Employment Discrimination Claims Should Not Have Been Dismissed in Light of Discovery Dispute

In Gachette v. Metro North-High Bridge, 2018 WL 456723 (2d Cir. Jan. 18, 2018) (Summary Order), the Second Circuit vacated the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s disparate treatment claims, in light of an unresolved discovery dispute.

From the Order:

At the start, we conclude that vacatur is appropriate as to Gachette’s claims of disparate treatment by Metro-North under § 1981, NYSHRL, and NYCHRL, so that the district court may, in the first instance, address the merits of whether Gachette’s motion to compel the production of overtime records should be granted. Gachette claims that Metro-North gave him less overtime pay because he identifies as “black African or Afro-American.” Record on Appeal (“ROA”) doc. 25-1, at 36:4–6. The record suggests that Gachette attempted to gather proof of this allegation by serving Metro-North with a request for overtime records on May 21, 2013. When Metro-North failed to respond to Gachette’s discovery request, Gachette repeatedly notified both Metro-North and the district court of Metro-North’s non-compliance by filing letters with the district court on June 28, 2013, July 19, 2013, and October 24, 2013. The district court construed Gachette’s October 24, 2013 letter as a motion to compel and summarily denied the motion on October 25, 2013, reasoning that discovery closed on May 31, 2013 and that defendants had already filed for summary judgment on July 12, 2013. …

The district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants was premature without first resolving this discovery dispute. In its opinion granting summary judgment, the district court specifically observed that “[a]lthough [Gachette] believes he received as little as half the overtime of white electricians, he concedes that he does not have proof other than ‘common sense’ and his own complaint.” ROA doc. 52, at 5. Metro-North itself represented to the district court that its overtime records are relevant to proving Gachette’s claims, but then failed to produce those records. These overtime records could very well create a disputed issue of material fact and preclude summary judgment. See Tolbert, 790 F.3d at 434. Therefore, we vacate and remand the portion of the district court’s opinion which granted summary judgment to Metro-North on Gachette’s disparate treatment claims pursuant to § 1981, NYSHRL, and NYCHRL.

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