Second Circuit Vacates Summary Judgment for Employer in Race Discrimination Case

Kirkland v. Cablevision Systems, decided by the Second Circuit on July 25, 2014, is an example of when summary judgment is inappropriate in an employment discrimination case. The court vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment for defendant employer Cablevision Systems on pro se plaintiff Garry Kirkland’s race discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“In awarding Cablevision summary judgment, the District Court overlooked evidence raising a genuine factual dispute as to whether Cablevision’s justifications for firing Kirkland were a pretext for race discrimination and retaliation.” Summary judgment was inappropriate since “[a] rational jury, viewing the disputed evidence in Kirkland’s favor, could find that Cablevision discriminated against Kirkland and fired him in violation of Title VII.”

The court cited evidence – including that plaintiff was singled out from his white colleagues by being given “heavy criticism” and that defendant “falsified and back-dated documents” to support plaintiff’s poor performance reviews – from which a reasonable jury might conclude that “despite [plaintiff]’s negative performance reviews, his firing was more likely than not based in whole or in part on discrimination” and that the “retaliation would not have occurred but-for the alleged wrongful actions.”

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