Court Dismisses Race Discrimination Claim; Disciplinary Notice and Negative Evaluation Were Not “Adverse Employment Actions”

In Orange v. Leake & Watts Inc., No. 13-CV-6110 KBF, 2015 WL 2340649 (S.D.N.Y. May 15, 2015), the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff’s race discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Plaintiff, an African American assistant teacher, alleged “that she suffered an adverse employment action when she received a written disciplinary notice following her perceived racist comments about an Asian teacher and a negative performance evaluation for failing to work effectively with her head teacher.”

“To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, plaintiff must show that: (1) she belonged to a protected class, (2) she was qualified for the position she held, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discriminatory intent.”

Here, elements one and two were undisputed. The court held, however, that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination because there was no “adverse employment action” and no “inference of discrimination.”

As to the “adverse employment action” element, the court explained:

Plaintiff claims that her disciplinary notice and negative evaluation constitute adverse employment actions. However, [a] plaintiff sustains an adverse employment action if he or she endures a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment. A materially adverse change might be indicated by a termination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, significantly diminished material responsibilities, or other indices … unique to a particular situation. Here, plaintiff does not allege a single negative consequence of her disciplinary notice or performance evaluation outside of simply receiving the documents themselves. There is no evidence in the record of her being terminated, demoted, given a lesser title, given lesser responsibilities, or given lesser pay and benefits; accordingly, neither the disciplinary report nor the negative evaluation would reasonably deter a similarly situated person from engaging in protected activity.

The court also found no triable issue giving rise to an inference of discriminatory intent, noting that “[p]laintiff makes no supported allegation of racial discrimination by the school nor can she point to similarly situated employees who were treated differently.”

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