foreign languages. In a footnote, the district judge noted that even if the evidence could be construed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, the INS demonstrated that Meiri was terminated for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons. Insofar as Meiri "presented no evidence whatsoever to show that these reasons were a pretext for discrimination," Judge Owen decided summary judgment was proper. Meiri, now represented by counsel, appeals.

II. PROOF IN A TITLE VII CASE

In striking contrast to the welter of decisional law spawned by those courts that have toiled in the amorphous vineyards of Title VII, 7 the controlling legal standards appear deceptively straightforward:

First, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination. Second, if the plaintiff succeeds in proving the prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant "to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection." ... Third, should the defendant carry this burden, the plaintiff must then have an opportunity to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its true reasons, but were a pretext for discrimination.

Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1093, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981) (quoting McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1824, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973)); see United States

Page 995

Postal Serv. v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 103 S.Ct. 1478, 1481-82, 75 L.Ed.2d 403 (1983).

This trifurcated inquiry not only specifies and assigns evidentiary burdens, but also injects a fine-tuning element into the presentation of proof in all Title VII cases. The net result is that an initially vague allegation of discrimination is increasingly sharpened and focused, until the ultimate inquiry is one that is...

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1396 practice notes
  • Burrell v. City University of New York, No. 94 CIV. 8711(RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 26, 1998
    ...22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir.1994); see also Montana v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 869 F.2d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1989); Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.1985). Because writings directly supporting a claim of intentional discrimination are rarely, if ever, found among an employer's doc......
  • Cody v. County of Nassau, No. CV 05-2334(ETB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 19, 2008
    ...than conclusory allegations of discrimination to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Schwapp, 118 F.3d at 110 (citing Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Summary judgment should not be regarded as a procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules of Civil Proce......
  • Forsberg v. Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co., Nos. 86-4054
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1988
    ...conclusory allegations of alleged discrimination, with no concrete, relevant particulars, will not bar summary judgment. Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 Forsberg also claims that the district court erred in granting summar......
  • Conan Properties, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc., No. 84 Civ. 5799 (RPP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • April 19, 1989
    ...intent and state of mind are implicated." Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F.2d 460, 465 (2d Cir.1989) (quoting Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 (1985)); see Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting Sys., Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 473......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1386 cases
  • Burrell v. City University of New York, No. 94 CIV. 8711(RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 26, 1998
    ...22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir.1994); see also Montana v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 869 F.2d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1989); Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.1985). Because writings directly supporting a claim of intentional discrimination are rarely, if ever, found among an employer's doc......
  • Cody v. County of Nassau, No. CV 05-2334(ETB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 19, 2008
    ...than conclusory allegations of discrimination to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Schwapp, 118 F.3d at 110 (citing Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Summary judgment should not be regarded as a procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules of Civil Proce......
  • Forsberg v. Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co., Nos. 86-4054
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1988
    ...conclusory allegations of alleged discrimination, with no concrete, relevant particulars, will not bar summary judgment. Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 Forsberg also claims that the district court erred in granting summar......
  • Conan Properties, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc., No. 84 Civ. 5799 (RPP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • April 19, 1989
    ...intent and state of mind are implicated." Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F.2d 460, 465 (2d Cir.1989) (quoting Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 106 S.Ct. 91, 88 L.Ed.2d 74 (1985)); see Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting Sys., Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 473......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Sex Discrimination Claims Under Title Vii of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law Nbr. XXII-2, January 2021
    • January 1, 2021
    ...but not necessarily a determinative factor in whether she established a prima facie case of discrimination); Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 996 (2d Cir. 1985) (stating that evidence that replacement was within plaintiff’s protected class “may weaken, but certainly does not eliminate, the inf......

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