Title VII Race Discrimination Claims Proceed; African American Man Subject to Terms His Caucasian Co-workers Were Not

In Williams v. Service Tire Truck Ctr., 2019 WL 4894106 (NDNY Oct. 4, 2019), the court reviewed a Magistrate Judge’s findings with respect to plaintiff’s race discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This decision illustrates, inter alia, how claims of race discrimination may – under certain circumstances – arise from allegedly disproportionate work assignments.

From the decision (citations and quotation marks omitted):

[T]he Court finds that Magistrate Judge Hummel correctly determined that the Court should allow Plaintiff’s racial discrimination claim pursuant to Title VII relating to an increase in work assignments and workload based on his race or color proceed. Plaintiff’s amended complaint alleges that he was directed to perform up to five times the workload of his Caucasian coworkers who otherwise “hung out” in branch manager Frank Washburn’s office. This imbalance began after Mr. Washburn’s tenure as Plaintiff’s supervisor and subsequently after the firing or constructive discharge of two other African-American male employees allegedly because of race-based harassment. This disparity qualifies as circumstantial evidence whereby an inference of discrimination can arise under Title VII.

Moreover, the Court finds that Magistrate Judge Hummel correctly determined that the Court should allow Plaintiff’s unequal terms and conditions of employment claim pursuant to Title VII proceed. Plaintiff belongs to a protected class of persons as an African-American person. Plaintiff’s job performance was satisfactory based on consistent praise from his former supervisor. Plaintiff suffered adverse employment action that occurred under conditions giving rise to an inference of discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that he was instructed to perform exponentially more work than his Caucasian counterparts. Plaintiff further alleges that his Caucasian counterparts were allowed to clock-in dressed in civilian clothes, which he was directed not to do directly by Mr. Washburn. Based on Magistrate Judge Hummel’s initial review, Plaintiff alleges that his Caucasian coworkers received preferential treatment, and that Defendant subjected him to unequal terms and conditions of employment under conditions giving rise to an inference of discrimination.

The court also agreed with the Magistrate Judge that plaintiff’s Title VII claim “relating to an alleged threat of demotion and reduction in pay be dismissed without prejudice and with opportunity to amend to adequately allege facts demonstrating that a realized threat of discipline or termination took place,” noting that while plaintiff “further described that his Caucasian coworkers were not subject to a reduction or threat of reduction in pay or compensation,” under relevant precedent “an unrealized threat of discipline or termination is not actionable under Title VII.”