“Sexually Inflected Dinner Conversation” and “Rudeness” Insufficient to Defeat Summary Judgment on Gender Discrimination Claim

In Hofmann v. Schiavone Contracting Corp., No. 14-2861-CV, 2015 WL 7067853 (2d Cir. Nov. 13, 2015), a Summary Order, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to defendants.

In sum, plaintiff – a female crane operator and member of defendant International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B – alleged that “John Hassler (her supervisor), and her employer instituted a shift to follow her shift on her crane, employed Hassler’s son (John Hassler, Jr.) to work that later shift, and then removed Hofmann’s shift one week later, laying her off.” She asserted “that she should have been allowed to take Hassler, Jr.’s shift or the shift of an operator on a different crane with whom she had previously switched cranes.”

Plaintiff lodged a gender discrimination claim under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYC Admin. Code § 8-107) and a hybrid § 301(a)/duty of fair representation claim under the Labor Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 185(a)).

In affirming the district court, the court explained:

No evidence suggests that appellees’ legitimate, non-discriminatory reason was pretextual or that appellees were motivated by gender animus. Appellees claimed that they no longer needed a crane operator for Hofmann’s shift because changes in the workflow made a later shift better able to accommodate deliveries and coincide with certain construction operations. Hofmann’s claim of pretext is little more than speculation that her employer, her union, and her supervisor collaborated to take a coordinated series of actions culminating in her layoff. Likewise, the only evidence of any gender animus consists of one sexually inflected dinner conversation between [plaintiff’s supervisor] and Hoffman nearly a year before the layoff and [plaintiff’s supervisor]’s subsequent rudeness to her after she rebuffed him. A reasonable jury could not find, on such meager evidence, that appellees took their actions against Hofmann because of her gender.

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