Title VII Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Sufficiently Stated Against Tidal et al

From LISETTE PAULSON, Plaintiff, v. TIDAL, ROC NATION, DESIREE PEREZ, JOSEPH BORRINO, and DOES 1-10, Inclusive, Defendants., 16-cv-9049, 2018 WL 3432166 (S.D.N.Y. July 18, 2018):

Paulson alleges that Tidal discriminated against her in violation of Title VII. (Am. Compl. ¶ 29.) A plaintiff bringing a Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit must allege that (i) she is a member of a protected class, (ii) she was qualified for the position she sought, and (iii) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (iv) sustain a minimal burden of showing facts suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation. Littlejohn v. City of N.Y., 795 F.3d 297, 311 (2d Cir. 2015).
Tidal argues that Paulson is not a member of a protected class by virtue of her need to express breast milk and, thus, that Plaintiff fails to adequately plead the first element of a Title VII claim.1 (Defs. Br. at 21.) The Court disagrees. “ ‘[L]actation is a related medical condition of pregnancy for purposes of the [Pregnancy Discrimination Act]’.” E.E.O.C. v. Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc., No. 13-cv-6088 JPO, 2014 WL 2619812 at *6 (S.D.N.Y. June 5, 2014) (quoting E.E.O.C. v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., 717 F.3d 425, 428-30 (5th Cir. 2013)); see also Grewcock v. Yale New Haven Health Servs. Corp., 293 F. Supp. 3d 272, 274 (D. Conn. 2017) (concluding that breast milk expression is subject to protection under Title VII); Pawlow v. Dep’t of Emergency Servs. & Pub. Prot., 172 F. Supp. 3d 568, 574-75 (D. Conn. 2016) (same). Because lactation is a “[pregnancy] related medical condition” under Title VII, and Plaintiff alleges that Tidal discriminated against her because of her need to express breast milk, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that she is a member of a protected class. See 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 2000e-2(a) (LexisNexis 2012), 2000e(k) (LexisNexis 2009).
Paulson also pleads sufficiently the three remaining elements of her Title VII claim against Tidal. First, the Court infers from Paulson’s allegations that she was qualified for her position with Tidal. After initially hiring Paulson as a part-time consultant and evaluating her qualifications for several months, Tidal expanded Paulson’s role and hired her as a full-time employee. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-17.) If Tidal had determined Paulson was unqualified, it would not have offered her full-time employment. Second, Paulson allegedly suffered an adverse employment action when she was terminated from Tidal. See Galabya v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Educ., 202 F.3d 636, 640 (2d Cir. 2000). Third, Paulson’s allegations sustain the minimal burden of showing facts suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation. The close temporal relationship between (i) Paulson’s efforts to secure appropriate accommodations to express breast milk, (ii) Tidal’s negative reaction to those efforts, and (iii) Plaintiff’s termination from Tidal, viewed together, give rise to an inference of discrimination. See Briggs v. Women in Need, Inc., 819 F. Supp. 2d 119, 128 (E.D.N.Y. 2011). Therefore, Defendants’ motion is denied as to Plaintiff’s Title VII claim against Tidal.
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