Second Circuit Revives Equal Pay Act and Title VII Discrimination Claims

In Chepak v. Metropolitan Hospital (Summary Order), the Second Circuit recently vacated a trial court’s judgment dismissing plaintiff’s Equal Pay Act and Title VII discrimination claims for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

The court noted that “a complaint alleging workplace discrimination and retaliation need not allege specific facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination”, and that the plaintiff is not required to “allege facts sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” A plaintiff need only provide “factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”

Here, plaintiff’s complaint was sufficient, on its face, to give defendant “fair notice of her claims and the grounds upon which they rested.”

“The Equal Pay Act … prohibits employers from discriminating among employees on the basis of sex by paying higher wages to employees of the opposite sex for ‘equal work.'” A plaintiff asserting an Equal Pay Act claim must demonstrate that

i) the employer pays different wages to employees of the opposite sex;

ii) the employees perform equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility; and

iii) the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.

Plaintiff “alleged that she was given a different title, but required to do the same job for less pay, as her male predecessors.” These allegations, particularly in light of plaintiff’s pro se status, were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss her EPA claim.

Plaintiff likewise sufficiently pleaded a Title VII discrimination claim by alleging “that she is a woman, that she sought promotion to a status and pay level held by similarly situated males, and was denied. ”

It was also improper for the district court to dismiss plaintiff’s Equal Pay Act and Title VII claims based on the job descriptions submitted by a defendant:

While a district court considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) may consider documents upon which the complaint relies, we need not decide whether a complaint that alleges employment discrimination necessarily incorporates by reference the employee’s job description. Whether or not the job descriptions may sometimes be considered on a motion to dismiss, it is clear that the job content and not job title or description is the standard for determining whether there was a violation of the anti-discrimination laws. Even if the job descriptions were properly considered in reviewing defendant’s motion, the job descriptions at most raise issues of fact, and do not, by themselves, provide a basis for dismissing Chepak’s claims.

While the Second Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to state a retaliation claim and improperly named Metropolitan Hospital as a defendant, it gave plaintiff the opportunity to correct those errors in a revised pleading.

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