Race Discrimination Claim Survives Summary Judgment; Evidence Included Supervisor’s Use of the “N-Word” and Favorable Treatment of White Co-Worker

In Vaughn v. Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway et al, No. 14-CV-10297 (KMK), 2017 WL 3017503 (S.D.N.Y. July 14, 2017), the court (inter alia) denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim that he was subjected to discrimination – by being terminated and suspended – because of his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Among other things, plaintiff – a black male – presented evidence of a number of comments by his supervisor (Munroe) “that a trier of fact could conclude evidence a discriminatory mindset.” These included referring to plaintiff as a “nigger” and a “little black monkey.” Plaintiff also presented evidence that he was treated differently than another employee (a white female).

After reviewing this (and other) evidence, the court concluded:

In light of the above facts, Plaintiff has established a prima facie case. Defendants have rebutted that case by offering a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the disparity—Plaintiff’s disciplinary history and purportedly more egregious behavior. But for many of the same reasons discussed above, Plaintiff has raised a triable issue of fact as to whether that reasoning is a pretext for discrimination. See Sista v. CDC Ixis N. Am., Inc., 445 F.3d 161, 173 (2d Cir. 2006) (holding that pretext “may be demonstrated either by the presentation of additional evidence showing that the employer’s proffered explanation is unworthy of credence, or by reliance on the evidence comprising the prima facie case, without more” (internal quotation marks omitted)). As noted, in Defendants’ statement to the EEOC, they reference only two of the four interactions Oswald had with the minor. (See DeGiuseppe Aff. Ex. II, at 3–4.) Moreover, Defendants misrepresented to the EEOC that Plaintiff had been disciplined twice for insubordination, when in fact he had been disciplined only once. (See id. at 4.) These are the types of “weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, or contradictions” that entitle a plaintiff to the opportunity to present to a trier of fact the question of whether a defendant’s facially legitimate explanations are merely pretext for discrimination. Zann Kwan, 737 F.3d at 846. And although it is not sufficient merely to present evidence sufficient to allow a factfinder “to disbelieve the employer,” Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 42 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted), Plaintiff has not simply offered reasons to disbelieve YRC’s stated rationale, but has also presented evidence that a similarly situated comparator was treated more favorably than Plaintiff. … In such circumstances, summary judgment is not appropriate.

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