2d Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Race Discrimination Claims; Inference of Discrimination Not Shown

In Dunn v. URS Corp., 2017 WL 5952704 (2d Cir. Dec. 1, 2017) (Summary Order), the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant on plaintiff’s claims of discriminatory termination, denials of salary increases, and failure to rehire on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court summarized the law as follows:

In order to establish a prima facie case for discriminatory termination, failure to rehire, or unequal pay, Dunn must establish that he is a member of a protected class who was qualified for the position and suffered the adverse employment action in a way that gives rise to an inference of discrimination. See, e.g., Williams v. R.H. Donnelley, Corp., 368 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2004). We have previously observed that “[t]he burden of proof that must be met to permit an employment-discrimination plaintiff to survive a summary judgment motion at the prima facie stage is de minimis.” Chambers v. TRM Copy Centers Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal punctuation omitted). We are mindful that on a motion for summary judgment, the reviewing court’s determination of “whether the circumstances give rise to an inference of discrimination must be a determination of whether the proffered admissible evidence shows circumstances that would be sufficient to permit a rational finder of fact to infer a discriminatory motive

The court held that plaintiff is “unable to establish that the adverse employment action was taken in a way that gives rise to an inference of discrimination.”

Citing its own precedent, the court explained how a plaintiff might show the necessary “inference of discrimination”:

Circumstances contributing to a permissible inference of discriminatory intent may include the employer’s continuing, after discharging the plaintiff, to seek applicants from persons of the plaintiff’s qualifications to fill that position, or the employer’s criticism of the plaintiff’s performance in ethnically degrading terms, or its invidious comments about others in the employee’s protected group, or the more favorable treatment of employees not in the protected group, or the sequence of events leading to the plaintiff’s discharge, or the timing of the discharge.

Plaintiff “did not present any evidence that his termination and failure to rehire were motivated by discrimination.” The  plaintiff identified a list of several employees – non of whom were black – who received pay raises; defendant countered that there were at least two black employees not on plaintiff’s list who received pay increases.

This dispute was “not material, however, because there was no showing by [plaintiff] of the type of work performed by the twelve individuals” and there fore there was “no basis to conclude that they were comparably situated.”

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