Assistant Mail Carrier’s Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Survives Summary Judgment

In Shkolnikova v. DeJoy, 18-CV-6400 (MKB), 2022 WL 3358077 (E.D.N.Y. August 15, 2022), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of pregnancy discrimination asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Applying the McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting framework, the court found that plaintiff presented a prima facie case and that defendant proffered nondiscriminatory, legitimate reasons to reduce plaintiff’s work hours, remove her from the schedule, and terminate her.

As to the third and final element, pretext, the court explained:

The Court finds that there are genuine material issues of fact regarding Plaintiff’s reduction of work hours, elimination from the schedule, and termination, all of which preclude summary judgment. While Defendant claims that it could only address Plaintiff’s restrictions by not allowing her to perform any work, a reasonable jury could find, based on the evidence, that there were potential alternative ways to address and accommodate Plaintiff’s restrictions. Livingston’s initial communications suggests that Defendant could have found alternative ways to accommodate Plaintiff. First, Livingston acknowledged in an email that Plaintiff had insisted that she was capable of working. Livingston wrote an email on February 23, 2016 to Impronto, Doxsey, Bryant, and Rudy, advising them that Plaintiff had given her a doctor’s letter and that Plaintiff “was insistent that she could perform the duties and task[s] of the position.” (Pl.’s Ex. 7.) Second, Livingston suggested that Plaintiff be allowed to stay home until after her maternity leave. Livingston acknowledged in her email that Plaintiff was “not proficient in the office and will be leaving prior to or right after her probationary period,” and asked whether Plaintiff could be “left home” until after her maternity leave. (Id.) Thus, even assuming that the short-term leave of absence would not be permitted under the relevant CBA, (Def.’s Reply 9), Livingston’s email indicates that there were multiple options available. Third, even if the managers of Defendant’s branches do not have the authority to grant or deny specific requests for reasonable accommodations without the full decision-making process of the DRAC, the relevant CBA does not indicate that it is necessary for an employee to be removed from the work schedule in advance of the DRAC process. (Livingston Dep. 23:16–24.) Fourth, it is unclear whether Defendant attempted to investigate any accommodation for Plaintiff prior to the DRAC referral. Bryant, Chairperson of the DRAC, stated in her EEO Investigative Affidavit that she did not have any knowledge of whether Homecrest “looked for work or tried to accommodate [Plaintiff]’s restrictions[ ] prior to the DRAC referral.” (EEO Investigative Aff. of Tenagh Bryant dated Aug. 1, 2016 (“Bryant EEO Aff.”), annexed to Pl.’s Opp’n as Ex. 23, Docket Entry No. 60-23.)

A reasonable juror could also find that Defendant could have offered Plaintiff a truck as a reasonable accommodation, particularly since Livingston had included driving in her February 29 Letter as one of the areas where Dr. Stromer’s assessment of Plaintiff’s capabilities was required, (see Def.’s Ex. 18; Def.’s 56.1 ¶¶ 45–46); Plaintiff attended a course on truck driving through the USPS on March 1, 2016, (Pl.’s Dep. 115:3–5); and Plaintiff testified that Ms. W. was “given an accommodation by driving a truck and delivering light packages,” (id. at 131:24–132:4). There is also a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Lawson ordered Plaintiff to attend mandatory retraining between March 17 and March 19, 2016, (Def.’s 56.1 ¶ 96), which Lawson denies, (id. ¶ 98).

Further, Plaintiff was terminated from her probationary period because of an inability to work, (see Termination Letter), which was directly affected by her participation in the reasonable accommodation process and ultimate denial of her reasonable accommodation. While Defendant argues that Plaintiff could not be evaluated because her physical limitations prevented her from performing a CCA’s essential functions — “arduous exertion involving prolonged standing, walking, bending and reaching, and … handling heavy containers of mail weighing up to the allowable maximum mailing weight,” (Def.’s 56.1 ¶ 13), Livingston’s deposition testimony as to the factors considered in evaluating probationary employees — attendance, attitude, getting along with others, following instructions, and ability to understand and perform tasks — differ from these essential functions, (Livingston Dep. 39:8–23). The purported essential functions are also different from Defendant’s stated “purpose” of a probationary period, which is to evaluate employees on the following factors: work quantity, work quality, dependability, work relations, work methods, and personal conduct. (Def.’s 56.1 ¶ 17.) Finally, Defendant does not explain why Plaintiff was only considered “off-duty” beginning on March 19, 2016, as stated in her Termination Letter, when Defendant removed her from the work schedule more than two weeks prior on February 29, 2016. (Termination Letter 1 (“However, you have been in an off-duty status, commencing March 19, 2016.”).)

Based on the foregoing, a reasonable jury could conclude that the stated reasons for Plaintiff’s reduction of work hours, elimination from the schedule, and termination were pretextual. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 38 (2d Cir. 1994) (“[L]ooking at the statements, actions, and inactions of [the defendant] and its employees, questions and inconsistencies abound as to the reason for [the plaintiff’s] discharge.” (declining to grant summary judgment on Title VII discrimination claim)).

Based on this, the court denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s discrimination claim.

Share This: