Supervisor’s Conduct, Even if Motivated by Race, Held Insufficient to Support Race Discrimination Claim

In Barton v. Unity Health System, 2019 WL 2261446 (2d Cir. May 28, 2019) (Summary Order), the court, inter alia, affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s race discrimination claim.

On that point, the court explained:

[W]e agree with the District Court that Barton has not established a prima facie case of race-based discrimination because she has not demonstrated that “she suffered an adverse employment action” under “circumstances [that] give rise to an inference of discrimination.” Vega v. Hempstead Union Free Sch. Dist., 801 F.3d 72, 83 (2d Cir. 2015). In attempting to satisfy this requirement, Barton relies principally on evidence of allegedly discriminatory conduct by her supervisor at Unity. But the record contains no evidence suggesting that Barton’s supervisor played any role in her termination—much less the “meaningful” role required to impute the supervisor’s alleged animus to the ultimate decisionmakers. See Bickerstaff v. Vassar Coll., 196 F.3d 435, 450 (2d Cir. 1999) (“[T]he impermissible bias of a single individual at any stage of the promoting process may taint the ultimate employment decision in violation of Title VII…. so long as the individual shown to have the impermissible bias played a meaningful role in the … process.”). Thus, even assuming that Barton’s race was a motivating factor for the supervisor’s conduct, there is no basis on which we could conclude that Barton’s race motivated Unity’s decision to terminate her. [Emphasis added.]

This decision teaches that it is not necessarily enough that a plaintiff’s supervisor is shown to have discriminatory animus, absent evidence linking that animus to the adverse employment action in question.

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