Plaintiff Sufficiently Alleges Retaliation and Gender/Race Discrimination (But Not Hostile Work Environment)

In Goodwine v. City of New York, No. 15-CV-2868 (JMF), 2016 WL 3017398 (S.D.N.Y. May 23, 2016), the court denied defendants’ FRCP 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s retaliation and gender/race disparate treatment claims.

Plaintiff, an African American woman employed by the NYC Dept. of Information & Telecommunications, sufficiently alleged retaliation by alleging that (1) she engaged in “protected activity” (formal and informal complaints about alleged discrimination and retaliation), (2) defendants were aware of these complaints, and (3) she suffered “adverse actions” (including harassment, downgrading of her job responsibilities, and a transfer) as a result.

As to her discrimination claims, the court explained:

[A] plaintiff can survive a motion to dismiss if she alleges “(1) that she is a member of a protected class, (2) that she was qualified for the position …, (3) that she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) can sustain a minimal burden of showing facts suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation. With respect to the third element, an adverse employment action is more disruptive than a mere inconvenience or an alteration of job responsibilities[,] and can include termination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, significantly diminished material responsibilities, or other indices unique to a particular situation. With respect to the fourth element, the fact that someone outside the protected class was chosen over a plaintiff will ordinarily suffice for the required inference of discrimination at the initial prima facie stage of the Title VII analysis, including at the pleading stage.

Plaintiff’s Complaint meets those lenient standards. Plaintiff generally alleges that, despite her superior qualifications, she was repeatedly passed over for job vacancies or promotions in favor of predominantly white, predominantly male applicants. Most substantially, Plaintiff alleges that, in July 2008, after an “overtly hostile” interview for a job at ETCP, the position was given to a less qualified white man, who declined it; moreover, the ETCP supervisor then told Plaintiff not to re-apply because, while he knew she was qualified, she would not “fit in.” That is more than sufficient to state a claim for race and gender discrimination.

The court, however, dismissed her hostile work environment claims, noting among other things that most of the allegedly harassing acts were “sex-neutral and race-neutral on their face” and that plaintiff “fails to allege … that the stray remarks using nominally gendered or racial language had a discriminatory motive or signal[ed] views about the role of women [or minorities] in the workplace.”

Share This: