Discrimination Claims Proceed as to Some, But Not All, Alleged Adverse Employment Actions

In Collazo v. Cty. of Suffolk, No. 12-CV-2196, 2016 WL 660856 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 17, 2016), the court summarized various ways in which a Title VII plaintiff can demonstrate the requisite “inference of discrimination” as part of the prima facie case element of a discrimination claim:

An inference of discrimination can be found in circumstances that include: (1) criticism of the employee’s performance using ethnically degrading language; (2) invidious comments regarding other individuals in the employee’s protected group; (3) treating individuals outside the employee’s protected group more favorably; (4) the circumstances leading up to the adverse employment action; and (5) evidence that the employer treated the employee less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside his protected group.

Applying the law to the facts, the court concluded:

Plaintiff has made a prima facie showing that her remaining adverse employment actions—being stripped of her responsibilities, having necessary documents withheld, and being placed in an isolated cubicle—arose under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that these adverse actions took place during August and October 2009. [Defendant] issued her English-only directive in July 2009 and made the “senorita” comment in August 2009. The temporal proximity of these incidents to the adverse employment actions raises an inference of discrimination. … Additionally, Plaintiff has alleged that other … employees were permitted to speak in their native language in the workplace while she and other Hispanic employees were barred from speaking Spanish.

Thus, the court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiff’s “claim that being stripped of her responsibilities, isolated from her coworkers, and having information withheld constituted adverse actions that took place under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.”

However, it granted the motion with respect to plaintiff’s other alleged adverse employment actions, namely, “being prohibited from speaking Spanish, assigned a disproportionate amount of work, involuntarily transferred, suspended without pay, and constructively discharged.”