“Topless Selfie” Teacher’s Gender Discrimination Claims Continue Against School District

In Miranda v. South Country Central School District, Joseph Giani, et al, 2020 WL 2563091 (EDNY May 21, 2020), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of gender discrimination asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the New York State Human Rights Law.

In this case, plaintiff – a probationary public middle school teacher – was terminated after defendants came into possession of a semi-nude selfie of plaintiff.

From the decision:

For the same reasons that the § 1983 claim survives against Giani, the Title VII and Title IX claims survive against the school district. The complaint alleges that Giani, a decisionmaker who effectuated plaintiff’s termination, commented that plaintiff had to be fired because of her photo. This comment evinced a discriminatory gender-based animus because he specifically attributed the need for plaintiff’s termination to the photo depicting plaintiff’s “female breasts,” not due to any gender-neutral factor. His remark makes it plausible that plaintiff’s termination was sought because of her gender.

The court also held that plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient (at this stage) to state a Monell claim against the school district, noting plaintiff’s allegation that defendant Giani “was a final policymaker as the district’s Superintendent” and further that “[t]here was no indication whether Giani’s decision to fire plaintiff was merely a recommendation or that he needed to obtain the school board’s approval before terminating a probationary teacher.”

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