Court Dismisses Race Discrimination Complaint; Offers Guidance For Amended Complaint

In a recent decision, Colon v. St. John’s Riverside Hospital, 19-cv-5846 (SDNY Oct. 15, 2019), the court dismissed plaintiff’s race discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

The court summarized the law:

To state an employment discrimination claim under Title VII or § 1981, “a plaintiff must plausibly allege that (1) the [defendants] took adverse employment action against him, and (2) his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor in the employment decision.”3 Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, 86 (2d Cir. 2015); Williams v. Classic Sec., No. 18-CV-1691, 2019 WL 4511953, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 19, 2019) (using the Vega pleading standard for § 1981 employment discrimination claims). The plaintiff “may do so by alleging facts that directly show discrimination or facts that indirectly show discrimination by giving rise to a plausible inference of discrimination.” Vega, 801 F. 3d at 87.

Applying the law to the facts, the court held:

Plaintiff asserts claims under Title VII and § 1981 that SJRH discriminated against him because of his race. But he does not allege sufficient facts, either in his complaint or in its supplements, to suggest that SJRH took any adverse employment action against him for which his race was a motivating factor.

In one of the complaint’s supplements, Plaintiff alleges that he has been made to work more than his colleagues and that he is the only Hispanic among them. (ECF 4, p. 3) (“I am required to conduct additional work, because the supervisor cosigns the [other] employees[’] lack [of] employment ethics, not wanting to work at all, … not completing [their] work and stay[ing] in the office talking with the supervisor. I am curious to know, can this be an issue because I am the only Hispanic in the unit.”). Plaintiff’s speculation that he may have been discriminated against because of his race is insufficient to state a claim. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“The [Rule 8] plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant’s liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). And Plaintiff alleges no facts in any other part of his complaint or its supplements – including in his attached emails and internal complaints to SJRH officials – to suggest that SJRH took adverse employment action against him for which his race was a motivating factor.

*3 Accordingly, Plaintiff’s complaint and its supplements fail to state a plausible claim of employment discrimination under Title VII or § 1981.

All was not lost, however, as the court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. It provided the following guidance:

To the greatest extent possible, Plaintiff’s amended complaint must:

a) give the names and titles of all relevant persons;

b) describe all relevant events, stating the facts that support Plaintiff’s case, including what each defendant did or failed to do;

c) give the dates and times of each relevant event or, if not known, the approximate date and time of each relevant event;

d) give the location where each relevant event occurred;

e) describe how each defendant’s acts or omissions violated Plaintiff’s rights and describe the injuries Plaintiff suffered; and

f) state what relief Plaintiff seeks from the Court, such as money damages, injunctive relief, or declaratory relief.

Essentially, the body of Plaintiff’s amended complaint must tell the Court: who has violated his federally protected rights; what facts suggest that his federally protected rights have been violated; when such violations have occurred; where such violations have occurred; and why Plaintiff is entitled to relief. Because Plaintiff’s amended complaint will completely replace, not supplement, the original complaint, any facts or claims that Plaintiff wishes to maintain must be included in the amended complaint.

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