Title VII Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Comparators Were Not “Similarly Situated” to Plaintiff

In Keaton v. Unique People Services, Inc., 15-cv-5354, 2018 WL 3708658 (S.D.N.Y., 2018), the court granted defendants’ (unopposed) motion for summary judgment motion and dismissed plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, finding that the persons to whom plaintiff sought to compare herself were not “similarly situated” to her.

For context, here is the law as summarized by the court:

Employment discrimination claims often rest on circumstantial evidence giving rise to an inference of discrimination, rather than direct evidence of discrimination, because discriminating employers are “unlikely to leave a ‘smoking gun’ attesting to a discriminatory intent.” Chambers v. TRM Copy Centers Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994). “A plaintiff may raise such an inference by showing that the employer subjected him to disparate treatment, that is, treated him less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside his protected group.” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 2000). A potential comparator employee is “similarly situated” when the comparator “share[s] sufficient employment characteristics with that comparator.” McGuinness v. Lincoln Hall, 263 F.3d 49, 53 (2d Cir. 2001). Plaintiff need not show that a comparator is similarly situated in “all respects,” but rather “ ‘all material respects.’ ” Id. (quoting Shumway v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 118 F.3d 60, 64 (2d Cir. 1997) ). The fact-dependent inquiry of whether a comparator is similarly situated in “ ‘all material respects’ … must be judged based on (1) whether the plaintiff and those he maintains were similarly situated were subject to the same workplace standards and (2) whether the conduct for which the employer imposed discipline was of comparable seriousness.” Graham, 230 F.3d at 40. Plaintiff’s burden in this respect is “minimal.”

Applying the law, the court concluded that plaintiff did not make out a prima facie case of discrimination, “because she presented no evidence from which any reasonable jury could conclude that other employees were similarly situated to her and that Unique treated those employees differently for conduct of comparable seriousness.”