Pregnancy Discrimination Dismissal Affirmed; Court Cites Negative Performance Feedback and Employer’s Lack of Knowledge of Pregnancy

In Castillo v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 2017 NY Slip Op 07769 (App. Div. 1st Dept. Nov. 9, 2017), the First Department affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s pregnancy discrimination claims under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

Here are the facts, as summarized by the court:

On August 6, 2012, defendant hired plaintiff as a patient care technician, subject to a 90-day probationary period. After plaintiff started her employment, the administrator of the clinic observed plaintiff at work and noticed that she “did not show that she wanted to work.” Two physicians also provided negative feedback to the administrator about plaintiff’s employment, including that the physicians were unhappy with plaintiff, that “she’s not working,” and that she did not meet the standards expected in the department. On September 12, 2012, the administrator met with plaintiff to inform her of their concerns regarding her job performance, and advised her that she needed to improve and show initiative. On September 19, 2012, plaintiff learned that she was pregnant. On September 21, 2012, the administrator scheduled a call with plaintiff and her unit supervisor, and the administrator terminated plaintiff’s employment. [Paragraphing modified.]

In holding that the employer was entitled to summary judgment, the court explained:

Defendant established that plaintiff received negative feedback about her performance during her probationary employment, and was told to improve and show initiative. In response, plaintiff fails to raise a triable issue to support her claims of pregnancy-based employment discrimination under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws. Plaintiff admitted that she was not aware of any facts that would support her claim that she was terminated because of her pregnancy, and she conceded that she did not inform the administrator of her pregnancy. In addition, the administrator stated at her deposition that she did not have any knowledge of plaintiff’s pregnancy prior to plaintiff’s termination[]. On September 20, 2012, plaintiff told her unit supervisor that she was pregnant, but did not tell the administrator. Moreover, the unit supervisor did not tell anybody that plaintiff was pregnant. Plaintiff has failed to show that the reason proffered by defendant is merely a pretext for discrimination against her[.]

If the facts were different – if, say, there was a factual issue as to whether the employer was aware of plaintiff’s pregnancy prior to its decision to terminate her – the case might be closer. However, on these facts, the court holds that dismissal on summary judgment was warranted.

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