In Irons v. Bedford-Stuyvesant Cmty. Legal Servs., No. 13-CV-4467 MKB, 2015 WL 5692860 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2015), the court dismissed a male plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment/hostile work environment, gender discrimination, and retaliation.
Here I’ll discuss one aspect of the case – namely, the court’s decision to grant defendants summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of gender discrimination (disparate treatment) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York State Human Rights Law because plaintiff could not establish that he was “similarly situated” to a comparator employee outside of his protected class.
Here is the law, as summarized by the court:
To establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must show that: (1) he belonged to a protected class; (2) he was qualified for the position he held; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) that the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discriminatory intent. A plaintiff can meet the fourth element of the prima facie case by pointing to similarly-situated employees outside the protected class who did not suffer the same fate. …
A showing of disparate treatment—that is, a showing that an employer treated plaintiff less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside his protected group—is a recognized method of raising an inference of discrimination for the purposes of making out a prima facie case [of discrimination]. To be “similarly situated,” the plaintiff must establish that he was similarly situated in all material respects to the individuals with whom he seeks to compare h[im]self. What facts establish similarity in “all material respects” varies from case to case, but the inquiry generally rests on whether the plaintiff and the putative comparator were subject to the same workplace standards. … A plaintiff need not show that he and the putative comparator are identical, but rather that there is a reasonably close resemblance of the facts and circumstances of plaintiff’s and comparator’s cases.
In this case, plaintiff (a male attorney) argued that his case should reach a jury because while he was terminated, a female attorney (Giles) who allegedly “had a demonstrably worse performance record than he did” was retained.
The court disagreed, explaining:
[T]he differences between Irons and Giles are too great to conclude that they were similarly situated for the purposes of layoffs. Irons was Giles’ direct supervisor, and Irons was a manager while Giles was not. Irons had additional responsibilities as a manger, and thus his overall performance and value was subject to evaluation on different grounds than Giles’, which further undermines his assertion that they were similarly situated.
Since plaintiff failed to proffer sufficient evidence to support his argument that his employment was terminated under circumstances giving rise to an inference of sex discrimination, defendants were entitled to summary judgment.