Catholic Plaintiff’s Title VII “Reverse Religious Discrimination” Complaint Dismissed

In Cocca-Rau v. Standard Insurance Company, 2020 WL 4207442 (S.D.N.Y. July 22, 2020), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint alleging religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In sum, plaintiff alleges that she suffered an adverse employment action (termination) because of her membership in a protected class (Catholic).

After reviewing pertinent case law regarding the standard applicable to defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court identified the relevant question as

whether Plaintiff can sustain a minimal burden of showing facts suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation or whether Plaintiff has plausibly allege[d] that … [her] race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor in the employment decision.

The court concluded that plaintiff’s allegations fail under either standard:

The allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint do not give rise to a plausible inference of discrimination based on Plaintiff’s Catholic religion. In fact, Plaintiff does not include a single allegation from which the Court can infer that she faced any discrimination based on her religion.

*7 Rather, Plaintiff advances the theory that she faced discrimination “on account of her being non-Jewish” which, according to Plaintiff, is actionable “reverse discrimination.” Pl. Opp’n at 6. While Plaintiff is correct that Title VII forbids “reverse discrimination,” see McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co., 427 U.S. 273, 279 (1976), a plaintiff still must allege that they faced discrimination because of their religion. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual … because of such individuals … religion” (emphasis added)). A reverse discrimination claim cannot lie if the plaintiff does not allege that they faced discrimination because of a protected characteristic. Plaintiff could, of course, allege that she faced discrimination based on her Catholic religion. However, Plaintiff makes no such allegation here and the Court therefore cannot plausibly infer that her religion was a motivating factor in her termination. The Court has searched and not found any support for the proposition that a claim of religious discrimination can exist for a “non-Jewish” person.

Additionally, and separately dispositive of Plaintiff’s Title VII claim, the majority of Plaintiff’s allegations are based upon Plaintiff’s beliefs. See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 11 (“Plaintiff was fired, in her view, because she is a non-Jew who acted appropriately regarding possible insurance fraud potentially perpetrated by an ultra-Orthodox (Hasidic) person, and as a matter of ‘political correctness,’ the Standard feared an accusation that it was being labeled ‘anti-Semitic’ by its examining possible fraud by one or more Jewish claimants.” (emphasis added)); id. ¶ 13 (“Upon information and belief, if Plaintiff had been Hasidic herself, and pointed out the same evidence of potential fraud, she would not have been fired, or even criticized.” (emphasis added)); id. ¶ 52 (“Upon information and belief, the unfounded accusations against Plaintiff are the result of religiously-motivated bias by Defendant.” (emphasis added)); id. ¶ 53 (“Upon information and belief, the fact that Plaintiff was making any comment that a Jewish broker or members of a Hasidic school or community may have committed or condoned insurance fraud … were construed by Defendant as being ‘anti-Semitic.’ ” (emphasis added)). Even if Plaintiff had alleged that she faced discrimination because of her Catholic religion, Plaintiff’s Complaint, which is based almost entirely on her beliefs would be insufficient to state a claim for relief. See Gilford v. NYS Office of Mental Health, No. 17-CV-8033, 2019 WL 1113306, at *5–6 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 2019) (“No matter what the pleading standard is, her complaint must at least contain enough factual allegations that are not made upon information and belief to ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.’ ” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)); Negrete v. Citibank, N.A., 187 F. Supp. 3d 454, 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2016), aff’d, 759 F. App’x 42 (2d Cir. 2019) (“[W]hile ‘a plaintiff may plead facts alleged upon information and belief where the belief is based on factual information that makes the inference of culpability plausible, such allegations must be ‘accompanied by a statement of the facts upon which the belief is founded.’ ” (quoting Munoz–Nagel v. Guess, Inc., No. 12-cv-1312, 2013 WL 1809772, *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2013))).

Based on this, the court dismissed plaintiff’s Title VII claim.

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