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Friday, June 19, 2015

Anatomy of an unlawful discrimination complaint



Anatomy of an unlawful discrimination complaint
2015 NY Slip Op 04601, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Plaintiff commenced this action seeking to recover damages for alleged unlawful discrimination and retaliation within the meaning of 42 USC §§1981 and 1983, the “Civil Rights Act” and for alleged violation of Executive Law §296, the State’s Human Rights Law, in connection with his employment at a State agency [Agency].  Supreme Court granted the Agency’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and Plaintiff appealed.

In considering Plaintiff’s appeal the Appellate Division said:

1. Aplaintiff alleging discrimination in employment has the initial burden to establish a prima facie case of discrimination; and

2. To meet this burden, the plaintiff must show that (1) he or she is a member of a protected class; (2) he or she was qualified to hold the position; (3) he or she was terminated from employment or suffered another adverse employment action; and (4) the discharge or other adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.

If the plaintiff is able to satisfy each of these requirements, said the Appellate Division, the burden then shifts to the employer "to rebut the presumption of discrimination by clearly setting forth, through the introduction of admissible evidence, legitimate, independent, and nondiscriminatory reasons to support its employment decision."

If the employer is able to do so, the burden of going forward shifts to the plaintiff and in order to succeed on his or her claim, "the plaintiff must prove that the legitimate reasons proffered by the defendant were merely a pretext for discrimination by demonstrating both that the stated reasons were false and that discrimination was the real reason."

With respect to Supreme Court granting Agency’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint, the court said to prevail on a motion for summary judgment in a discriminatory employment action, “a defendant must demonstrate either the plaintiff's failure to establish every element of intentional discrimination, or, having offered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for their challenged actions, the absence of a material issue of fact as to whether their explanations were pretextual.”

In this instance the Appellate Division found that after Agency demonstrated a prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law while Plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether any adverse employment action he allegedly suffered occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discriminatory motive.

Further, the court noted that the Agency’s setting out “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons” for its challenged actions, said that Plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the Agency’s explanations were pretextual.

While it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for opposing discriminatory practices, in order to make out a claim for retaliation, the plaintiff must show that (1) he or she has engaged in protected activity; (2) his or her employer was aware of such activity; (3) he or she suffered an adverse employment action based upon the protected activity; and (4) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action.

Again, Agency demonstrated, prima facie, its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the causes of action alleging retaliation while Plaintiff, again, failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether he engaged in a protected activity or that Agency was aware of any such complaint prior to the date on which Plaintiff sent an email specifically complaining of discrimination.

The Appellate Division decided that Plaintiff did not submit sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find a causal connection between any protected activity in which he engaged and any adverse employment action nor did he rebut the Agency’s evidence that any adverse action taken against him was justified by legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.

Accordingly, the court held that Supreme Court had properly granted Agency’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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