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February 24, 2023

Evaluating a defendant's motion for summary judgment in the course of Title VII litigation

The complainant [Plaintiff] in this Title VII action appealed the decision of a United States District Court to grant the Employer and several named employees of the Employer [Defendants'] motions for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff’s claims. 

Plaintiff had alleged that the Defendants had  (1) discriminated against him after one of his coworkers claimed he had engaged in workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment; (2) retaliated against him for appealing, pursuant to his union contract, subsequent adverse disciplinary decisions; and (3) violated his due process rights in the course of investigating and responding to the allegations of his alleged workplace misconduct. 

Reviewing the lower court's decision granting summary judgment to Defendants de novo, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals noted that summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." To establish a due process violation, said the court, a plaintiff must show that he possessed “a protected liberty or property interest” and that he was deprived of that interest “without constitutionally adequate process.” In addition, the Plaintiff must “establish [an individually named] defendant’s personal involvement in the claimed violation in order to hold that defendant liable in his individual capacity.”

The Circuit Court, observing that Plaintiff failed to address the district court’s dismissal of his intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation claims in his brief, held that Plaintiff waived those issues for purposes of this appeal, citing Norton v. Sam’s Club, 145 F.3d 114. In Norton that Second Circuit Court held that “Issues not sufficiently argued in the briefs are considered waived and normally will not be addressed on appeal.”

Here the Circuit Court concluded that "there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on each of [Plaintiff's] discrimination, retaliation, and due process claims."

Addressing Plaintiff 's due process claims against individual Defendants, the Circuit Court affirm the district court's ruling on the basis of qualified immunity, explaining the “unlawfulness of their conduct”—if any—was not “clearly established at the time.” With respect to Plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim, the Circuit Court  affirm the district court's ruling holding that Plaintiff had not been engage in any relevant Title VII-protected activity.

Click HERE to access the Circuit Court's decision posted on the Internet.

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