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United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
September 30, 2016, Decided; September 30, 2016, Filed
[*385] MEMORANDUM & ORDER
MATSUMOTO, United States District Judge:
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (the "EEOC") brings this action on behalf of a group of former employees ("claimants" or "plaintiffs") of United Health Programs of America Inc. ("UHP") and Cost Containment Group Inc. ("CCG") (collectively, "defendants") who claim principally [**2] that they were subjected to religious discrimination in their workplace in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.1 Claimants have moved for partial summary judgment on the discrete issue of whether certain practices and beliefs (referred [*386] to herein as "Onionhead" and "Harnessing Happiness") purportedly imposed on employees by supervisors in defendants' workplace constitute a religion. Defendants have cross-moved for summary judgment on all claims, the nature of which will be discussed in greater detail below. For the reasons stated herein, claimants' motion is GRANTED and defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
The facts provided below derive from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, as well as from the deposition testimony and other exhibits attached by the parties in their cross-motions for summary judgment.2 The facts below are undisputed unless otherwise noted. The court has construed the facts in the light [**3] most favorable to the non-moving party with respect to each motion.
I. Factual Background
A. Defendants' Companies and Other Related Entities
Defendants operate a "small wholesale company that provides discount medical plans to groups of individuals" as well as a number of other for-profit and non-profit entities.3 (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 1-10.) Defendants' organizations, which at all relevant times employed fewer than 50 people, have conducted their business since 2006 out of a single office located in Long Island, New York. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 2-5.)
B. The Claimants
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213 F. Supp. 3d 377 *; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136625 **; 129 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1057; 100 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P45,654
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION, Plaintiff, -against- UNITED HEALTH PROGRAMS OF AMERICA, INC. and COST CONTAINMENT GROUP, INC., Defendants.ELIZABETH ONTANEDA, FRANCINE PENNISI, and FAITH PABON, Plaintiffs-Intervenors, -against- UNITED HEALTH PROGRAMS OF AMERICA, INC. and COST CONTAINMENT GROUP, INC., Defendants.
Subsequent History: Motion denied by Eeoc v. United Health Programs of Am., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 229916 (E.D.N.Y., Apr. 14, 2017)
Motion granted by, in part, Motion denied by, in part, Motion denied by, Motion denied by, Without prejudice EEOC v. United Health Programs of Am., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 222646 (E.D.N.Y., Sept. 4, 2017)
Motion granted by, in part, Motion denied by, in part, Injunction granted at, in part, Costs and fees proceeding at, Motion granted by, in part, Motion denied by, in part EEOC v. United Health Programs of Am., Inc., 350 F. Supp. 3d 199, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 217766, 2018 WL 6834593 (E.D.N.Y., Dec. 28, 2018)
Motion denied by, Motion for new trial denied by, Remittitur denied by EEOC v. United Health Programs of Am., Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39587, 2020 WL 1083771 (E.D.N.Y., Mar. 6, 2020)
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Civil Procedure, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Evidentiary Considerations, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Retaliation, Elements, Religious Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Reverse Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Religion Defined, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Need for Trial, Business & Corporate Compliance, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Authorities & Powers, Investigative Authority, Civil Actions, Exhaustion of Remedies, Notice to Employers, Reasonable Cause & Conciliation, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burden Shifting, Disparate Treatment, Employment Practices, Adverse Employment Actions, Employee Burdens, Elements, Causation, Evidence, Labor & Employment Law, Harassment, Exhaustion of Remedies, Filing of Charges, Title VII Discrimination, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Statute of Limitations, Begins to Run, Continuing Violations, Time Limitations, Harassment, Religious Harassment, Actionable Discrimination, Protected Activities