Anti-Male Gender Discrimination Complaint Survives Dismissal

In Khwaja v. Jobs to Move America et al, 19 Civ. 7070, 2021 WL 3911290 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 1, 2021), the court adopted a Magistrate Judge’s Report & Recommendation in full, and held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In sum, plaintiff – who worked as a Campaign Director at defendant – alleges, inter alia, that defendants made comments disfavoring men, adopted hiring practices favoring women over men, favored female-headed offices over his own, and prevented him from publishing a piece on sexual harassment under his own name because of his sex.

After outlining the elements for a sex-based discrimination (including the steps of the applicable “McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework”), the court applied it to the facts:

While the Amended Complaint acknowledges that Defendants sometimes sought to hire men, Khwaja also alleges that for certain positions Defendants had explicitly discriminatory hiring practices. And while Defendants try to dismiss many of Khwaja’s allegations as benign workplace conflicts or offer their spin on the evidence, at this stage the Court must accept the allegations of the Amended Complaint as true. To take just a couple of examples, Khwaja’s allegations that Defendants knowingly provided greater support to female-headed than to male-headed offices, and avoided hiring male managers like Khwaja, if true, give rise to a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation. See Report at 12-13 (listing certain allegations made by Khwaja that support the “minimal inference” that gender was a motivating in his termination). Moreover, even if each individual incident had a potential benign explanation, a plaintiff may plead many individually small “bits and pieces” to show a patterned “mosaic” of intent. Judge Aaron thus correctly determined that the pattern of sex-based treatment alleged in the Amended Complaint plausibly gives rise to a sufficient inference of sex discrimination to survive dismissal.

Defendants also argue that Khwaja’s allegations that, in the workplace, Janis “[a]lmost on a weekly basis leading up to [Khwaja’s] termination … spoke disparagingly of men and characterized them as ‘violent,’ ” and that Janis called Khwaja “one of the few non-violent ones,” amount to irrelevant “stray remark[s].” But repeated discriminatory comments by a decisionmaker in the lead-up to a termination decision can give rise to a plausible inference of discrimination. Given the other allegations of discriminatory motivation in the Amended Complaint, these comments further support a plausible inference of discriminatory intent.

[Citations omitted; cleaned up.]

The court also held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged retaliation, noting (inter alia) plaintiff’s allegation that he raised concerns about gender discrimination, that defendants knew and opposed his requests to train staf on harassment and discrimination at work, and that he discussed with defendants his concerns about defendant’s failure to comply with New York State’s anti-harassment legislation shortly before his termination.

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