Gender Discrimination, But Not Retaliation, Claim Continues Against City of Syracuse; District Court Did Not Consider All Circumstances When Evaluating Pretext

In Dotson v. City of Syracuse, No. 15-3631, 2017 WL 1437131, at *2 (2d Cir. Apr. 24, 2017) (Summary Order), the Second Circuit held that the district court improperly dismissing plaintiff’s gender discrimination claim.

Among other things, this decision teaches that at the “pretext” step of the discrimination claim analysis, the evidence must be considered as a whole, rather than piecemeal.

From the Order:

Dotson claimed that she was disciplined for insubordination in 2008 and again in 2012 because of her gender. The district court determined that Dotson’s employer had articulated a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for disciplining her in both 2008 and 2012, and that Dotson failed to put forth sufficient evidence that the reason was pretextual to survive summary judgment. We agree that Dotson presented insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that her 2012 suspension was due to gender discrimination. As to her discipline in 2008, however, the district court failed to consider Dotson’s evidence as a whole when evaluating pretext, thus necessitating vacatur and remand for further consideration. See Walsh, 828 F.3d at 76; Danzer, 151 F.3d at 56. Specifically, Dotson presented evidence that two individuals who were involved in the decision to discipline her in 2008—Captain Sweeny and Sergeant Kleist—used derogatory words to refer to women in the workplace and made discriminatory remarks aimed at women employees. Most significantly, there is evidence that Sweeny stated that “broads can’t work together” because “[t]hey’ll just be calling for back up all the time,” J.A. at 3138, and that Kleist said that “he could not take hiring another woman” because “he [wa]s tired of dealing with their problems,” id. at 3134-35. The district court did not reference this record evidence or analyze it in evaluating whether Dotson came forward with sufficient evidence of pretext so that a reasonable jury might conclude, based on the record as a whole, that she suffered discrimination in connection with the 2008 suspension. For this reason, we vacate and remand Dotson’s discrimination claim as to her 2008 discipline for the district court to conduct this analysis. (Emphasis added.)

The court held, however, that plaintiff’s retaliation claim was properly dismissed. Here, the time between the commencement of plaintiff’s earlier lawsuit and the alleged retaliation was about eight years – which, according to the court, was too long to support a finding of retaliation on the basis of temporal proximity.

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