Title VII and ADEA Discrimination Claims Sufficiently Alleged; Complaint, While “Sparse”, Held Sufficient

In Holmes v. YMCA of Yonkers, Inc., 19 CV 620 (VB), 2020 WL 85389 (SDNY Jan. 7, 2020), the court held, inter alia, that plaintiff sufficiently alleged employment discrimination based on gender (under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and age (under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act).

The court summarized the law (paragraphing altered, citations and internal quotation marks and bracketing omitted):

To state a Title VII or ADEA discrimination claim, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) the employer discriminated against him (2) because of a protected characteristic. At the pleadings stage of an employment discrimination case, a plaintiff has a minimal burden of alleging facts suggesting an inference of discriminatory motivation. Namely, a plaintiff must allege that the employer took adverse action against her at least in part for a discriminatory reason, and she may do so by alleging facts that directly show discrimination or facts that indirectly show discrimination by giving rise to a plausible inference of discrimination. To plausibly allege an ADEA discrimination claim, a plaintiff also must allege that age was the but-for cause of the employer’s adverse action. The mere fact that a plaintiff was replaced by someone outside the protected class will suffice for the required inference of discrimination at the prima facie stage of the Title VII analysis. Moreover, a plaintiff’s replacement by a significantly younger person is evidence of age discrimination.

Proceeding to apply the law to the facts, the court held that while plaintiff’s complaint was “sparse,” it nevertheless “satisfies the minimal burden necessary to allege discrimination claims under Title VII and the ADEA.”

It noted, in particular, plaintiff’s allegation that “YMCA replaced him with a younger, less-experienced woman, and YMCA had no legitimate basis for terminating him” which was “sufficient to give plausible support to a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation for both plaintiff’s Title VII and ADEA discrimination claims.” [Internal quotation marks omitted.]