2d Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Title VII Gender Discrimination Claim; Pretext Not Shown

In DeMuth v. United States Small Business Administration, 2020 WL 3721115 (2d Cir. July 7, 2020) (Summary Order), the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal (on summary judgment) of plaintiff’s gender discrimination claim asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court concisely summarized the well-established legal framework for evaluating such claims:

Employment discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII are analyzed under the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973) (discrimination); Kwan v. Andalex Grp. LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 843-44 (2d Cir. 2013) (retaliation). Under this framework, (1) a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination (or retaliation); (2) if the employee does so, the burden then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory (or non-retaliatory) reason for the adverse action. See McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817; Kwan, 737 F.3d at 835. If the employer satisfies its burden, the plaintiff must then show that the reasons presented were a “pretext for discrimination” (or retaliation). Lenzi v. Systemax, Inc., 944 F.3d 97, 108 (2d Cir. 2019) (internal quotation marks omitted). To survive summary judgment, “[t]he plaintiff must produce not simply some evidence, but sufficient evidence to support a rational finding that the legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons proffered by the defendant were false, and that more likely than not discrimination [or retaliation] was the real reason for the employment action.”

Applying the law, the court concluded:

Here, we conclude that no reasonable jury could find that DeMuth was dismissed for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. DeMuth admitted that neither her supervisor, Thomas Guido, nor any other SBA supervisors criticized her work in sexist terms or made derogatory statements about women. Further, though on appeal DeMuth asserts that her colleague William Malek “was unwilling to learn anything from a woman, much less regard me as a coworker,” Appellant’s Br. at 8, beyond this conclusory allegation, she fails to identify any evidence in the record to suggest that her gender or her seeking counseling from the EEO was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate her employment. See Davis, 316 F.3d at 100. Moreover, defendants presented evidence that her declining performance was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for her termination, see McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, and DeMuth failed to present any evidence to show that this was a pretext for discrimination or retaliation, see Weinstock, 224 F.3d at 42. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court did not err when it granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

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