Gender Discrimination Claim Sufficiently Alleged; Allegations Included Reassignment to Less-Experienced Male Colleague

In Wallace v. Dr. Mark T. Esper, Secretary, Department of the Army, 18-cv-6525, 2019 WL 4805813 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2019), the court, niter alia, held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged a claim of gender discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court summarized the elements of such a claim:

To establish a prima facie case of … gender discrimination at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff must show: ‘(1) that she is a member of a protected class; (2) that she was qualified for employment in the position; (3) that she suffered an adverse employment action; and … has (4) some minimal evidence suggesting an inference that the employer acted with discriminatory motivation.’ ” … Wallace need only plausibly allege that gender discrimination was a motivating factor—not a “but-for” cause—of the adverse employment actions she claims she experienced[.]

Here, plaintiff met her pleading obligation:

Wallace has pled that she is a member of a protected class because she is female. For the reasons stated above, she has also adequately alleged that she is qualified for her position and that she suffered adverse employment actions. Finally, Wallace has adequately alleged that her gender played a role in Defendant’s purported decision to reassign Wallace’s litigation duties and to terminate her employment. Defendant is correct that in support of such a causal connection Wallace alleges only that her work was reassigned to a less qualified male employee before she was ultimately terminated. But “[t]he fact that a plaintiff was replaced by someone outside the protected class will ordinarily suffice for the required inference of discrimination at the initial prima facie stage of the Title VII analysis, including at the pleading stage.” Littlejohn, 795 F.3d at 313 (deeming allegations that a female employee who was demoted and whose previous position was filled by a less experienced male employee to be “more than sufficient” to establish an inference that the demotion was motivated by gender discrimination); see also de la Cruz v. New York City Human Resources Admin. Dep’t of Social Services, 82 F.3d 16, 20 (2d Cir. 1996) (holding that because the plaintiff, a Puerto Rican male, “was replaced by a black female” he satisfied the fourth prong of a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII). The alleged reassignment of Wallace’s work to a less qualified male employee thus suffices to meet the “de minimis” burden of establishing causation. See Zimmermann v. Assocs. First Capital Corp., 251 F.3d 376, 380–81 (2d Cir. 2001); see also Henderson v. Gen. Elec. Co., 469 F. Supp. 2d 2, 14 (D. Conn. 2006) (finding plaintiff’s offer of proof that a male employee assumed her duties gave rise to an inference of discriminatory animus for purposes of her prima facie gender discrimination claim).

Based on this, the court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s gender discrimination claim.