Title VII Race Discrimination Claim Survives Against NYS Dept. of Motor Vehicles

In Calise v. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 17-cv-791, 2018 WL 4350247 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 12, 2018), plaintiff, a white woman, asserted claims of race discrimination – based on alleged mistreatment by her boss, who is black – under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

In an earlier post, I discussed the court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s non-Title VII claims on sovereign immunity/Eleventh Amendment grounds. Here I will discuss the court’s assessment of plaintiff’s Title VII claims.

The court held that plaintiff failed to establish a hostile work environment claim:

The majority of plaintiff’s allegations concern the denial of overtime opportunities and disciplinary decisions allegedly taken on account of her race. These are discrete, adverse employment decisions. To the extent plaintiff alleges Parker insulted her by calling black employees “brother,” “sister,” and “Brother Malcolm,” these comments are certainly not insults, nor were they directed at plaintiff.

To the contrary, it denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s Title VII employment discrimination claim:

[A]t the pleadings stage of an employment discrimination case, a plaintiff has a minimal burden of alleging facts suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation.” Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d at 85 (internal quotation omitted) (emphasis in original). “Plaintiff can raise an inference of discrimination ‘by showing that the employer subjected him to disparate treatment, that is, treated him less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside his protected group.’ ” Whittle v. County of Sullivan, 2017 WL 5197154, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 8, 2017) (quoting Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 2000) ).

Plaintiff has sufficiently stated an adverse employment action. Plaintiff alleges, among other things, she was denied the opportunity to earn overtime over the course of many years, and she received notices of discipline for arriving late, which were used for compensation and termination decisions, performance evaluations, and other determinations that could lead to materially adverse changes in plaintiff’s employment.

Further, plaintiff has pleaded sufficient facts to raise an inference of discrimination. Specifically, plaintiff alleges she was treated differently from black employees with the same positions and job responsibilities, who reported to the same supervisors.

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