Title VII Retaliation Claim Dismissed; Supervisor Dispute Did Not Constitute Sufficient Opposition

In Wright v. Whitsons Culinary Group, 20-cv-667, 2020 WL 1957529 (EDNY April 23, 2020), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s complaint as it did not sufficiently/plausibly allege that he was subjected to retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (I discussed the discrimination portion of the decision here.)

From the decision:

Title VII also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee based on the employee’s opposition to an unlawful employment practice. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). To state a plausible Title VII claim for retaliation, “[a] plaintiff must plausibly allege that: (1) defendants discriminated — or took an adverse employment action — against him, (2) ‘because’ he has opposed any unlawful employment practice.” Vega, 801 F.3d at 90.

It is important, however, to bear in mind that complaints about “just any law” will not suffice – the plaintiff must “have had a good faith, reasonable belief that he was opposing an employment practice made unlawful by Title VII.” Kelly v. Howard I. Shapiro & Assocs. Consulting Eng’rs, P.C., 716 F.3d 10, 14 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Additionally, although the plaintiff’s “complaints may be informal, they cannot be so vague or ‘generalized’ that the employer could not ‘reasonably have understood[ ] that the plaintiff’s complaint was directed at conduct prohibited by Title VII.’ ” Bowen-Hooks v. City of New York, No. 10 CV 5947, 2014 WL 1330941, at *26 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2014) (quoting Rojas v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 660 F.3d 98, 108 (2d Cir. 2011)).

Even under the most liberal interpretation of Plaintiff’s allegations, the court cannot find that Plaintiff has stated a plausible retaliation claim. The only complaint described in Plaintiff’s filings is Plaintiff’s alleged dispute with his supervisor about picking up trash in violation of company policy. Plaintiff does not allege any facts suggesting that Plaintiff made any complaints regarding unlawful employment practices whatsoever, and his conclusory allegations that Defendant retaliated against him based on his race, color, gender, or national origin are unsupported by the facts.

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